ATH 346-01

discussion leader:  week 3, Myth & worldview  Scupin ch4, Humphrey shamanic practices & state

Clifford Geertz (1926-2006)

  • culture is not just symbols, but system that allows interpretation
  • metaphor of text
  • ethnography akin to translation
  • “thick description”

system of symbols

  • establishes powerful, pervasive long-lasting moods and motivations in men
  • formulating conceptions of general order of existence
  • clothing these conceptions in aura of factuality
  • moods and motivations seems uniquely realistic

Religion: a system of symbols carrying ultimate meanings, making reference to the sacred, that point both inward and outward, and that help people with major questions about life, the universe and everything

What is religion?

  • system of symbols
  • carrying ultimate meanings
  • sacred
    • that which is set apart
    • higher beings, the self, sacred objects
    • deliberately vague
  • having an outward, or socially codified structure

Also takes an inward looking stance

  • pointing towards experience and seep emotions
  • rituals are sometimes focused on life stages, and mark the transition from one phase of life to another

what anthropologists do

  • anthropologists can help us understand external expression & practices of religion
  • anthropologists can cross-culturally compare religions


  • a repetitive, formalized action, and when observed, reinforces what is sacred, as well as social and cultural bonds of participants, and which carries powerful emotional force

Rites of passage

calendrical rituals

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.