Anthropology and Religion: What We Know, Think, and Question / Edition 2

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Drawing from ethnographic examples found throughout the world, this revised and updated text offers an introduction to what anthropologists know or think about religion, how they have studied it, and how they have interpreted or explained it since the late nineteenth century. Robert Winzeler’s balanced consideration of classic topics, basic concepts, and new developments in the anthropological study of religion moves beyond cultural anthropology and ethnography to gather information from physical anthropology, prehistory, and archaeology. Written as a sophisticated but accessible treatment of the issues, Anthropology and Religion is a key text for upper-division courses.

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Editorial Reviews

E. Paul Durrenberger
This is an excellent review of the vast body of research anthropologists have done on religion around the world and through the history of our species. Winzeler discusses and critiques the underlying assumptions and theoretical orientations as well as the empirical findings of a number of anthropologists. The book is clear that these are not just matters of long ago and far away but pertain to the contemporary world of today's news.This is an excellent book for courses on the anthropology of religion as well as for people who want to know what anthropologists have to say on the topic. Inmany years of teaching courses on the anthropology of religion, I have found no book to match it for comprehensive coverage.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759121904
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press
  • Publication date: 4/12/2012
  • Edition description: 2nd Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 338
  • Sales rank: 921,314
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert L. Winzeler is professor emeritus of anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno.

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Table of Contents


Part 1: Anthropology and Religion
Words and Things
Is Religion a Human Universal?
The Meaning of Religion
The Anthropology of Religion
Types of Anthropological Studies of Religion
Types of Religion
Religions versus Religion

Part 2: Religion Here and There: Western Notions in Comparative Perspective
Religion Is Primarily a Matter of Belief or Faith
Religion and Identity: One at a Time
Religion Is a Separate Realm of Life
Religion Is Associated with a Special Building
Religion Concerns Transcendental Rather Than Practical Matters
Religion Is the Basis of Morality

Part 3: Religion, Evolution, and Prehistory
The Bio-evolution of Religion
When Did Religion Develop?
The Origin of Religion: How It Began
The Nature of Early Religion
Has Religion Evolved?

Part 4: Religion, Adaptation, and the Environment
Ecological Functionalism
Religion as a Regulator of Ecological Processes
Cultural Materialist Explanations of Seemingly Maladaptive
Ritual Practices (or, Solving the Riddles of Culture)
Religion and Environmentalism
The Problem of Reaching Conclusions about Religion and Adaptation

Part 5: Natural Symbols
Are There Natural Symbols?
The Natural Environment as Symbolism
Lateral Symbolism: Left- and Right-Handedness
Percussion Sounds
The Head and Its Parts
Natural Symbols and Natural Religion

Part 6: Myth and Ritual, Old and New
What More Exactly Is Myth?
Theories, Approaches, and Explanations of Myth
The Protagonists of Myth
Myth and Gender
Contemporary Urban Myths
Contemporary Rumor Myths

Part 7: Ritual and Belief
The Nature of Ritual
Religious Ritual
Some Common Forms of Religious Ritual
Some Common Types of Ritual
The Structure of Ritual according to Arnold van Gennep
Journeys and Boundaries
Rites of Passage
Mortuary Rituals
Bad Death
Funerals as Rites of Passage

Part 8: Witchcraft and Sorcery: Past and Present, Far and Near
Traditional Witchcraft and Sorcery in Small-Scale Societies
Witchcraft in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Modern Witchcraft or Neo-paganism

Part 9: Spirit Possession, Spirit Mediumship, and Shamanism
Spirit Possession and Spirit Mediumship
Shamanism in the Modern World

Part 10: Religious Movements and the Origins of Religions
Three Native American Movements
Cargo Cults in Melanesia
A Religious Movement in Borneo

Part 11: Anthropology and the World Religions
The World Religions from an Anthropological Perspective
Anthropological Studies of the World Religions
The Conversion of Indigenous Peoples to and within the World Religions

Part 12: Anthropology and Religion on a Larger Canvas: Religious Change under Socialism and Capitalism
Religious Change in Socialist and Postsocialist Societies
Socialism and Shamanism in Siberia and Mongolia
Religion under Socialism in China
Religion, Social Complexity, and Socialism in Cuba
Vietnam and Laos as Socialist States
The Return of the Occult


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