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ANTHROP 2R03 Chapter -: Studying Religion Anthropologically-OneNote


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTHROP 2R03
Professor
Ellen Badone
Chapter
-

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Studying Religion Anthropologically 01/16/2016
Popular beliefs- we aren’t alone, there are other beings and forces in the world, these are
like ourselves (with minds, wills and personalities)
Martin Buber:
Beings cant be treated as object or “it” but as a people
Religions- Relations between these beings and humans, they are part of our society and culture,
sometimes these beings can be traced back to the Ultimate (Universe, God etc.)
Preoccupation with drama and colour of religion may interfere with understanding it
Anthro doesn’t look at religion as false, nor tries to judge or verify it
Studying religion “Anthropologically”
Anthro. thought of as science of diversity of humans, in bodies and behaviour
Anthro of religion: scientific investigation of diversity of human religions
Questions asked:
Commonalities/Universal traits between religions?
Relationships between different parts of single religion? Relation between religion
and social and natural environment? Regular patterns we can discern across religions?
Central to anthro- concept of culture
Culture-“set of practices in which humans engage and among other things about which
they talk in terms of which they act” (learned and shared ideas, feelings, behaviours, and
products of those behaviours characteristic of any society)
Anthro looks at behaviour in PUBLIC context, not as something private
Anthro doesn’t limit itself to texts of history, it looks at them, but also looks at how
culture lived by ppl. in the societies
3 aspects of Anthropological Perspective
1. Anthro looks at comparative and cross-cultural description
olooks at a variety of cultures, not just our own, or those similar to it
oaims to describe each culture and its practices with detail, this results from:
Fieldwork
otravelling and living amongst ppl. of a particular culture
oParticipant Observation-observe and participate in their lives
oProduct of this all- case study aka athnography
oEthnography-close up, in-depth account of the aways of thinking, feeling and
behaving of subjects
Point of ethnography- Stanley Tambiah- use a particular to describe
general
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Use a particular subject to relate it to general
Nothing representative of all of humanity, but each study sheds
some light on general processes on how culture works
That’s how we find out that all societies diff. in ways, members
act differently even within societies
Hence cultures internally diverse- cultures and religion
distributed as compared to shared
2. Anthro adopts postion of Holism
opresume that cultures whole, with parts which operate certain ways in relation
to each other and contribute to the whole
o4 areas like this in culture- Economics, Kinship, Politics and Religion
each makes distinct contribution to society, but also integrated with all
others
ex. To understand religion must understand political
arrangements, kinship system and economic practices
also connected to notions of language and gender
all located within environmental context
3. Anthro upholds principle of cultural relativism
oCultural relativism- each culture ahs own standards of understanding and
judging, has own meaning and value, what’s true, what’s important, good,
moral, normal, legal etc.
We should try and understand stuff in terms of that particular culture,
not according to ours
oMaintaining culturally relative persp. Very important
oCultural relativism consequence of cross-cultural and holistic study
If try to understand a diverse culture, and look at their web of ideas
then are being relativistic
Important for 2 reasons:
1. Reorients our notion of what anthro is/does
omission of anthro: “comparison of embedded
concepts between societies differently located in
time and space and the forms of life that
articulate them, the power they release or
disable”
2. Using concepts of ones culture to describe and
understand that of another’s
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