Contemporary Theories On Religious Anthropology Essay

Contemporary Theories On Religious Anthropology Essay

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In the third chapter of the Scupin book, contemporary theories on Religious Anthropology are discussed. Unlike both the Rational and Antirationalist of the past, contemporary theorist attempted to gain a more empirical understanding of religion.
Leading the fight against the 19th century unilinear evolutionists was Franz Boss. Boss focused his studies with the Kwakiutl tribe in Canada, and he focused on the importance of field work. He was outspokenly critical of past anthropologists claiming that their “arm chair” tendencies lead to falsified data and forged conclusions. He also encouraged the ideas of cultural relativism as the best way to approach field work. Notably this was a difficult task, especially for someone who came to age in the late 19th century. None the less he supported that every society should be examined in terms of their own established culture. He also championed the abandonment of derogatory terms such as “primitive” and “savages”, he felt that could not endure an open mind.
Following in Boss’s footsteps was Bronislaw Malinowski, he also supported the ideas of intensive field work. He felt that in order to gain a better understanding of a culture it is important for the researcher to emerge themselves into the culture as much as possible. This would afford the researcher to gain an “insiders perspective” which will enable them to have a wider understanding of a culture which a wider lenses. Though on paper this practice seems to be advantageous, but I have to wonder if it is at all possible to achieve the full “insiders perspective”. So many aspects of culture are minute and concluded that it would require long term study to gain even a basic understanding, let alone a familiarity with the gr...


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...ists criticize symbolic anthropology for dualism and inability to recognize historical significance.

2. Explain Geertz idea of “thick description”, why might this be advantageous in the study of religious anthropology, disadvantages?

“Thick description” was a coined Geertz as a means for explaining the importance of a broad anthropological approach. In essence, Geertz asserted that only by carful analysis of culture as a whole could yield an better explanation for various cultural phenomenon. Thick description relies on the collection of data from numerous cultural lenses. A thick descriptive approach will liken the chances of an anthropologist to gain a better usndersatnindg of a societies rituals, and institutions. Though they my never be able to gain a complete understanding because they will always be broaching the subject with an outsiders perspective.

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