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.
Purity and Danger is acknowledged as a modern masterpiece of anthropology. It is widely cited in non-anthropological works and gave rise to a body of application, rebuttal and development within anthropology. In 1995 the book was included among the Times Literary Supplement's hundred most influential non-fiction works since WWII. Incorporating the philosophy of religion and science and a generally holistic approach to classification, Douglas demonstrates the relevance of anthropological enquiries to an audience outside her immediate academic circle. She offers an approach to understanding rules of purity by examining what is considered unclean in various cultures. She sheds light on the symbolism of what is considered clean and dirty in relation to order in secular and religious, modern and primitive life.
Summary: In this first-person account, Todd Ramón Ochoa explores Palo, a poorly-understood Kongo-inspired 'society of afflication' at the margins of Cuban popular religion. Narrated as an encounter with two teachers of Palo, the book unfolds on the outskirts of Havana.
The ancient Greeks commonly resorted to magic spells to attract and keep lovers--as numerous allusions in Greek literature and recently discovered voodoo dolls, magical papyri, gemstones, and curse tablets attest. Surveying and analyzing these various texts and artifacts, Christopher Faraone reveals that gender is the crucial factor in understanding love spells. There are, he argues, two distinct types of love magic: the curselike charms used primarily by men to torture unwilling women with fiery and maddening passion until they surrender sexually; and the binding spells and debilitating potions generally used by women to sedate angry or philandering husbands and make them more affectionate. Faraone's lucid analysis of these spells also yields a number of insights about the construction of gender in antiquity, for example, the femininity of socially inferior males and the maleness of autonomous prostitutes. Most significantly, his findings challenge the widespread modern view that all Greek men considered women to be naturally lascivious. Faraone reveals the existence of an alternate male understanding of the female as naturally moderate and chaste, who uses love magic to pacify and control the naturally angry and passionate male. This fascinating study of magical practices and their implications for perceptions of male and female sexuality offers an unusual look at ancient Greek religion and society.
Historians as well as anthropologists have contributed to this volume of studies on aspects of witchcraft in a variety of cultures and periods from Tudor England to twentieth-century Africa and New Guinea. Contributors include: Mary Douglas, Norman Cohn, Peter Brown, Keith Thomas, Alan Macfarlane, Alison Redmayne, R.G. Willis, Edwin Ardener, Robert Brain, Julian Pitt-Rivers, Esther Goody, Peter Rivière, Anthony Forge, Godfrey Lienhardt, I.M. Lewis, Brian Spooner, G.I. Jones, Malcolm Ruel and T.O. Beidelman. First published in 1970.
Keesing studies how the Kwaio have held on to their traditional ways despite 125 years of European colonialism and a militantly Christian national culture.
The great pilgrimage center of southeastern Sri Lanka, Kataragama, has become in recent years the spiritual home of a new class of Hindu-Buddhist religious devotees. These ecstatic priests and priestesses invariably display long locks of matted hair, and they express their devotion to the gods through fire walking, tongue-piercing, hanging on hooks, and trance-induced prophesying. The increasing popularity of these ecstatics poses a challenge not only to orthodox Sinhala Buddhism (the official religion of Sri Lanka) but also, as Gananath Obeyesekere shows, to the traditional anthropological and psychoanalytic theories of symbolism. Focusing initially on one symbol, matted hair, Obeyesekere demonstrates that the conventional distinction between personal and cultural symbols is inadequate and naive. His detailed case studies of ecstatics show that there is always a reciprocity between the personal-psychological dimension of the symbol and its public, culturally sanctioned role. Medusa's Hair thus makes an important theoretical contribution both to the anthropology of individual experience and to the psychoanalytic understanding of culture. In its analyses of the symbolism of guilt, the adaptational and integrative significance of belief in spirits, and a host of related issues concerning possession states and religiosity, this book marks a provocative advance in psychological anthropology.
Reviews the ideas of the most influential anthropologists of the past and raises fundamental questions about the relationship between the individual and society
This concise and accessible textbook introduces students to the anthropological study of religion. Stein and Stein examine religious expression from a cross-cultural perspective and expose students to the varying complexity of world religions. The chapters incorporate key theoretical concepts and a rich range of ethnographic material. The fourth edition of The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft offers: • increased coverage of new religious movements, fundamentalism, and religion and conflict/violence; • fresh case study material with examples drawn from around the globe; • further resources via a comprehensive companion website. This is an essential guide for students encountering anthropology of religion for the first time.
This 1980 book examines witchcraft beliefs and experiences in the Bocage, a rural area of western France. It also introduced a powerful theoretical attitude towards the progress of the ethnographer's enquiries, suggesting that a full knowledge of witchcraft involves being 'caught up' in it oneself. In the Bocage, being bewitched is to be 'caught' in a sequence of misfortunes. According to those who are bewitched, the culprit is someone in the neighbourhood: the witch, who can cast a spell with a word, a touch or a look, and whose 'power' comes from a book of spells inherited from an ancestor. Only a professional magician, an 'unwitcher', has any chance of breaking the succession of misfortunes which befall those who have been bewitched. He undertakes a battle of magic with the suspected witch, a battle which is eventually fatal.
This study of the complex Balinese culture examines Balinese concepts of personhood and society; the integration of art into every aspect of Balinese life; the effects of the Guen Revolution on Balinese agriculture; the ecological role of their water temples in an age-old system of inigrate rice terraces; and the ethnohistory of Bali, including both colonial and Balinese views. The book is organized around four different periods of fieldwork and includes an appendix of available films and videos on the Balinese.
On the Mueda plateau in northern Mozambique, sorcerers are said to feed on their victims, sometimes "making" lions or transforming into lions to literally devour their flesh. When the ruling FRELIMO party subscribed to socialism, it condemned sorcery beliefs and counter-sorcery practices as false consciousness, but since undertaking neoliberal reform, the party—still in power after three electoral cycles—has "tolerated tradition," leaving villagers to interpret and engage with events in the idiom of sorcery. Now, when the lions prowl plateau villages ,suspected sorcerers are often lynched. In this historical ethnography of sorcery, Harry G. West draws on a decade of fieldwork and combines the perspectives of anthropology and political science to reveal how Muedans expect responsible authorities to monitor the invisible realm of sorcery and to overturn or, as Muedans call it, "kupilikula" sorcerers' destructive attacks by practicing a constructive form of counter-sorcery themselves. Kupilikula argues that, where neoliberal policies have fostered social division rather than security and prosperity, Muedans have, in fact, used sorcery discourse to assess and sometimes overturn reforms, advancing alternative visions of a world transformed.
Memories of Revolt treats a subject that resonates with anyone who studies the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and particularly Palestinian nationalism.
"The seer (mantis), an expert in the art of divination, operated in ancient Greek society through a combination of charismatic inspiration and diverse skills ranging from examining the livers of sacrificed animals to spirit possession. Unlike the palm readers and mediums who exist on the fringe of modern society, many seers were highly paid, well respected, educated members of the elite who played an essential role in the conduct of daily life, political decisions, and military campaigns. Armies, for example, never went anywhere without one. This engaging book, the only comprehensive study of this fascinating figure, enters into the socioreligious world of ancient Greece to explore what seers did, why they were so widely employed, and how their craft served as a viable and useful social practice." -- Publisher's description.

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