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

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Drawing from ethnographic examples found throughout the world, this book offers a general 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. 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.

About the Author:
Robert L. Winzeler is professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno

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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: 942,942
  • 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

Preface and Acknowledgments     xiii
Acknowledgments     xiv
Anthropology and Religion     1
Words and Things     1
Is Religion a Human Universal?     3
The Meaning of Religion     4
Tylor's Definition     5
Do All Peoples Distinguish between "Natural" and "Supernatural"?     6
The Durkheimian Approach     9
The Anthropology of Religion     12
Types of Anthropological Studies of Religion     15
Types of Religion     17
Prehistoric Religion     17
Ancient Religions     17
Indigenous Religions of Small-Scale Societies     18
The World Religions     19
Religions versus Religion     19
Notes     20
References and Further Reading     20
Religion Here and There     23
Religion Is Primarily a Matter of Belief or Faith     23
Religion and Identity: One at a Time     24
Religion Is a Separate Realm of Life     26
Religion Is Associated with a Special Building     27
Religion Concerns Transcendental Rather Than Practical Matters     29
Practical Religion among Latin American Immigrants in Los Angeles     32
Religion Is the Basis of Morality     34
Notes     38
References and Further Reading     38
Religion, Evolution, and Prehistory     41
The Bio-Evolution of Religion     42
When Did Religion Develop?     46
Neanderthal Burials, Ritual Cannibalism, and Cave Bear Cults     47
Religion in the Upper Paleolithic in Southwestern Europe     51
The Origin of Religion: How It Began     53
Psychological and Sociological Theories     53
Altered States of Consciousness Explanations     54
Ritual as the Origin of Religion     57
The Nature of Early Religion     58
Has Religion Evolved?     60
The Evolution of Belief     61
Religion and Society     62
Notes     63
References and Further Reading     64
Religion, Adaptation, and the Environment     67
Ecological Functionalism: Naskapi Hunting Divination     68
Religion as a Regulator of Ecological Processes     70
Ritual as a Thermostat     70
Balinese Temples as Regulators of Irrigation Systems     70
Cultural Materialist Explanations of Seemingly Maladaptive Ritual Practices (Or, Solving the Riddles of Culture)     71
Ceremonies Can Help Populations Adapt to Available Resources: The Potlatch     72
Pig Hate and Pig Love     73
The Pig and the Spread of Islam into Southeast Asia     75
Religion and Environmentalism     78
Religion Promotes Sound Environmental Practices     78
Religious Beliefs and Practices That Do Not Support Good Environmental Practices     80
Religion and the Ecological Indian     80
Religion and the Decline and Collapse of Societies     84
The Problem of Reaching Conclusions about Religion and Adaptation     86
Note     87
References and Further Reading     87
Natural Symbols     89
What Are Natural Symbols?     89
Animals     92
Why Animals Are Important as Symbols     93
Snakes     96
Birds     99
Colors     101
Lateral Symbolism: Left- and Right-Handedness     105
Percussion Sounds     107
The Head and Its Parts     108
Hair     108
The Skull, Head-Hunting, and Scalping     109
The Eye     113
Natural Symbols and Natural Religion     114
Notes      115
References and Further Reading     116
Myth and Ritual, Old and New     119
What More Exactly Is Myth?     120
Theories, Approaches, and Explanations of Myth     122
William Robertson Smith and Myth-Ritualism     123
Levi-Strauss and the Structural Study of Myth     126
The Protagonists of Myth     128
The Hero     129
The Trickster     132
Trickster Animals in Japan     134
Myth and Gender     137
Contemporary Urban Myth     138
Rumor Myths     139
Government Head-Hunting and Construction Sacrifice     141
Notes     142
References and Further Reading     142
Ritual and Belief     145
The Nature of Ritual     146
Religious Ritual     147
Positive and Negative Dimensions of Ritual     148
Some Common Features of Religious Ritual Activity     149
Elementary Ritual Actions     149
More Complex Ritual Activity     150
Some Common Types of Ritual     151
Ritual and Time     151
The Structure of Ritual According to Arnold van Gennep     151
Journeys and Boundaries      152
Pilgrimage     153
Rites of Passage     155
Pregnancy and Childbirth     155
Coming-of-Age and Marriage     156
Mortuary Ritual     159
Notions of the Soul and the Afterlife     159
Bad Death     161
Funerals as Rites of Passage     162
Two-Stage Mortuary Practices     163
Two-Stage Mortuary Practices in the Central Highlands of Vietnam     166
Notes     168
References and Further Reading     168
Witchcraft and Sorcery: Past and Present, Far and Near     171
Traditional Witchcraft and Sorcery in Small-Scale Societies     172
Bird Flu and Witchcraft in Contemporary Cambodia     172
The Azande and Other African Groups     174
The Navajo     177
Witchcraft in Melanesia and Southeast Asia     179
Witchcraft in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe     180
Organized Witchcraft Did Not Exist     181
Witchcraft Was Actually Class Struggle     182
Witchcraft Was Pre-Christian Religion     183
Witchcraft Beliefs, Experiences, and Hallucinations     187
Modern Witchcraft or Neo-Paganism     189
Modern English Witchcraft     190
Modern American Witchcraft     192
Notes     194
References and Further Reading     195
Spirit Possession, Spirit Mediumship, and Shamanism     197
Spirit Possession and Spirit Mediumship     198
Spirit Mediumship or Voluntary Possession     199
Involuntary Spirit Possession as Psychopathology and Spirit Mediumship as Psychotherapy     201
Involuntary Spirit Possession as Protest and Empowerment     202
Spirit Possession among Malay Schoolgirls and Factory Workers in Malaysia     204
Shamanism     206
The Work and Influence of Mircea Eliade     208
Defining Shamanism Broadly or Narrowly     209
The Basic Features of Shamanism     209
The Occurrence of Shamanism     212
Shamanism, Modes of Adaptation, and Levels of Social, Political, and Religious Organization and Gender     212
Shamanism as a Paleolithic Religion     214
Shamania: The Controversy over Prehistoric Art and Shamanism     214
Neo-Shamanism: Carlos Castaneda and Michael Harner     218
Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan     218
Michael Harner and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies     219
Notes     221
References and Further Reading     221
Religious Movements and the Origins of Religion     225
Three Native American Movements     226
The Delaware Prophet     226
James Mooney and the Ghost Dance     229
Peyotism and the Native American Church     234
Cargo Movements in Melanesia     236
The Tuka Movement in Fiji     236
The Notion of Cargo     238
The Logic of Cargo Movements     239
Later Cargo Cults and Nationalist Movements     240
The Bungan Movement in the Interior of Borneo     241
Revitalization     243
A Reevaluation of the Theory of Revitalization     246
Notes     247
References and Further Reading     248
Anthropology and Religion in a Global Context: The World Religions, Conversion, and Complexity     251
The World Religions from an Anthropological Perspective     252
Named Identity     252
Sacred Texts, Written Languages, and Restricted Literacy     253
Universality and Localization     254
Colonialism, Diaspora, and the World Religions     258
Evangelism     260
Suffering and Salvation     261
The Anthropological Study of the World Religions     261
Theoretical Developments     261
Religion, Society, and Civilization in Rural Java     262
Buddhism and the Spirit Cults among the Burmese     265
Gender and Religion in Korea     267
The Conversion of Indigenous Peoples to and within the World Religions     270
The Conversion of Indigenous Peoples in Southeast Asia     271
Conversion to Christianity in Northern Thailand     273
The Conversion from Roman Catholicism to Evangelical Protestantism in Mexico and Central America     276
Notes     279
References and Further Reading     279
Index     281
About the Author     297
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