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Level 4

Chapter 4: Symbolic Anthropology – Myth & Ritual

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Carl Jung
(1875 – 1961) A Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. He proposed and developed the concepts of extraversion and introversion; archetypes, and the collective unconscious.
Claude Levi-Strauss
(1908 – 2009) French Emigrant anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called the "father of modern anthropology". His work was also key in the development of the theory of structuralism and structural anthropology.
Arnold van Gennep
(1873 - 1957) A noted French ethnographer and folklorist. Symbolic Anthropology; Author of "Rites of Passage"
Victor Turner
(1920 - 1983) A British cultural anthropologist best known for his work on symbols, rituals and rites of passage; the liminal phase in rites of passage. Author of "The Forest of Symbols"
Clifford Geertz
(1926 - 2006) An American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology. Author of "Notes on a Balinese Cockfight".
Notes on a Balinese Cockfight
Written by Clifford Geertz. In this ethnography he talks about being ignored by the people of Balinese in the beginning of his fieldwork. The event of an illegal cockfight took place 10 days after their arrival, and it was this cockfight that allowed him and his wife to build rapport with the Balinese. Because the policemen showed up in the middle of the fight, the Balinese people panicked and ran. Geertz and his wife also ran away from the scene with the Balinese. Because they could've easily told the police they were anthropologists but didn't earned the Balinese people's respect, and they were no longer treated as invisible.
An object, word, or action that stands for something else. A symbol represents a cluster of abstract ideas or concepts.
Symbolic Anthropology
The study of symbols in their social and cultural context
The process by which culture is learned and transmitted across generations
Etic View of a Culture
Perspective of an outsider looking in. Data gathering by outsiders that yield answers to questions posed by outsiders. Problems: people tend to act differently when they are being observed; answer questionnaires according to what they think the researcher wants; difficult for an outsider to gain access to certain rituals and sacred myths - which are important for understanding a culture.
Emic View of a Culture
Focuses on cultural understandings that are meaningful to the members of a given society (tries for an insider’s view). Requires immersion by the observer in a specific culture; an emic case study produces more detailed and culturally rich information. The emic perspective is very useful for the purpose of providing in-depth descriptive reports about a culture, including its symbols, myths and rituals. Problems: it can create oversights on the part of the researcher, especially if they are a member of the culture they are studying. Anthropologist may fail to keep in mind how their practices are seen as exotic and strange. They may assume that their observations are unbiased – whereas they come from their perspective and require reflexivity (reflecting on one’s bias).
A universally understood symbol, or pattern of behavior; are seen in myths, stories, rituals and art across different cultures.
A cross with its arms bent at right angles – either clockwise 卐 or counterclockwise 卍. It symbolises the sun, a wheel in motion, energy. It is still used in Indian religions & in the 1920s the counterclockwise swastika was adopted by Hitler. It became the emblem on the Nazi party flag.
Symbolic representation of the universe, sacred, based on a circle. Used in meditation; has Eastern religious roots
The Cosmic Tree
Links the upper realms of heaven with the lower realms of earth and the underworld.
Phases of the Rites of Passage
Three phases: Preliminal, Liminal, Postliminal
In the structure of society (secure): Boys and girls associate with both mothers and fathers
Taken away from society to a special place: No social contact with family; Increased contact with your peer group; Guides, high priests and priestess, or shamans; Undergo rituals
Return to society, but different: New social status and responsibilities; New name or title
A sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a special place, and designed to influence forces on behalf of the actors' goals and interests
Joseph Campbell
Scholar of comparative mythology; Author of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces": “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Phases of the Hero Journey
Departure, Initiation & Return
Call to adventure (a sign, feeling), setting out
Adventures, hardships, trials, ordeals, fight with monsters (external which may be a metaphor for internal struggle), in the final ordeal the hero is faced with a life/death struggle. If s/he survives receives a great boon (often in the form of self-knowledge).
Return to home, ordeals of return and readjustment, realization of powers acquired on journey. Must share knowledge for the greater good.
Argonauts of the Western Pacific
Ethnographic fieldwork by Malinowski - Departure: the structure of own culture and university. Set out on a long voyage to a foreign land. - Liminal phase: ‘Disappear’ from own culture for a year or more; Initiation: Face many hardships, Life or death struggle - Return: great boon is knowledge of the other, but problems fitting back in, have changed, suffer from culture shock.