a203-11f-10-CulturalMaterialismAndText

Provide fuel dung provide milk female cattle cows

This preview shows page 2 - 4 out of 5 pages.

provide fuel (dung) - provide milk (female cattle: cows) - provide leather, horn, meat, etc. to non-Hindus - Supporting Indian humped cattle is almost cost-free - In times of drought or famine, people would be tempted to eat them - but this would be disastrous in the longer run - since next season, there would not be enough cattle to plow, fertilize, provide milk, etc. - a simple rule against eating cows would not be enough to stop hungry people from doing so - so a really strong, religious prohibition does the job - necessary to overcomes desperate individuals’ short-term needs for the long-term survival benefit of the group - it may not have been invented for this practical purpose - but groups that held this belief did better than those that did not - so over time, it became widespread - Harris strengthens his case by giving a materialist explanation for a related, but different rule about an animal that cannot be eaten - Muslims also have a prohibition on eating a specific animal: pigs - but instead of considering them too sacred to eat, - they consider them so filthy that they are polluting to eat - This belief is actually much older than Islam - apparently originating in the desert areas of the ancient Middle East: Iraq, Egypt, Syria, southern Anatolia (southern Turkey) - This Muslim belief seems to have the same effect as the Hindu one: - don’t eat the animal - but with the exact opposite reason: pigs are too filthy, rather than too sacred, to eat - Harris argues that the Muslim belief is different because it leads to a different, but equally practical, set of behaviors - Why do Muslims consider pigs too filthy, rather than too sacred, to eat? - Pigs provide little besides meat - don’t pull plows, provide milk, etc. - they do provide dung, but it is not needed by the nomadic desert pastoralists who developed this dietary restriction - they require lots of water, can’t eat grass or brush - can’t be herded any distance, won’t cross rivers - so for the nomadic desert pastoralists who developed this belief - supporting pigs is costly and wastes resources - they eat food that people would otherwise eat - Well-off families could afford to keep them - but this would harm everyone else by reducing the food supply
Image of page 2

Subscribe to view the full document.

Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Cultural materialism, culture as text p. 3 - So a very strong prohibition against keeping pigs at all is needed to prevent hunger for the poorer members of the group - so Muslims see pigs as unclean and bad - thus they don’t eat or keep them - preventing the waste of resources - benefiting the survival of the entire group - by preventing the wealthy from making a self-serving choice to raise pigs -
Image of page 3
Image of page 4
You've reached the end of this preview.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern