The history of anthropology is, to a large extent, the history of differing modes of interpretation. As anthropologists have long known, examining, analyzing and recording cultures in the quest to understand humankind as a whole is a vastly complex task, in which nothing can be achieved without careful and incisive interpretative work. Edward Evans-Pritchard’s seminal 1937 Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande is a model contribution to anthropology’s grand interpretative project, and one whose success is based largely on its author’s thinking skills. A major issue in anthropology at the time was the common assumption that the faiths and customs of other cultures appeared irrational or illogical when compared to the “civilized” and scientific beliefs of the western world. Evans-Pritchard sought to challenge such definitions by embedding himself within a tribal culture in Africa – that of the Azande – and attempting to understand their beliefs in their proper contexts. By doing so, Evans-Pritchard proved just how vital context is to interpretation. Seen within their context, he was able to show, the beliefs of the Azande were far from irrational – and magic actually formed a coherent system that helped mould a functional community and society for the tribe. Evans-Pritchard’s efforts to clarify meaning in this way have proved hugely influential, and have played a major part in guiding later generations of anthropologists from his day to ours.
Magic has been an important term in Western history and continues to be an essential topic in the modern academic study of religion, anthropology, sociology, and cultural history. Defining Magic is the first volume to assemble key texts that aim at determining the nature of magic, establish its boundaries and key features, and explain its working. The reader brings together seminal writings from antiquity to today. The texts have been selected on the strength of their success in defining magic as a category, their impact on future scholarship, and their originality. The writings are divided into chronological sections and each essay is separately introduced for student readers. Together, these texts - from Philosophy, Theology, Religious Studies, and Anthropology - reveal the breadth of critical approaches and responses to defining what is magic. CONTRIBUTORS: Aquinas, Augustine, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Dennis Diderot, Emile Durkheim, Edward Evans-Pritchard, James Frazer, Susan Greenwood, Robin Horton, Edmund Leach, Gerardus van der Leeuw, Christopher Lehrich, Bronislaw Malinowski, Marcel Mauss, Agrippa von Nettesheim, Plato, Pliny, Plotin, Isidore of Sevilla, Jesper Sorensen, Kimberley Stratton, Randall Styers, Edward Tylor
The beating of Rodney King and the resulting riots in South Central Los Angeles. The violent clash between Hasidim and African-Americans in Crown Heights. The boats of Haitian refugees being turned away from the Land of Opportunity. These are among the many racially-charged images that have burst across our television screens in the last year alone, images that show that for all our complacent beliefs in a melting-pot society, race is as much of a problem as ever in America. In this vastly important, widely-acclaimed volume, Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Ghanaian philosopher who now teaches at Harvard, explores, in his words, "the possibilities and pitfalls of an African identity in the late twentieth century." In the process he sheds new light on what it means to be an African-American, on the many preconceptions that have muddled discussions of race, Africa, and Afrocentrism since the end of the nineteenth century, and, in the end, to move beyond the idea of race. In My Father's House is especially wide-ranging, covering everything from Pan Africanism, to the works of early African-American intellectuals such as Alexander Crummell and W.E.B. Du Bois, to the ways in which African identity influences African literature. In his discussion of the latter subject, Appiah demonstrates how attempts to construct a uniquely African literature have ignored not only the inescapable influences that centuries of contact with the West have imposed, but also the multicultural nature of Africa itself. Emphasizing this last point is Appiah's eloquent title essay which offers a fitting finale to the volume. In a moving first-person account of his father's death and funeral in Ghana, Appiah offers a brilliant metaphor for the tension between Africa's aspirations to modernity and its desire to draw on its ancient cultural roots. During the Los Angeles riots, Rodney King appeared on television to make his now famous plea: "People, can we all get along?" In this beautiful, elegantly written volume, Appiah steers us along a path toward answering a question of the utmost importance to us all.
The Empty Seashell explores what it is like to live in a world where cannibal witches are undeniably real, yet too ephemeral and contradictory to be an object of belief. In a book based on more than three years of fieldwork between 1991 and 2011, Nils Bubandt argues that cannibal witches for people in the coastal, and predominantly Christian, community of Buli in the Indonesian province of North Maluku are both corporeally real and fundamentally unknowable. Witches (known as gua in the Buli language or as suanggi in regional Malay) appear to be ordinary humans but sometimes, especially at night, they take other forms and attack people in order to kill them and eat their livers. They are seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The reality of gua, therefore, can never be pinned down. The title of the book comes from the empty nautilus shells that regularly drift ashore around Buli village. Convention has it that if you find a live nautilus, you are a gua. Like the empty shells, witchcraft always seems to recede from experience. Bubandt begins the book by recounting his own confusion and frustration in coming to terms with the contradictory and inaccessible nature of witchcraft realities in Buli. A detailed ethnography of the encompassing inaccessibility of Buli witchcraft leads him to the conclusion that much of the anthropological literature, which views witchcraft as a system of beliefs with genuine explanatory power, is off the mark. Witchcraft for the Buli people doesn't explain anything. In fact, it does the opposite: it confuses, obfuscates, and frustrates. Drawing upon Jacques Derrida’s concept of aporia—an interminable experience that remains continuously in doubt—Bubandt suggests the need to take seriously people’s experiential and epistemological doubts about witchcraft, and outlines, by extension, a novel way of thinking about witchcraft and its relation to modernity.
Does rationality, the intellectual bedrock of all science, apply to the study of religion? Religion, arguably the most subjective area of human behaviour, has particular challenges associated with its study. Attracting crowd-healers, conjurers, the pious and the prophetic alongside comparativists and sceptics, it excites opinions and generalizations whilst seldom explicitly staking out the territory for the discussions in which it partakes. Increasingly, scholars argue that religious study needs to define and critique its own field, and to distinguish itself from theology and other non-objective disciplines. Yet how can rational techniques be applied to beliefs and states of mind regarded by some as beyond the scope of human reason? Can these be made empirically testable, or comparable and replicable within academic communities? Can science explicate religion without reducing it to mere superstition, or redefine its truth in some empirical but meaningful way? Featuring contributions from leading international experts including Donald Wiebe, Roger Trigg and Michael Pye, Rationality and the Study of Religion gets under the surface of the religious studies discipline to expose the ideologies beneath. Reopening debate in a neglected yet philosophically significant field, it questions the role of rationality in religious anthropology, natural history and anti-scientific theologies, with implications not only for supposedly objective disciplines but for our deepest attitudes to personal experience. 'Interesting and important. Religion has long been associated with irrationality, both by its defenders and its critics, and the topic of rationality has been unjustly neglected The book certainly deserves to be widely circulated.' Greg Alles, Western Maryland College
The Archaic takes as its major reference points C.G. Jung's classic essay, 'Archaic Man' (1930), and Ernesto Grassi's paper on 'Archaic Theories of History' (1990). Moving beyond the confines of a Jungian framework to include other methodological approaches, this book explores the concept of the archaic. Defined as meaning 'old-fashioned', 'primitive', 'antiquated', the archaic is, in fact, much more than something very, very old: it is timeless, inasmuch as it is before time itself. Archē, Urgrund, Ungrund, 'primordial darkness', 'eternal nothing' are names for something essentially nameless, yet whose presence we nevertheless intuit. This book focuses on the reception of myth in the tradition of German Idealism or Romanticism (Creuzer, Schelling, Nietzsche), which not only looked back to earlier thinkers (such as Jacob Boehme) but also laid down roots for developments in twentieth-century thought (Ludwig Klages, Martin Heidegger). The Archaic also includes: studies of the Germanic dimension of the archaic (Charles Bambach, Alan Cardew) a discussion of the mytho-phenomenological approach to the archaic (Robert Josef Kozljanič) a series of articles on Jung's understanding of the archaic (Paul Bishop, Susan Rowland, Robert Segal). This book will be of interest to psychoanalysts, anthropologists and phenomenologists, as well as students of psychology, cultural studies, religious studies, and philosophy, as it seeks to rehabilitate a concept of demonstrable and urgent relevance for our time.
Magic is arguably the least understood subject in anthropology today. Exotic and fascinating, it offers us a glimpse into another world but it also threatens to undermine the foundations of anthropology due to its supposed irrational and non-scientific nature. Magic has thus often been explained away by social or psychological reduction. The Anthropology of Magic redresses the balance and brings magic, as an aspect of consciousness, into focus through the use of classic texts and cutting-edge research. Suitable for student and scholar alike, The Anthropology of Magic updates a classical anthropological debate concerning the nature of human experience. A key theme is that human beings everywhere have the potential for magical consciousness. Taking a new approach to some perennial topics in anthropology - such as shamanism, mythology, witchcraft and healing - the book raises crucial theoretical and methodological issues to provide the reader with an engaging and critical understanding of the dynamics of magic.
This volume comprises case studies of five centuries of European encounters with and imaginations of Africa encompassing her triple religious heritage: African Traditional Religions, Christianity and Islam. The introductory chapters outline the challenges and present overviews; some of them also analyze the early accounts of European travelers and missionaries. The following contributions examine the lasting legacy of the European Enlightenment in employing an ambivalent language of human equality and universalism, while in actual fact consigning Africa to an inferior position. It has been difficult for western scholars to divorce themselves wholly from the perceptions thus established. However, there have been quite different approaches. This is indicated in the papers discussing the role and impact of influential European academics (scholars of religion, theologians, historians and social scientists) during the colonial and postcolonial period. Other contributions examine specific institutional centers of African religious studies in Europe. The concluding chapters critically assess European approaches and their use for the study of religion in Africa from an African perspective.

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