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Chapter 3

Cultural Anthropology- Chapter 3.docx

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Robert Brym

CulturalAnthropology Chapter 3: The Social and Cultural Construction of Reality Introduction The Central Question  People believe in things (Eg. God, Satan, possession) with NO material proof  not always religious (Eg. horoscopes)  Edward Tyler  Primitive Culture  religion and a belief in the supernatural develop through people’s efforts to explain basic phenomena, such as death and dreaming  belief of souls that leave the body  gods that controlled life’s uncertainties  Emilie Durkheim  The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life  concept of god derived from the beliefs of early human beings o Eg. Natives of Australia believe in totemism – the use of a symbol, generally an animal or a plant, as a representation of a group, generally a clan. Totems are considered holy and sacred, it’s power deriving from the power people feel when in groups of celebration and ritual – a dramatic rendering or social portrayal of meanings shared by a specific body of people in a way that makes them seem correct and proper.  Early Anthropologists  beliefs were in error BUT religious beliefs and rituals increase group cohesion and provide supernatural sanctions for the violation of group norms  Today’s Anthropologists  don’t focus on the errors in beliefs BUT the nature of belief or religious practices and how people came to believe that their view of the world is correct. o Metaphors help us make our knowledge meaningful  sense of ourselves and the universe o Symbolic actions – the activities – including ritual, myth, art, dance, and music – that dramatically depict the meanings shared by a specific body of people. It’s organizing and making concrete a particular view of the world. Question 3.1: How Does TheUse of Metaphor Affect TheMeanings People AssignTo Experience? Borrowing Meaningwith Metaphors  Metaphor – a figure of speech in which linguistic expressions are taken from one area of experience and applied to another  Domainof experience – an area of human experience (Eg. business, war, science, family life) from which people borrow meaning to apply to other areas. o Eg. “Jeff is a dog” extension from animal to human world  World view – an encompassing picture of reality based on shared cultural assumptions about how the world works  Through metaphors we understand the abstract in terms of the concrete  Harvey Feit  Cree in northern Quebec used the metaphor “hunting is like gardening” and “hunting lands are like a garden” as a strategy to defend their lands against a hydroelectric project that would flood their land and destroy the habitat of their animals. It shows they care about nature, that one wouldn’t destroy nature, and by doing so, it would destroy the Cree.  Language extends fromone domainto another AND its meaning. o Eg. “I won that argument” extension of war terminology to arguments & it’s meaning, you CAN win or lose and argument.  War extension to dance, it’s more about coordinating and mutual accommodations.  War extension to illness, AIDS weakens the immune system BUT the Navaho see it as a disruption of harmony. o Eg. English North Americans use economic exchange terminology, you can spend time, time is money and budget time. Thus, time is valuable; it’s quantified, invested and spent.  Metaphorscan influence people’s views of theworld  Key domain – a term to identify metaphors that dominate the meanings that people in a specific culture attribute to their experiences Kwakwaka’wakw Metaphors of Hunger  Stanley Walens – the act of eating is a key metaphor for them  The universe is a place in which some beings must die so that other beings may eat them and live. Eating gives life by providing nutrition and freeing souls.  They believe when a person dies, their soul enters a salmon. But the soul cannot be freed until the physical body is destroyed, so they allow it to be eaten by ravens and other birds. When it enters the salmon, it says there living in a salmon world that socially resembles the human world. When caught and eaten, it can enter the body of a newborn.  Eating metaphor dominant in art, ritual and myth – a story or narrative that portrays the meanings people give to their experience. SCARY.  They believe their problems of greed, conflict, child rearing can be solves by controlling hunger  eatingis ritualized and controlled  give generously to avoid greed accusations  rich people and animals regurgitate are sacred The Metaphors of Contemporary Witchcraft and Magic  Tanya M. Luhrmann  witchcraft and magic in England  England  Middle-class are urbanites who participate in magic in new age ideology, the age of Aquarius people who place an emphasis on natural food, good health and personal stability and whose magic practices consist of conjuring spirits, reading the tarot and magical healing  Modern magic  mind and thought can affect matter without actions (thought & matter same)  Magicians  It is a distortion to treat objects as isolated and unique. Things aren't fixed objects, they are swirlsof energy  should NOT be disrupted  Metaphor of stratification of planes and levels  We exist on different planes than other worlds  After death the soul goes to another plane  Magic can influence our plane and we can influence other planes  Magicians require training  78 tarot cards is a complex system of metaphoric associations linking domains of experience (Eg. Celestial objects to personal qualities)  Tarot deck is a living being o provide people ways to interpret their own lives but one begins to define oneself in terms of the tarot cards and become the person that the cards identify Question 3.2 how does symbolic action reinforce a particular viewof theworld  We participate in activities that expressed a particular view of the world and reinforce beliefs The Kwakwaka'wakw HamatsaDance  Cannibal dance is a four day spectacle during the winter ceremonial  Spiritual world intersects with the real world  Focal point in youth initiation into the cannibal Society  Cannibal society gathers in the ceremonial house and calls the cannibal to the human world. It is first in the woods searching for Hamatsa. The Cannibal society eventually entices the Hamatsa into the house. Then they eat a normal meal the final symbol that the Hamatsa has been tamed.  Hamatsa is the ultimate power of hunger and its desire for human flesh is the force that can destroy society. Participants symbolically tame the hunger and show their responsibility to control greed and conflict; children should learn. The Ritual OfContemporary Witchcraft And Magic  Rituals can draw participants into an emotional involvement with the metaphors  sick baby spell  You believe it is not the ritual itself that produces feelings but the forces of powers ZombiesAre “Good To Think With”  Myths are accounts that explain the past from a particular point of view  Books and movies of magic in North American culture  Key scenarios - dominant stories are myths that portray the values and believes of a specific society  Claude Lévi-Strauss - "good to think with"  humans use aspects of the material world as a reservoir of metaphorical and symbolic meanings  Stories of the zombie apocalypse taps into her fears in the millennial capitalism: zombies like North Americans consuming senselessly, zombies work without seizing and for little reward, zombie epidemic like the avian flu or SARS or H1N1. Question 3.3: How Does TheWay We Live Affect Our Beliefs And Rituals  God is created in the image of ourselves or society  Jean-Guy Goulet - For the Dene Tha in northern Alberta learning comes only through direct experience Adults cannot teach children how to live or knowledge becomes a commodity o learn through observation and imitation  true knowledge is personal knowledge  They have personal autonomy and responsibility to respect the autonomy of others including non- Dene Tha  Or you're infringing on the right of the other to gain knowledge properly  Powerfulness is inherent in plants, animals or other substances which can affect human beings knowingly or unknowingly  There are two different types of land: our land and the other land  the other land consists of plants and animals which must be respected o Eg. Cree ensure the animals survival and never waste the animal  Emotions can affect the world Eg. storm caused by a man’s feelings  They communicate with the other world through dreams (future, misfortunes) and gain knowledge of healing using plants and animal parts  in return they place tobacco where they took it  Animals can share power with humans and were once seen as equals  same language, marriage  BUT animals are now superior to humans and only share the power they don't need  The body can die but the mind can return to this land through reincarnation. The soul can leave the body and travel to spend time with their relatives BUT if they stay too long they become ill and healer is needed to bring them back or the body dies. o A boy can be referred to females once the former identity of the child is decided  They are part of nature whereas we are separate from nature  Mi'kmaq believe that the sun created the earth and everything, the moon are manifestations of the Great Spirit. When a person dies they go to the Milky Way, which is the land of the dead.  First Nations women from Saint Elias mountains of Yukon believe that glaciers have human qualities and interacted with humans  human behavior = natural world behavior  Maori from New Zealand’s origin of E
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