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Ritual and Belief. What is Belief ?. powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people conceptions of a general order of existence auras of factuality moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic. Clifford Geertz on Religion.

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What is belief
What is Belief?

  • powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people

  • conceptions of a general order of existence

  • auras of factuality

  • moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic

Clifford geertz on religion
Clifford Geertz on Religion

  • a religion is: "(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." (Geertz:90)

Psych anthro and the study of emotion
Psych Anthro and the Study of Emotion

  • patterns of affect – how people feel about themselves and others

  • Emotion as cultural construct

  • emotional feeling is structured by particular cultural systems and particular social and material environments

  • emotions are appraisals, judgments based on cultural beliefs and values

  • emotions involve the self in relationships to others

  • emotions are learned or acquired rather than naturally given

Ritual practice and belief geertz
Ritual (Practice) and Belief: Geertz

  • belief & practice - "a group's ethos is rendered intellectually reasonable by being shown to represent a way of life ... rendered emotionally convincing by being presented as an image of the actual state of affairs...”

Functional psychological explanations
functional, psychological explanations

  • satisfy cognitive & affective/emotional demands for a stable, comprehensible, and coercible world for the individual

  • provides an orderly model of the universe

  • explains the unknown

  • reduces anxiety and fear

  • enabling the individual to maintain an inner security in the face of natural contingency

Social structural explanations
social, structural explanations

  • sets precedents for appropriate behavior

  • sanctions conduct

  • a form of social control

  • justifies perpetuates a social order

  • maintains social solidarity

  • educates believers in social knowledge

  • provides a sense of control and a source of solace

    • alleviation of grief

I e witchcraft accusations
i.e. witchcraft accusations

  • accusations provide a socially proscribed way to deal with these problems

  • allows for public hearing

  • entire complex of social relationships investigated

  • effects for the community of witchcraft accusations

    • evil outsider  community solidarity

    • evil insider  necessary societal realignment

Religion and worldview
religion and worldview

  • sacred symbols function to synthesize a people's ethos

    • the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, institution

    • a basic congruence between a particular style of life and a specific metaphysic/cosmology

  • encompassing pictures of reality based on a set of shared assumptions about how the world works

Religion and society
Religion and society

  • belief & ritual reinforce social ties between people

  • religion (ritual & spirituality) represents one form of collective consciousness

  • Durkheim: shared representations that form the basis for religion

Religion and social structure
Religion and social structure

  • Geertz: "the way in which the social structure of a group is strengthened & perpetuated through the ritualistic or mythic symbolization of the underlying social values upon which it rests."


  • ritual is a vital element in the processes that make and remake social facts and collective identities everywhere (Comaroff & Comaroff)

  • the symbolic behavior through which religion comes alive

Ritual is repetitive sequential non ordinary and powerful
ritual is repetitive, sequential, non-ordinary, and “powerful”

  • repetitive: innovation not tolerated

  • sequential: amen is at the end

  • non-ordinary: marked in time or space

  • “powerful”: power to change the world

    • by intervention of supernatural entities

    • transformation of the participant

Functions of ritual
Functions of ritual “powerful”

  • Reinforce social bonds

  • Relieve social tension

  • Deal with life crises

  • Celebrate life cycle events

  • ritual is also a way a society remembers

    • through habit

    • through bodily practices

Types of ritual
Types of ritual “powerful”

Rites of passage
Rites of Passage “powerful”

  • Van Gennep and Victor Turner

  • rites include three stages

    • Separation

    • marginality or liminality

      • Communitas and anti-structure

    • incorporation or re-aggregation

Other types of ritual
Other Types of Ritual “powerful”

  • Rites of intensification

    • cyclical rituals that reinforce the solidarity of the group

  • ritual inversion

  • Divination rituals

    • predict future & gain hidden info

  • Technological rituals

    • designed to control nature for the purpose of human exploitation

  • Protective rites

    • aimed at coping with uncertainty of nature, seas, floods, crop diseases

More types
More Types “powerful”

  • therapy & anti-therapy rituals

    • designed to control human health; curative, witchcraft, sorcery

  • ideological rituals

    • intended to control the behavior, mood, sentiments & values of groups for the sake of community as a whole

  • salvation rituals

    • aimed at repairing self esteem & other forms of impaired identity

Violence as ritual practice
Violence as ritual practice? “powerful”

  • Violence, its forms and controls, is fundamental to human social existence and is central to theories regarding the nature of society.

  • Violence as cultural expression and/or performance

    • Scripted

  • From anthropology of identity (pol. org.) to experience, emotive forces, bodily practices

  • A discursive practice with rituals and symbols

  • Violence as cultural practice

    • Not just instrumental

  • A way of affirming and subverting “culture”