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6. SYMBOLISM - SYMBOLISM .An...

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SYMBOLISM A symbol is something meaningful which conventionally stands for something else.   An  index is not a symbol (the relationship is intrinsic).  An icon is not a symbol (an icon  looks like what it represents).   In the most general sense, “symbol” can include language (words stand for something  else which they signify).  It is also useful to contrast language and symbols.   Anything may become a symbol.  E.g. the panda is a symbol of the World Wildlife Fund.  ‘Ms.’ is a linguistic sign with a denotation, but ‘Ms.’ as the name of a magazine is also  symbolic.  Symbols are sometimes  motivated , i.e. a representation of a skull and cross-bones can be  used to indicate danger.  In this case, the  motivation  of the symbol is that bones are  related to death.  Other symbols are unmotivated, when there is no evident link between  the symbol and what it stands for.  Symbols can have several meanings, e.g. the Cross.   Several theoretical frameworks offer explanations of symbols.  I. Symbols as clues Functionalism  For the sociologist Emile Durkheim, the symbols of religious beliefs and practices were  representations of society.   This view was taken up by anthropological functionalists.   For instance, Malinowski interpreted a Trobriand myth of origin of humanity to mean that  a particular clan had a right to some privileges.  It is true that myths and rituals serve to  state political and economic claims.  However, functionalist explanations are  unsatisfactory because they do not explain enough.  Why is it necessary to have a  complex story in the first place?  Why not simply say “Clan X has a right to Y”?   Secondly, functionalist explanations do not explain the other parts of the myth.  The same criticism can be made of functionalist explanation of rituals.  For instance, we  might say that a ritual requiring hte participation of  the whole community is a symbolic  representation of the community or, a ritual which must be performed by a chief  legitimates the political structure. This is reasonable, but it does not explain the other  aspects of the ritual.  Psychoanalysis For Freud, symbols had an unconscious meaning.  According to him, dream-elements are  symbolic of unconscious dream-thoughts.  He considered that the same kind of  symbolism was present in myths and fairy tales. 
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Freud thought that our basic wishes are sexual, but we cannot acknowledge them because  of incestuous taboos.  For Freud, what is repressed is symbolised (and only what is  repressed is symbolised).  
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