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Flashcards in Religion and Society Deck (94)
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Anthropology Definition

Anthropology is the study of humankind


Religion Defined

  • The realm of culture that concerns the sacred supernatural


4 Major Fields in Anthropology

  1. Cultural (largest)
  2. Linguistic
  3. Archaeological
  4. Physical


possible work for anthropologist

  1. surveying land, history
  2. government research - homeless, cultural issues
  3. study of sacred land and water (Dakota pipeline issue)
  4. immigration - how to make canadian society more inclusive to incoming immigrents


Etic Perspective

Term for "the study of a society using concepts that were developed outside of the culture"



Term to describe "the descriptive study of human societies" 

researchers observe and/or interact with a study's participants in their real-life environment.



  • judging and intrpreting another culture with one's own cultural lens
  • to be avoided as it brings bias into understanding other cultures


Emic Perspective

  • Study society through the eyes of the people being studied
  • fewer key understandings overlooked


Cultural Relativism - definition

  • way to study cultures without a biased lens, from a neutral perspective that does not pronounce societies as immoral or primitive
  • beliefs as being appropriate for those people in that society



Definition of Culture

human beliefs, customs and behaviours of a society that are learned, transmitted from one generation to the next, and shared by a group of people


Smart's 6 dimensions of religion

  1. Ritual (e.g. rites of passage)
  2. Institututional (organization, leadership)
  3. Narrative (myths, creations stories..)
  4. Social (religion as group bonding activity)
  5. Experiential (e.g. Altered State Consciousness)
  6. Ethical (customs, moral rules)


Definition Holism

Study of human societies as sytematic sums of their parts, integrated wholes


Animism, Definition

Belief in spirit beings, supernatural powers and souls in plants, objects as well


Characteristics of Religion (6)

  1. supernatural beings 
  2. supernatural power
  3. rituals
  4. Worldview
  5. Sacred supernatural
  6. Social Bond or Social Control


Evolutionary Approach - define

  • spirits&ghosts/Gods&Souls/Science
  • linear approach 
  • religion as evolving from "primitive" societal" beliefs in spirits and ghosts to a more "evolved" belief in Gods and Souls and then to a more scientific view
  • Tyler


Problem  with evolutionary approach

  • thinking it begins and ends somewhere can lead to superiority (i.e. "primitive" then, now more "rational")
  • can be demeaning to other cultures
  • supremist
  • ethnocentric
  • specultative - don't know how religion or magic began or where religion is going
  • BUT: do see evolution


Functional Approach

Relgion serves a purpose

(Durkheim saw that pupose as bringing people together for common goal)

  1. Individualism vs. clan - too much choice, if something goes wrong only blame self
  2. Excessive hope - anyone can be the boss
  3. Too much freedom - fewer social norms, society doesn't care what you do
  4. Atheism - thought religion had become implausible but appreciated the inclusivness
  5. Weakening of nation and family - less tied to parents as adult, no larger sense of belonging



Limits Funtional Approach

  • not all the same religion so harder in multicultural society
  • doesn't address the extraordinary experiences associated with religion
  • crutch for reality


Interpretive Approach

  • religion as made up of symbols that, when interpreted or studied will represent the culture of the society and their beliefs and practives
  • 2 stages: a) symbols that supposedly make up a charter for culture's ideas, values, way of life then b) see how relates to social structure
  • Geertz


Criticism of Interpretive Approacch

Not much time spent on stage 2 - seeing how the symbols relate to the social structure


Psychological Approach:

  • religion as defense mechanism to avoid realities of society and life and to avoid anxieties
  • Freud


Marxist Approach

  • religion is a human construct with social function and a reaction to stress
  • religion as a way to keep people in check
  • obedience to authority
  • a group of ruling elite in power that led to an obedient and oppressed people
  • can be used to justify war ("holy war inspired by God)


Criticism of Marxist Approach

  • activists also religious but they challenge the societal norms
  • religion can be used for revolution (not always to keep people in check) e.g. 1979 Iranian Revolution
  • can be catalyst for social change - unites and directs people's actions (Martin Luther King)


Essentialist Approach

  • system of beliefs and behaviors that deal with the relationship between humans and sacred supernatural  - spirit guide, god, mysticism
  • looks at the essential nature of the religion
  • things beyond the commonplace / natural - e.g. mysticism 


Postmodernist View

  • all knowledge is human construct that we have to try and deconstruct
  • emphasizes limitations of science
  • rejection of grand, universal schemes or theories which explain other cultures 
  • whole is more than sum of parts


Collaborative Platform

  • Platform used to work on problems as they arise
  • used for Ebola - Ebola Response Anthropology Platform
  • 16,000 users



  • cultural web of life
  • sum total of all myths, ideas, dreams, thoughts, inspiration brought into being by human imagination
  • humanity's great legacy - symbol of all that we are and all that we can be as a species
  • eroded at fast rate (used to have 6000 languages and only 1/2 still used & taught
  • destruction of cultural diversity on planet
  • Ethnocide: destruction of people's way of life


Theory of Mind - define

  • when an individual is able to predict what another's thoughts are, what they might do next
  • you can put yourself in the place of that person



Worldview - define

  • philosophy of life, concept of the world
  • the way a society perceives its reality
  • shapes our actions, thoughts and beliefs


Navaho Worldview

  • humans are part of nature
  • all the elements in the universe affect one another
  • failure to behave properly upsets the harmony in the universe
  • can lead to natural disasters
  • will try to resolve an illness with a ritual to re-establish the harmony