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Magic, Science and Religion Spring 2012.  A Brief Overview of the History of the Anthropology of Religion  19 th Century setting  Tylor and Animism.

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Presentation on theme: "Magic, Science and Religion Spring 2012.  A Brief Overview of the History of the Anthropology of Religion  19 th Century setting  Tylor and Animism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Magic, Science and Religion Spring 2012

2  A Brief Overview of the History of the Anthropology of Religion  19 th Century setting  Tylor and Animism  RR Marett and Animatism  George Frazer and Magic

3 Holistically Objectively Relativistically Comparatively Interdisciplinary Focus on Ethnography Methodologically and theoretically diverse

4  Intellectual  Functional  Interpretive  Psychological  Sociological

5 1) The study origin ◦ Evolutionism 2) The study of function ◦ Functionalism (psychological and sociological) 3) The study of meaning ◦ Phenomenology, interpretative, symbolist approach

6  Industrial revolution  Individualist world view

7  Much light will be

8  American (upstate New York)  Lawyer, businessman, politician (state)  Kinship and social structure – cross-cultural  As an attorney talked with Iroquois  League of the Iroquois (1851)  Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human family(1871)  Early proponent of theory that American Indians had migrated from India in ancient times  Darwin Origin of Species ( 1859)  Unilinear social evolutionary theory  Ancient Society (1877)

9  “History of the human race is one in source, one in experience and one in progress.”  “Psychic unity of man” – one direction  One universal order of cultural evolution  Savagery/Barbarism/Civilization Social Darwinism Human societies have gone through this evolution

10  Lower, middle, upper ◦ Matrifocal/gynocentric ◦ Primarily promiscuity – no knowledge male role in conception ◦ Equality, not stratified, no hierarchy ◦ Collectivism/cooperation – no private property ◦ Hunter-gatherer ◦ Magical thinking – considered illogical ◦ Animistic ◦ Fire, bow, pottery

11  Lower, middle, upper  Beginning of human family  Tribal organization  Polygamy  Polytheism  Agrarian: domestication of animals  Metalworking  Criticism: Mormons practice polygamy. How will they fit in This model?

12  Lower, middle, upper  Monogamy, monotheism  Stratification, hierarchy  Competition, capitalism, private property  Development of alphabet and writing  Criticism:

13  Europeans/Westerners positive  Engels – Private Property and the State, The Origin of the Family  Engels said Morgan proved Marx: collectivism is the original state  Criticized as speculative, ethnocentric  Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict and others ( 20 th century) proved Morgan wrong based on their field work.

14  French, founder of social science (along with Karl Marx and Max Weber)  Statistical study of society  Elementary Forms of Religious Life  Religion provides model OF society:  If society changes, religion changes  Spirit world as reflection of society Totemism, the earliest form of religion Function of religion: Social order


16  French philosopher, anthropologist  Posited two basic mindsets: Primitive, western  How Natives Think (1910)  Magic: pre-logical, mystical  Irrational, aversion to reasoning  For those magically oriented, no fact is purely physical  Don’t distinguish supernatural

17  First modern anthropologist, visited Mexico, Zuni. Primitive culture (1871)  Animism was oldest form of religious life: every living thing has a soul/spirit and everything is living  Totemism  Polytheism  Monotheism ◦ Soul alive in living being, spirit leaves ◦ Need to understand dreams ◦ Evolutionary approach to religion ◦ Intellectualist interpretation of religion ◦ ( Sir Evans Pritchard)

18  The Golden Bough (12 volumes)1890  Science, magic and religion (sharp distinction)  Types of Magic: similarity and contagious  Critique: Intellectualist approach  Language of magic is diff from science  Magic defies logic  Stanley Tambiah: with the study of Azande, critiqued Frazer’s evolutionary theory.. )

19  THE GOLDEN BOUGH: A STUDY IN COMPARATIVE RELIGION traced the evolution of human behavior, ancient and primitive myth, magic, religion, ritual, and taboo. The study appeared first in two volumes in 1890 and finally in 12 volumes in 1911-15. It was named after the golden bough in the sacred grove at Nemi, near Rome.

20  Sympathetic magic, also known as imitative magic, is a type of magic based on imitation or correspondence

21  Contagious Magic: whatever is done to the one must similarly affect the other. Thus the logical basis of Contagious Magic,…is a mistaken association of ideas.  It is assumed to unite distant objects and to convey impressions from one to the other.  For example, between a man and his hair or nails; so that whoever gets possession of human hair or nails may work his will, at any distance, upon the person from whom they were cut.

22  Magic > religion > science  Magic is logically more primitive than religion because ◦ the conception of personal agents (religion) is more complex than the similarity or contiguity of ideas (magic).  Australian aborigines > the most primitive - only magic

23  Studied myths from 400 South and north American societies  Myth is structured as language  “ The story of Asdiwal”

24  Social conditions responsible for religion  Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx (1818-1883)  Max Weber (1864 – 1920)

25 Polish, from Austria-Hungary, moved to Britain Invented participant observation – made everything different, questions different The goal of ethnographer is: “to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world.” —Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Dutton 1961 ed., p. 25. Papua New Guinea; Trobriand Islands

26  Looked at religion and culture in terms of their purpose in satisfying basic human needs.  culture satisfies individual needs, both material (food, shelter, clothing,etc) and psychological (through magic and religion, i.e. myths, ritual,etc.). ◦ EX: he stressed that magic is a logical system that people turn to in times of uncertainty or emotional stress. ◦ Magic functions to provide control and certainty in an otherwise uncertain world.

27  Religion and magic are sacred vs Science is profane  Religion serves to reduce anxiety and reinforces order.  Reduce emotional stress  Magic and religion as practical and rational responses that were used only when empirical and scientific reason failed to provide reassurances for the facts of life.

28  Magic: A performance, means to a particular end and the power of language.  The amalgam of rituals: practical living.  Two functions: psychological and sociological  Examples p. 73

29  Religion: A response to the fear of loss like death.  Religion is an end in itself.  Religion as the appeal to a higher power.

30  1.The spell, or actual words used  “The power of words in establishing a permanent human relation” p. 80  2. The ritual, a stereotyped sequence of symbolic acts  3. The moral condition of the ritual performer

31  Both science and Magic serve instrumental purposes, as opposed to religion. Malinowski observed that magic, science and religion, coexisted side by side in Trobriand society.

32 Healing rituals, because they are means to an end. Harvest rituals associated with productivity Rituals for self improvement, better human relationships p. 80 Pragmatic role of magic

33  Involves providence and immortality p. 69  Main function: the satisfaction of the physical, psychological and social needs of peoples, through an appeal to a higher power.  Festivals: Commemorations of society.  Satisfaction of individual and social needs.

34  A practice grounded on observed relationships. Science attempts to control natural chains of causation, and is based on experimentation, the validity of certain principles and theoretical speculation.


36  Functionalist: “What do people use it for?”  Every society has magic, science & religion  All simple societies use science, experiment: make a net, does it work?  When things get difficult, pray  When things get desperate, use magic, an individual way to deal with the unknown  Satisfaction of primary, secondary and tertiary (integrative) needs

37  Clifford Geertz  Emphasis on meaning, “reading social life as a literary text, ”but in a way grounded in fieldwork (interpretive anthropology)  for Geertz, the anthropological study of religion is two- fold: “an analysis of the system of meanings embodied in the symbols which make up the religion” and “the relating of these systems (of meaning) to social- structural and psychological processes.”

38  “Religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long- lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic”.  Religion as a cluster of symbols.  Symbols: anything, which signifies something else? (pictures, words, text, things)  Symbols as “extrinsic sources of information” – information about belief, cosmology, etc. that are outside individual psychology, but interact with individual psychology through society and culture.  Symbols as “models of and models for reality” model of reality in that symbols are an interpretation of reality (the way things are) symbols represent reality; model for reality in that symbols manipulate reality, structure social systems (the way things should be).  Religion provides meaning to human existence.

39  Etic (outsider’s) and emic ( insider’s) perspective  Famous work on witchcraft among the Azandes in Southern Sudan

40  Universality of spiritual exp may be grounded in a shared human biology  The role of Anthropologists is to practice cultural relativism


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