MIT21A_226F09_lec17

MIT21A_226F09_lec17 - Nov 4 2009 17 RELIGION ETHNICITY THE...

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Nov. 4, 2009 17 RELIGION, ETHNICITY, THE NATION Read: Aihwa Ong, 1990 State versus Islam: Malay families, women’s bodies, and the body politic in Malaysia Susan Kahn, 2000. Jewish and Gentile sperm: Rabbinic discourse on sperm and paternal relatedness. In Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel . Durham: Duke U Press: 87-111 Optional: Malarney, Shaun Kingsley, 1996. The limits of “state functionalism” and the reconstruction of funerary ritual in contemporary northern Vietnam. I. Introduction: anthropological views about religion A. Religion is seen as part of culture, a component of a particular cultural system 1. In the ideal type of culture, each “culture” has a “religion” a. “Ideal” here doesn’t mean “the best;” rather, a model is constructed to serve as a heuristic—an aid to thinking about culture b. Ideal types are never found in the real world 2. For example, E. E. Evans-Pritchard wrote an ethnography, The Nuer about people in southern Sudan a. Followed it with Nuer Religion 3. Similarly, in the U.S. Southwest, the Navajo people practice the Navajo religion a. Here we have an approximation to the ideal type: b. A close association with a group of people who identify themselves as a distinct culture with a distinct language 17 Religion, ethnicity, the nation 2009 1/19/10
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2 c. It’s difficult to imagine what Navajo religion could be if someone who doesn’t speak Navajo believed in it and practiced it B. In the real world religions are linked to culture (in the sense of “a culture”), nation, and ethnicity in more complicated fashion 1. Example of world religions 2. They complicate this way of thinking, as they are shared by many cultures, no matter how you define “culture” a. Islam in Nigeria very different from Islam in Indonesia 3. To be successful such major religions must have a core set of meanings, symbols and practices that adapt fairly easily to different cultural contexts a. Faint echoes of the original culture will remain b. Because all world religions began in a single culture c. There will be premises, assumptions, and sometimes language from the original culture 1) That religious scholars will focus on 2) Scholars will grapple with such too-restricted assumptions and language, trying to make them relevant to other cultural contexts d. Traces in Christianity and early Judaism? 1) The lists approved-of practices and beliefs in the Bible that are no longer acceptable is extensive 2) DISCUSS : examples? 3) Polygyny, stoning to death, slaves, witches
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3 e. DISCUSS : Traces of the origins of Islam remaining among the Hui? 4. Another influence: concepts and practices from cultural systems that existed in between the original cultural context and the present a. Many Orthodox Jewish practices actually stem from Central European communities over the last few centuries b. Clothing; shaving the bride’s head at marriage and donning a wig 5. There will be stronger connections between the culture that existed at the beginning of the religion and the present-day
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