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Chapter 3

ANT100Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Dont, Djembe, Autoimmune Disease

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M Cummings

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Chapter 3 : The Social And Cultural Construction of Reality
- How can people believe in God when his existence can never be proven
- People believe in these things and take these beliefs for granted
- How can they believe in things that are considered illogical
o These came about through people’s basic phenomena, such as death and dreaming
- They must have reasoned that there was something, some kind of essence, that left the
body at the moment of death or that travelled to distant places in sleep’s dreams
o The idea that a soul fled the body in death and sleep
- Once they believed in souls, it was a small step to reason that there were places where
departed souls resided and an even smaller step to believe that souls became gods
- Beliefs in god and spirits developed through the attempts of human beings to explain
certain events, to understand why things happened as they did
- Religious beliefs of indigenous people of Australia, their beliefs about totemism
o The totem was an element of nature an animal, insect, a plant that served as a
symbol for a group or clan
o Was worshipped and considered sacred and holy by members of the group
o Was the clan itself the object of worship?
o There’s a special feel when groups come together in celebration and ritual
- Is it not reasonable to suppose that in large scale socities people worship society through
their god or God? That God is society?
- The beliefs and rituals may have increased group cohesion or provided supernatural
sanctions for the violation of group norms
- Today anthropologist try to understand religion not by the premise that people’s beliefs are
irrational or incorrect
- Try to understand the nature of belief or religious practice and how it is that people come to
believe that their view of the world is correct
- Symbolic actions all the rituals, myths, arts, stories, and music that we enjoy or participate
in play a role in organizing and making concrete a particular view of the world
Question 3.1 How Does the Use of Metaphor Affect the Meanings People Assign to Experience?
- Metaphor take language from one domain of experience, such as the domain of the body or
the domain of animals and apply it to another domain, such as landscape features or
- When people make sense of their experiances, they do by drawing from shared cultural
assumptions about how the world works
o Create an encompassing picture of reality called a world view
- “through metaphors we understand the abstract in terms of the concrete
- In northen Quebec used the metaphor “hunting is like gardening” and “hunting lands are
like a garden” – strategy to defend their lands against a hydroelectric project that
threatened to flood their land and destroy the habitat of their animals
o Countered the governments view that the land was unhabited and unproductive
- The “garden of the Cree” metaphor calls forth an earth that, if protected and nurtured, will
sustain Cree life
- If the Cree garden is destroyed, Cree people will be destroyed too

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- Metaphor involves not only speaking of one experience in terms of another but also
understanding one experience in terms of another
- We speak of argument In terms of conflict, taking the language from the domain of war and
applying it to the domain of conversation
o We don’t simply talk about arguments in terms of war, we actually win and lose
- If we borrowed dance to comprehend argument
o The rhythm of the interaction or the grace of the performance
o Two partners trying to coordinate their movements to arrive to mutual
- Language from the domain of war
o We build our defences against illness, we get ill because our resistance was low
o Aid virus weakens the immune system attack force and that “killer cells”are meant
to “destroy virus stricken cells”
- Not all societies borrow from the domain of conflict to give meaning to health
o The Navaho see illness as a displacement of the person from his or her proper
place in the universe
- Borrow also from the domain of economic exchange
o “time is money”
o “your wasting my time”
o “this gadget will save your hours”
o “is that worth your while”
- Metaphors are not used to make our language colourful and economical, they are theories
to help us understand our domain of experience in terms of another
- The metaphors we use to describe experiances may predispose us to seek certain solutions
to problems associated with those things and people
o Does our way of speaking like illness is a war and battle encourage us to take for
granted that it is some kind of war
o If so, how does that determine the kinds of treatment for illness that we devise and
o Doesn’t it imply the need for cures that destroy the agent of disease rather then
return the patient to health
- Most socities seem to have one or more domains from which they borrow extensively for
o These domains become key metaphors that give to each culture a style or cast that
makes the culture distinctive
- When a cultures members think and speak of many domains of experience in terms of
particular domain, that cultures meanings achieve a certain coherence an da coherence of
belief is achieved
Kwakwaka’wakw Metaphors of Hunger
- Believe that the universe is a place in which some beings must die so that other beings may
eat and live
- Eating gives life by providing nutrition and it frees souls
- When a person dies, the soul leaves the body and enters the body of a salmon
- The soul cannot be freed until the physical body is destroyed, their dead on scaffolds where
the body can be devoured by ravens and other birds

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- When the salmon is caught and eaten by human beings, the soul is once again freed and
enters the body of a newborn child
- The importance of eating as a metaphor that orders experience is evident in the dominance
of mouths art, ritual and myths
- Their art is filled with gaping jaws of killer whales, fangs of wolves and bear and tearing beak
of hawks, eagles and ravens
- Dancers wear masks of cannibal birds with nine-foot long beaks that shatter human skulls to
suck our their braing
- Wild women with protruding lips inhabit the woods, waiting to rip apart travellers and
misbehaving children
- Suckling infants turn into monsters and devour their mothers
- Hunger is associated with greed greed causes people to accumulate wealth far beyond
what they need
- Also associated with immortality human desires create conflict and destruction that can
quickly get out of hand, people must work together to prevent and control conflict before it
threatens to destroy the group
- People who hoard food, are hoarding souls preventing the return of it from the spirit
- Believe that greed , conflict and child rearing can be solved by controlling hunger
- Food must be handled and generously given to others to avoid accusations of greed
- Wealthy people are said to vomit food a life giving substance
The Metaphors of Contemporary Witchcraft and Magic
- Sustaining metaphors work to reinforce belief systems and world views
o A good example is witchcraft and magic
o Modern magic is based on the assumption that mind and though can affect matter
without the intervention of the thinkers actions
o Embedded in modern witchcraft and magic Is that the universe is divided into a
complex collection of entities and beings, each of which exists on different “planes”
or “levels”
o The plane of material life being the lowest
o After death, the soul doesn’t die but it goes to another plane, some remaining in
contact with the material world
o The properly trained human mind can actually, by imagining it, create forms on the
“astral plane” that may in turn affect things in the material world
- A tarot deck consists of 78 cards that comprise an elaborate and complex system of
metaphor associations linking various domains of experience that range from an
understanding of the planets and other celestial objects to colours, material objects,
emotions, personal qualities and other mythological beings
- Aleister Crowley, one of the founders of modern magic and witchcraft and a designer of the
modern tarot deck says that each card in a sense is a living being
- Provides ways for people to interpret their lives
o A symbolic map with which to interpret and understand themselves as they transfer
the meaning of the cards to their lives and experiences
o In associating themselves with a particular card, people also associate themselves
with a specific planet or colour
- The transfer of meaning creates meaning
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