Anthropology of Religion

  • Created by: Heather
  • Created on: 23-12-16 23:25
What do anthropological studies of religion investigate?
The ways in which religion, religious behaviour etc. are related to other aspects of a people's way of life
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What do anthropologists attempt to discover in religion?
A function or reason for certain aspects, and emphasis the inner logic of religious belief systems,
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Therefore, cultural relativity leads anthropologists to believe what about religion at a certain level?
it has rational aspects,
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In the context of the anthropology of religion, what is important to note the difference between what two models?
The difference between the "native model" e.g. "ethno-model" and the anthrpological model for explaining what's happening, -So anthropologists may explain it a different way,
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Who conducted an anthropological study in the Trobriand Islands and when and what wrote book did he write?
-Malinowski, -early 20th century, -Coral Gardens and their Magic,
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When an islander plants a yam, what does any farmer do?
The "practical" things such as clearing the land, planting the crop and weeding it,
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However, they believe this is inadequate. What do they consider is equally essential?
Spells and rites performed by a magician,
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What do they believe these spells and rites ensure?
They ensure his growing yams stay on his plot, stopping them wandering from his plot onto someone elses,
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What does the farmer also know about other farmers and their spells?
He knows other people are performing magic to make yams leave their original plot and move to the magic-performers's plot, so the magic-performer can have lots of yams,
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What do they believe is necessary to stop this from happening?
Defensive ritual performances,
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What would an anthropologists response to the question of do yams move?
They would say no
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What would the rational response be from anthropologists about why they do this magic?
Trobriands know that despite some people's best efforts at the practical level, sometimes they end up with a poor crop, even though others have a good crop, so they have a perfectly good reason to believe in magic to assist them,
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The situation fits well with what anthropological theory on why people practise rituals and spells?
Despite everything that people do at a practical level to make something work, for inexplicable reasons it sometimes doesn't, and the more anxiety there is over the outcome, the more complicated the magic,
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Therefore, how deos involving the supernatural with the practical steps assure people?
it assures people that they have done everything in their power to ensure the right outcome, even if it isn't successful,
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What is this similar to in terms of giving something to someone who is ill?
It is like administering chicken soup to ill people. It isn't clear it will have ay effect but it is given anyway, since people don't want to feel that they haven't done anything
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Is religion a cultural universal?
Religion of some form or another rally does seem to be pretty close to a human universal
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Give a modern day example showing that religion is a cutural universal via football?
Many people who claim not to be religious believe that Leicester City Football Club winning the Premier Division cup was directly related to the finding of the remains of King Richard II and his reburial in 2015,
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Therefore, what does this belief assume?
That some unseen and unnatural external force controlled the destiny of the football club,
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Why is religion being a cultural universal surprising in some ways?
As it involves a human relationship with beings and powers that cannot be seen by most people,
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Although, what claims have been made about people being able to see beings?
There have been visions of the Virgin Mary, Shamans in Trances etc.
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What is the basic definition of religion?
It is the belief that some kind of spiritual or super natural beings and powers exist,
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What is it necessary to distinguish between in this religious definition?
Beings (individuals) and powers
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Give an example with what peoples who believe in what force?
Aboriginal peoples of Polynesia believed in mana,
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What is the mana?
A diffuse, impersonal, disembodied force, in this case controlled by the Gods,
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However, what happens in other cases when the supernatural forces have no will of their own?
It means they can be manipulated by ritual specialists e.g. sorcerers, who know how to control them in the proper manner, or even may act semi-independently,
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What are two essential aspects of religion?
Myth and ritual
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Why are myth and rituals generally integrally related?
Myths are often referred to in rituals or may explain why rituals take place,
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What is the definition of a myth?
Stories about which supernatural beings did long ago,
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AS far as outsiders are concerned, what do myths refer to?
Events and things that didn't actually occur,
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However, what do anthropologists note about how other people believe it is true?
They note hat for the people who believe in a religious system they are absolutely true
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What is the debate about the Bible on this subject?
The Christian bible can be seen as a series of myths untrue to non-believers, but perfectly true to believers,
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Can science be seen as a myth? Give an example based on medicine?
Yes-Some religious sects believe medicine is ineffective, and only correct religious behaviour can cure people,
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What is another example to support that science is a myth based on scientific dating methods?
Others believe in the strict literal truth of the ancient Hebrew creation story, and simply don't believe in scientific dating methods like radiocarbon,
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Arguably, What is the function of myths in society?
They generally make sense of the world as we experience it,
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Give an example of how myths explain why certain things exist or happen based on trees?
Traditional Christian muth about why willow trees wood rots from the inside outwards unlike other trees which rot outside inwards, perhaps because Jesus was whipped as a child by willow branches,
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What is another example of how myths explain things exist based on the Ancient Egyptians?
One part of the myth of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris: Both were brother and sister, and they were also married, so it explained why the Egyptians married their relations,
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What do anthropologists note about myths based on conceptions by people?
They note that myths give a solid structure to people's fundamental conceptions of nature and society, and how people ought to relate to the rest of the world,
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What are rituals?
They are organised and stereotyped performances of certain behaviours,
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What is the definition of rituals according to People and Baileys?
The relationship of humans with spiritual and supernatural beings and powers,
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However, what is the problem with this definition?
Ritual is equally seen in everyday life such as who goes through the door first, formal dinners with correct dress,
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Give another example of a ritual which has little religious rituality but symbolism in a wedding?
The cutting of the cake is an important non-religious ritual- The right hand of the groom goes over the right hand of the bride, and they cut the cake together,
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Hence what two types of rituals can you have?
Social and religious
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What do rituals allow us to know about relationships?
They allow us to know where we stand in a relationship, and demonstrate what we know about where we stand,
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Who does religious rituals involve a relationship with?
With the supernatural rather than another human being,
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What is a major feature of religious rituals?
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What is a major feature of many social rituals? Especially in what circumstances?
-hand shaking, -Especially when it is done by the heads of countries which have been long term enemies e.g. USA and Cuba,
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What can symbolism often involved materially?
They may involve symbolic places, objects and behaviours e.g. Remembrance Day parades,
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What is symbolic about the Remembrance Day parade?
It is often accompanied by ringing church bells 'half muffled'- A traditional English indicator of mourning,
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What is one of the difficulties with symbols, especially symbolic objects?
They often serve very different functions in other contexts,
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Give some examples of symbolic objects which aren't outside of their context?
-CHurch candles, -Bread, wine and olive oil in Greek Orthodox Church, -Loaves of brad for harvest festivals,
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Hences, when studying living communities, what can there be very little distinction between?
Something which has religious symbolism and something which doesnt,
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Often what gives symbolic meaning to the object and an example?
The symbolic behaviour or context e.g. bessing the bread and wine in Christian communion,
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What is another problem with religious symbolism based on awareness and diversity?
Not everyone in society is aware of the symbolism and can have different explanations for it
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For an example, what is the Advent ring?
In Western Christian tradition, Advent is the four weeks of religious preparation before Christmas,
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What is the ritual for the Advent ring religiously?
Many churches have a wreath with candles on it to mark the weeks of Advent. Each Sunday a candle is lit,
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However, while there is common practice, what three things is there no common agreement on?
-Whether there should be 4 or 5 candles, -What colours they should be, -What aspect of preparation each candle symbolises
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For another example of symbolism, what shape do many cars have on the backs of their cars?
A fish
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What is the significance behind the fish symbol?
The Greek word for fish is an acronym, used by early Christians, who were persecuted for their beliefs so they could identify themselves secretly.
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While some rituals are performed on a regular basis, what are rituals called that are annually and have meaning and an example?
Calendrical rituals e.g. Christmas
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What is another type of ritual that is performed only when some individual asks for them?
Crisis rituals,
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What is an important category within crisis rituals that are used for an initiation?
Rites of passage,
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When do life crisis rituals occur?
When a particularly important stage in life has been reached, as people pass from one stage to another,
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For rites of passage, what kinds of events is this associated with?
Births, coming of age, marriage and death,
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What are these events often marked with?
An elaborate ritual which often involves the symbolism of crossing from one state to another,
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What type of symbolism therefore becomes important? What is emphasised within this?
Boundary symbolism, -There is emphasis on physical doorways or thresholds,
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What are the three phases of the rites of passage?
1) Separation 2) Liminality or transition 3) Incorporation
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What does the separation stage involve?
Separation involves leaving the family, leaving the mother's home, leaving previous tasks and responsibilities behind,
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What is the definition of liminality?
being at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold, not being fully in one status or another
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What does the transition stage involve?
Seclusion from society, ritual tests, teaching/learning of new information for the next stage of life,
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What does the incorporation stage involve?
Rejoining the group, with new responsibilities, a new role and sometimes new clothing and appearance,
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For example at or soon after the birth, what do a number of Christian sects employ?
They employ total immersion baptism in which the child is brought into the fellowship of the church,
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What leads of a coming of age/ initiation rite of passage?
Physical changes associated with puberty and physical maturation are quite noticeabem
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These rituals are often initiations in what two spheres?
Social and physical adulthood,
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What are they educated about in these initiations?
They are educated about adult responsibilities and knowledge,
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Are the groups involved in the initiation gender separated?
Generally gender separation is enforced bu it varies between societies and whether both males and females undergo this ritual
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At the end of the ritual, what are boys and what are girls?
Boys are male and girls and women
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What is the Apache Sunrise ceremony? (Who is it for and why?)
A communal four day ceremony that Apache girls experience soon after experiencing their first menstruation
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What are girls meant to embrace through this ceremony?
Their role as women of the Apache nation,
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What did girls say about their experiences of the Sunrise Ceremony?
They said it increased their self-esteem and confidence, and after truly felt like a woman,
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What is the name of the ritual of Latin American girls 15th birthday?
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What does this celebration mark?
The transition from childhood to young womanhood,
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How does the girl enter the crowds for the ritual?
She enters through the main doors with her father,
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For marriage as a rite of passage, what types of rituals does it involve?
It involves complex religious and social rituals,
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What is the generally accepted explanation of marriage?
it links the two independent kin groups together
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What does marriage often symbolise?
The couple's passage from "child" or "dependent" status to adult status as an independent household,
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In Greek orthodox wedings, what do the bride and groom wear and what does this symbolise?
They both wear crowns joined with a ribbon to symbolise that their families are now linked,
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For death as a rite of passage, what is this life crisis associated with in terms of complexity?
It is associated with some of the greatest amount and complexity of rituals in many societies,
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In Chinese culture, what do they believe when a person dies?
The general notion is the soul leaves the body and prepares fo the next world,
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What is the ritual involved with the dead body and why/ the symbolism?
Bowl of rice placed by body to sustain person in next life, -Sharp instrument next to body to ward off evil spirits,
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How long does the funeral ceremony last?
For over 49 days, the first 7 being most important,
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How often are prayers said?
Every 7 days for 49 days if the family can afford it,
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What is a major concern and question for anthropologists?
Why does religion exist,
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what are the three categories of functions religion is through to serve?
-Intellectual functions, -Psychological functions, -Social functions,
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For intellectual functions, what do humans demand explanations for?
Why the world around them works the way it does,
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Therefore, what does religious beliefs satisfy?
Humans needs to explain and understand why things are they way they are, or happen the way they do,
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What kinds of things does religion explain which others can't?
The movement of sun, moon and stars, and why suffering and evil things happen to people,
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Where are these explanations often provided by?
Often by origin myths and stories which claim to describe the origin of some feature of the natural world,
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Who distinguished between religion and magic and when?
Sir James Frazer, -20th century,
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What does he argue religion is?
It is the belief that the supernatural world is ruled by one or more dieties with personal characteristics who can be pleaded with to influence outcomes
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According to Frazer, religious provided pre what for natural phenomena?
Pre-scientific explanations,
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What did he argue magic was used for?
To influence the natural world in primitive people's struggles for survival,
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What does magic rely on from people?
An uncritical belief of primitive people in contact and imitation,
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Who argues the essence of religion is the belief that natural phenomena have human like properties?
Stewart Guthrie,
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Give some examples of his theory?
Thunder as the voice of gods, the sun as a life giving father, wind as the breath of god,
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Hence early humans explained such phenomena how?
By anthropomorphising (making human) these natural forces into unseen supernatural personages or agencies,
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However, what is a problem with these intellectual functions based on myths?
Myths incorporating stories of supernatural powers or beings explain various aspects of the world which are difficult to explain without science
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However, traditional people often also have a wide range of what?
Practical knowledge,
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In addition, what do many western scientists believe?
Many continue to maintain religious beliefs,
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For psychological functions, how does religion help people?
It helps people cope psychologically with times of trouble, stress and anxiety
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What is the basic assumption about religion's role in troubling times?
All the trials of life and coping with death can be handled emotionally if one believes there is a reason to them, or that they can be controlled by means of ritual,
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What did Malinowski argue that religion originated from?
Helping people cope with death,
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What does Malinowski also argue religion serves to give people during times of uncertainty?
It serves to give people confidence when they know that it is possible they will be unsuccessful despite their best efforts,
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What two things about death has been argued to cause anxiety and psychological stress?
1) Knowing that we will all die, 2) Serious illness or death of close relatives,
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Therefore, what does religion provide in both cases?
It provides an almost universal accompanying belief in an afterlife, which allows us to cope by denying the finality of death,
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However, what is a problem with these psychological explanations based on an afterlife?
Although most religions include beleif in some kind of afterlife, in many cultures the afterlife is distinctly less pleasant than this one,
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Give an example of those tribes where an afterlife is unpleasant?
-Yanomamo, -Ancient Greeks, -Medieval christians,
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For social explanations and functions of religion, why is religion needed in society based on order,
To keep people in line through shared social values and supernatural threats
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What did Durkheim argue the main function of human society was?
To promote social solidarity,
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What three things does religion encourage?
Cohesion, unity and conformity,
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What is the importance of behaviour in religion?
Socially acceptable behaviour is rewarded supernaturally while failure to adhere to these principles will lead to punishment by supernatural powers,
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What anthropologist argues religions reflect societies and an example?
Guy Swanson, -Historically, we can explain which countries were protestant and which were catholic based on their socio-political culture,
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However, what is the problem with social explanations and functions of religion?
In some societies, gods and other supernatural entities have little or no interest in human morality or immorality, frequently breaking the human social rules and fate of people isn't related to their morality,
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However, what does Swanson argue about which societies are more likely to believe in the supernatural rewards or punishments for what than who?
Societies in which there is greater social inequality, -Inappropriate behaviour, -Egalitarian societies,
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What is another explanatory aspect of religion?
Personal misfortunes including death, illness and events Westerners would interpret as accidents may be attributed to supernatural actions,
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What do misfortunes result from?
Breaking taboos- They are a result of punishment for offending the GOds,
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What does illness result from?
Evil humans using supernatural powers against the afflicted person e.g witches and sorcerers,
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What is believed about witches and sorcerers?
They strike randomly and maliciously against innocent people, and direct evil magic or thoughts towards those they hold a grudge against
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Give an example of an important witchcraft trial in Bottesford?
-1617, -Earl of Rutland accused three local women, Joan Flower and her daugthers, Phillipa and Margaret, of murdering his two sons, -they were arrested and taken to jail and later hanged,
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What is sorcery and witchcraft seen as from?
The misuse of control over the supernatural world,
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The threat of witchcraft accusations can control what?
Anti-social behaviour,
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What do witchcraft accusations indicated?
Various social dislocations or tensions,
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Give another example of a witchcraft trial in Salem?
-1692 Massachusetts, -Girl had fits, convulsions, outbursts of gibberish believed to be the result of witches, -Led to 20+ deaths and imprisonment of many innocent people,
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For the social factors of witchcraft accusations, what were the motives behind many of the accusers at Salem?
There were major social and economic tensions and many of the accusers stood to gain property from the accused,
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Where were there also tensions in terms of social class?
There were also tensions between the local community and the "bottesford witches" and so with the high status of the Duke of Rutland they never stood a chance,
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When did Arthur Miller create what play about the Salem witch trials?
1953 'The Crucible'
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What are revitalisation movements?
They are political-religious movements, or often referred to as millenarian movements, or those that believe in the end of the present world,
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What three things do these political-religious movements promise?
1) Deliverance from deprivation, 2) The Elimination of foreign domination, 3) A new interpretation of the human condition based on traditional cultural values,
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What do Anthropologists suggest and where these tend to spring up?
They tend to occur in societies undergoing severe stress associated with colonial conquest and intense class or racial exploitation,
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What three conditions are these movements likely to occur?
1) Rapid change, 2) Foreign domination 3) Perception of relative deprivation,
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For rapid change, what does this often include an exposure to?
Unfamiliar people, customs and material culture,
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For foreign domination, what feeling does this lead to?
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For the perception of relative deprivation, how do people see themselves in perspective to those who dominate them?
They see themselves as lacking wealth, power and esteem,
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What are two examples of revitalisation movements?
-Cargo cults e.g. John Frum Cult, -Native American movements e.g. Handsome Lake
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Where are Cargo cults based?
In Melanesia in the South Pacific,
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What are cargo cults lead by?
Prophets claiming a new revelation and the imminence of a new age of blessing,
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What do they believe the new age will be initiated by?
The arrival of special cargo of highly desirable goods from supernatural sources,
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Who do they believe will bring these goods?
Tribal divinities, cultural heroes or ancestors, or even foreigners who they have accused to intercepting material goods intended forthem,
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What preparations are made for the goods?
Symbolic landing strips and warehouses, traditional material resources may be abandoned etc.
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What do these preparations show about the future?
That a radical new age is beginning and will be brought about by a cataclysmic event
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What three things do the cargo cults believe these cataclysmic events will change?
1) Destroy the old order, 2) Bring paradise of plenty, and freedom and justice in which large amounts of material goods will be delivered, 3) Reversal of the positons of white foreigners and indigenous peoples,
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Why have colonial authorities repressed them?
Due ot their political implications and economic losses connected with these mass movements,
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Therefore, how were the cargo cults inspired by white people?
They were inspired by the material wealth of the whites, which was interpreted by non-literate peoples as emanating from supernatural sources overseas,
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A cargo cult on the pacific islands of Tanna in Vanuatu Melanesia believe who is a god?
John Frum
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What is their religious ritual for John Frum?
Every year they parade wearing home made American army uniforms beneath an American flag,
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what is his return associated with?
The return of the American GIs with their large amounts of ealth they brought with them when stationed there in WW2,
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What does John Frum promise in terms of the new age?
That all white people, including missionaries, would leave Vanuatu and that the native Melanesians would gain access to the material wealth which white people enjoy and have kept for themselves,
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For native American movements, what is the reasons why many have been created?
As a response to European intrusion,
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What are the three best known native american movements?
1) The Handsome Lake, 2) The Peyote cult 3) The ghost dance/ ghost shirt religion
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Who was Handsome Lake?
Chief of the Seneca tribe, who led a dissolute life before becoming seriously ill in 1799,
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On his recovery, what vision did he see and the new religion suggested?
He saw the will of the Great Spirit leadin to a religion he called Gai'wilo (Good Message) combining elements of Christinaity and Indian beliefs,
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Describe the message that was published as the Code of Handsome Lake?
The message combined traditional religious beliefs with a revised code meant to bring cultural consciousness to the Iroquios after a long period of cultural disintegration following coloisation
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What is another Native American religion based around a drug?
Peyote religion
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What is a Peyote?
A small cactus with notable hallucinogenic properties found in Texas and Mexico
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Why was Peyote religion created?
As the natives were enforced to live in the reservations and so they were faced with disintegration of their cultural heritage, so this cult adapted to the needs of the more advanced Native American groups through out the US,
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when is Peyote used?
it is now employed as a religious sacrament among over forty tribes in many parts of the US and western Canda after its used was legalised again in 1978,
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What does the Native American Church symbolise?
The native American's disinheritance from their own land,
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What is the ghost dance as another native american movement?
a religious movement which believed in a peaceful end to white american expansion and incorporating messages of clean living,
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As the ghost dance spread, how did tribes synthesise this?
They synthesised selective aspects of the ritual with their own beliefs, often creating change in both society that integrated it and the ritual itself,
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What do many anthropologists link revitalisation movements directly with?
Colonial expansion,
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However, what groups can also be understood in terms of revitalisation movements?
al Qa'eda and other Islamic "fundamentalist" organisations,
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What three things can we understand better by looking at these modern types of revitalisation movements?
1) The effects of globalisation 2) THe intrusion of western culture into other societies with well established cultural traditions 3) the disruption of those traditions with this disruption,
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For globalisation and the rise of "fundamentalism", what are there similarities between religious fundamental movements and revitalisation movements?
Both aim to return society to older, better moral standards,
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As an example, what is the "Quiverfull" movement?
An Evangelical christian movement that promotes married couples having large numbers of children,
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How does this link to returning society to older standards?
They are very sociall conservative, focused on 'traditional values; and fixed gender roles, and so undermining feminism and birth control,
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What German party could be seen as a revitalisation movement?
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Why can this be problematic based on religion?
As nazism didn't have an overtly religious basis whereas religion is vital to the "classic" examples,
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However, why was uniform religious axis impossible?
it was split between Catholics and Protestants,
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Why can Hitler be seen as a prophet?
As he had a revelation while removed from the ordinary world in prison,
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What is his vision of how a new world would occur?
it would ocur through a series of successful wars,
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How did he vision this new world for Germany?
A return to some ideal orders, the expulsion of foreigners,
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however, overall was Nazism a religious movement?
no it was a secular movement,
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Card 2


What do anthropologists attempt to discover in religion?


A function or reason for certain aspects, and emphasis the inner logic of religious belief systems,

Card 3


Therefore, cultural relativity leads anthropologists to believe what about religion at a certain level?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


In the context of the anthropology of religion, what is important to note the difference between what two models?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


Who conducted an anthropological study in the Trobriand Islands and when and what wrote book did he write?


Preview of the front of card 5
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