Structural functionalism Nineteenth century " armchair anthropologists " were concerned with the basic question of how religion originated in human history. In the twentieth century their conjectural histories were replaced with new concerns around the question of what these beliefs and practices did for societies, regardless of their origin.
IResearchNet Anthropology of Religion This article traces the history of the anthropology of religion from the nineteenth century to the present.
It argues that a focus on such questions as rationality and ritual was central to the emergence of the discipline. These themes, along with topics such as witchcraft, belief, language, and the body, have remained of perennial interest. More recently, focus has also been placed on the anthropologies of world religions such as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism; on religion in relation to globalization and diaspora; and on cognitive approaches to the workings of the human mind.
Emergence of Anthropology of Religion The comparative study of religion formed a central building block of anthropology as the discipline emerged in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
In the light of social evolutionary models of human development, religious practice was perceived as providing a powerful index of the mental and moral levels of so-called primitive peoples. Christianity as an object of study but also a mode of thought that has itself framed anthropological understandings of religion, temporality, and culture.
The use of religion as a key site for the examination of human rationality permeates E.
The book assesses the logic and consistency of Azande modes of thought, and indicates how they might be translated into the understandings of a Western readership. A further foundational strand in the anthropological study of religion has been the investigation of the relationship between religion and social order.
Reflecting on the history of the anthropology of religion, Michael Lambek Definitions of Anthropology of Religion Attempts to produce a sustainable, universal definition of religion have prompted much debate.
Not all scholars believe that a definition is possible. In other words religion is not a natural kind, by which I mean a category that has a basis other than that given by an arbitrary definition.
At the same time, a Durkheimian approach still raised questions as to 1 the worth of assuming that rigid distinctions between sacred and profane existed cross-culturally, 2 the focus on order and stability as a feature of social institutions such as religion, and 3 the universality of any characterization of religion.
In the s, the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz combined a Durkheimian understanding of religion as a collective social act with a more Weberian emphasis on meaning and experience. A later period of anthropology would express worries over the cross-cultural validity but also the intellectual and cultural politics of the very act of making definitions.
The best-known contributor to such debate has been Talal Asad In his view, the very act of defining must be seen as the historical product of ideologically charged, discursive processes. Similarly, the notion of religion as an autonomous activity is regarded as emerging from a unique, Western, post-Reformation history.
What, then, might be the solution to such dilemmas? Bloch turns to ritual rather than religion in articulating his comparative approach, arguing that the former can be found in all types of society, and is a specific type of modification of the way human beings in general communicate.
In the following, I adopt another pragmatic, inductive approach, taking the anthropology of religion to be what scholars actually do, no matter what definition of the subject they endorse. He notes that both the original Greek verb pisteuo and the Hebrew root mn express ideas of trust or confidence in an agreement, indicating a fundamentally social orientation.
Subsequently, the Protestant Reformation hinges on a stress on the inward totality of Christian belief. However, it is difficult to find equivalents to Protestant notions of belief in Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism.
As Needham puts the problem: Nevertheless, I had been accustomed to say … that they believed in a supreme god. One of the issues that Needham touches on is crucial for much comparative ethnography: Joel Robbinsexamines the conversion to Pentecostal Christianity of the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea, and shows how even the apparent assimilation of Christian categories can conceal a more complex relationship to belief than might at first appear.
For the Urapmin, Christian belief is not about mentally assenting to a set of propositions about divinity, but rather a form of trusting God to do what He promised. Ritual Anthropologists have often emphasized the importance of taking into account embodied, ritual activity.
They share a tendency to emphasize the capacity of ritual to generate feelings of certainty and continuity. Many analysts are still influenced by the work of a contemporary of Durkheim, Arnold Van Gennep.
Van Gennep argued that ritual has particular significance during critical periods of transition in the life-cycle, such as attainment of adulthood, marriage, and death.
In his view, it helps the participant to adjust to his or her change in role while also publicly announcing such a change.
He notes that in Ndembu initiation rites in Zambia, circumcision of boys becomes a metaphor for killing, since it destroys the childhood status of the initiate Turner, Bloch is also interested in the symbolic and literal violence involved in many rites of passage, but applies a broadly Marxist frame of interpretation, highlighting the coercive powers of ritual.
He agrees with Van Gennep concerning the existence of a basic grammar underlying ritual across cultures, and suggests that an irreducible core of the ritual process invokes a violent conquest of the present world by the transcendental, divine realm.
For instance, in the Orokaiva ritual involving the initiation of children in Papua New Guinea, participants are told they are dead, and are then taught to play sacred flutes and bullroarers that represent the voices of the spirits. Such analysis emphasizes the political implications of ritual experience in the service of order and hierarchy.
More recently, in a number of influential books on the Tshidi of South Africa, Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff have analyzed ritual that involves complex forms of resistance quite as much as submission.
Anthropologists have worked more and more in urban and Western contexts often associated with deritualization and secularization, and with decreased need for common rites of passage to define accession to social roles.A thematic bibliography of the history of Christianity.
A ritual "is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence". Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious initiativeblog.coms are characterized but not defined by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral .
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This article traces the history of the anthropology of religion from the nineteenth century to the present. It argues that a focus on such questions as rationality and ritual was central to . Anthropology is a global discipline involving humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.
Anthropology builds upon knowledge from natural sciences, including the discoveries about the origin and evolution of Homo sapiens, human physical traits, human behavior, the variations among different groups of humans, how the evolutionary past .
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