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Lecture 9 The structural analysis of totem and taboo.

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1 Lecture 9 The structural analysis of totem and taboo

2 Durkheim: Religious representations are collective representations which express collective realities It is because men were organised that they have been able to organise things, for in classifying these latter, they limited themselves to giving them places in the groups they formed themselves. … The unity of these first logical systems merely reproduces the unity of society (Durkheim 1996 [1915] Elementary Forms of Religious Life (George Allen and Unwin, London): 145)

3 Totemic images are more sacred than the beings themselves The god of the clan, the totemic principle, can therefore be nothing else than the clan itself, personified and represented to the imagination under the visible form of the animal or vegetable which serves as totem. (Durkheim 1996 [1915] Elementary Forms of Religious Life (George Allen and Unwin, London): 206)

4 An animals only becomes totemic because it is first good to eat Malinowskis functionalist interpretation. Structural functionalism of Radcliffe- Brown: Permanence and solidarity of the group demands that individual sentiments be expressed collectively Animals only becomes totemic because it is first good to eat

5 Structural Linguistics Langue and parole (language and speech) Syntagmatic and associative (paradigmatic) relation: John plays golf (football/tennis) Signifier (a word or symbol which stands for something) and signified (thing stood for). The sign - arbitrary Diachronic and synchronic study of language

6 Syntagmatic vs. Paradigmatic John plays golf John James Sarah plays Golf Football Tennis Left Female Bride takers Less prestige … Right Male Bride givers More prestige …

7 Re-analysis of Nuer totems The most useful animals, birds, fish and plants are not used as totems. Totemism is based on a perception of resemblence: –Twins are birds –Relations of lineages and families of animals

8 Animals are good to think, not good to eat Exogamous moieties in Australia (Eaglehawk and Crow) In myth, the world of animal life is represented in terms of human social relations (friendship and conflict, solidarity and opposition). Natural species are classed in pairs of opposites. Totemism is a particular expression of correlatives and oppositions which may be formalised in other ways (hot/cold, upriver/downriver).

9 Mary Douglas - Matter out of place There is no such thing as absolute dirt Pattern making tendency (schema) – categories are provided by culture. Dirt is a residual category, rejected from the normal scheme of classifications. Anomaly – clarifies categories Culture mediates experience

10 Holiness and Wholeness Symbolic/structural analysis – dietary laws relate to general ideas about morality blessings from God Holiness = completeness Holiness is given an external, physical expression in the wholeness of the body. Extended to species and categories Holiness means keeping distinct the categories of creation

11 Dietary laws Cloven-hoofed and cud-chewing animals are the model of the proper kind of food. Pig - cloven hoofed but doesnt chew cud. 3-fold classification In Genesis : In the firmament (air) two legged fowls fly with wings. In water scaly fish swim with fins. On the earth four legged animals hop, jump or walk. Dietary laws are like signs which inspired meditation on the oneness, purity and completeness of God.

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