If one does not fulfil the promise, one experiences feelings of guilt, and the ancestors, or a spirit, will threaten revenge. In addition, Atran develops ideas about how we interpret events as guided by a controlling force, as goal-directed, even though we may not perceive agency behind them. Usually the howl of the wind is just the howl of the wind, but just in case it is a threatening being or animal our senses are honed to be frightened by it.
Such propensities may sound fanciful to the sociologist, but as evolutionary outcomes they make sense; because they have been selected, of course, there remains enormous variation, ranging from blithe inattention to risk to caution, anxiety, and paranoia. Notions of the divine are, among other things, almost always notions about animate agency as a cause of the incomprehensible. Being cautious, he adds that many more studies across cultures are required to confirm this idea.
Since any grasp of the passage of time entails an awareness of death, people risk being haunted by the thought of their own death on a more or less uninterrupted basis, and the introduction of a supernatural agent relieves this anxiety. While undertaking research in Jerusalem, I attended a study group where the leader spoke of this drive as developing freely in children until the age of 13, thus gaining thirteen years' advantage over the countervailing forces of morality. He speculated that bad behaviour or impudence chutzpah in a child may be traced to the mother's menstruation, or her failure to fulfil ritual bathing obligations, at the time of conception.
Sex is forbidden between the first signs of a woman's period until the period is completed and she has visited the mikveh , or ritual bath. The drive to evil, in his mind, was not just a drive, but had to be traced back to an act, and the punishment of that act. And that act in turn was a type of violation of an exchange: all these mitzvoth , these commandments and their fulfilment, can be seen as one side of a contract God's covenant with Abraham , and the supernatural elements as a vehicle for guilt feelings which cannot be expressed in terms of physical cause and effect.
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This is by no means an unusual notion, and is similar to that found in African and Brazilian possession cults, where personal problems, particularly perhaps those relating to fertility and marriage, are traced back to previous generations or lateral kin Birman, Parents and grandparents, or sisters and brothers and cousins, said to have made unspeakable pacts with the Devil — in order to win a woman or even simply to have a child — are blamed for present ills: their offences are visited upon their lateral kin as well as their descendants. Their unclean or shameful exchange spreads pollution through their kindred, but it also opens the way to a solution.
These beliefs facilitate release from the curse because the fault, once diagnosed, can be repaired: the medium, or, in another Ghanaian example, the Pentecostal pastor Meyer, ; Lehmann, , can perform the appropriate ceremony of unmaking the pledge, or exorcism. If the problem arises because of a promise or exchange entered into with dishonest intentions, then the ritual of exorcism may repair the offence by pronouncing that responsibility to lie not precisely with a person, but with the evil which was possessing an individual — and so the evil acquires a name and an identity and the person, the apparent agent, is absolved.
Thus we make sense of an important role taken in Pentecostal exorcisms by the summoning of the evil to say its name , to admit an identity, an agency and a motive. In the Jewish case one type of exchange occurs when people go to obtain a blessing from an important Rabbi, which generally involves making a donation to his institution. The Lubavitcher Rebbe — a charismatic innovator who made his sect into the thriving evangelizing enterprise it now is — used to give all his visitors a dollar bill, but of course many of those visitors will have made generous donations to his organization.
The rational choice approach has difficulty accounting for such gratuitous sacrifice, or, as Atran would put it, costly and hard-to-fake acts, because rational choice has a one-dimensional concept of the returns or rewards of religious — or any other — activity. Atran gives chilling examples from Maya stelae and astonishing accounts of suicide bombers, but he might also have described how the contemporary media treat celebrities, public figures, politicians and royalty — or rather how these figures expose themselves to media-born abuse. Witches and mafia, who live by deception, are held up as examples of what can go wrong.
Yet of course we persist in wrongdoing, in deception, and in being tempted to deal with witches and the mafia, despite the warnings — from the Pentecostal churches for example — that, whatever their short-term benefits, such dealings bring disaster in the long run. We also have to take account of the transparency of hypocrisy: pure exchange theories like rational choice would not take into account the difficulties created by faking, yet it would be impossible to build the minimum cooperation required for social institutions to work even in the most adverse circumstances if people's commitment could be seen, or even just felt, to be too often insincere.
Sincerity, however, is an emotion, and so there are occasions when sincerity goes overboard just as when distrust goes too far, in the same way as prudent risk aversion can spill over into paranoia.
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However, in his usage Williams, , p. So we also recognize, intuitively, behaviour which arouses or responds to this fear, even across cultural boundaries, and this cognitive capacity enables people from the most diverse backgrounds to recognize certain types of behaviour, with no need for explanation or definition, as religious.
The explanation is that this facilitates memory: Atran explores what he calls memorability, after Sperber, in a manner which strikingly inverts our usual approaches to the sociology of belief, asking not what it is about individuals or groups that leads them to recall certain things, but what it is about certain things that makes them particularly suitable for retention in the memory.
For example, we have innumerable accounts of visions of the Virgin in which she speaks to a person, and millions of Christians go and pray to the image of a particular saint or to a particular image of Christ or the Virgin viz. After all, the chicken was still being slaughtered — the point is that it is not for eating and that the procedure is undertaken in a ritual setting, with performer and audience in their proper places.
On the other hand, if they said they could prevent their spouse's betrayal by running the washing machine on a particular programme we would think they were out of their mind and in need of psychiatric treatment. For him institutional religion is a straightforwardly political phenomenon to be explained in terms of the pursuit of power, or coalitions. But this is hardly a criticism.
It examines internal and external factors that trigger language variation and change and the social attitudes associated with them. The nexus between diachronic and synchronic changes is reanalyzed in light of the Labovian variationist model. It examines the key methodological and ethical issues in the increasing use of language analyses in the determination of genuine and bogus asylum claims in many Western countries. Prereq: Senior standing or consent of instructor. This course provides a conceptual foundation for interpreting and understanding ritual and its role in shaping political and social identity and worldview.
Focus on cases drawn from the contemporary Muslim world. This course explores theoretical and ethnographic approaches to gender, sex, and sexuality as linked to globalizing discourses and transnational mobilities. Readings will focus on ethnographic case studies from different parts of the world that illustrate intersections of sex, labor, power, love, and marriage in a globalized world, and will examine theoretical approaches informed by anthropology, gender studies, feminism, and migration studies.
This course is particularly relevant to those with an academic interest in the intimate cultural and critical politics of sex, love, labor, and marriage within the context of global capitalism. Prior knowledge of Arabic or an African language is not required. This course examines indigenous literary traditions of Islamic Africa.
Implicit stereotypes and the predictive brain: cognition and culture in “biased” person perception
It examines the Islamization of Africa and the development of the rich literary traditions known as Ajami African languages written with the Arabic script. It considers the forms, contents, and goals of Ajami materials and their role in the spread of Islam and the reverse effect of African influences on Islam.
The Arabic and Ajami materials produced by enslaved Africans in the Americas are also discussed. The course provides access to important sources of indigenous knowledge largely missed in existing studies on Islamic Africa. Topics in the behavioral evolution of Homo sapiens ncluding social and sexual behavior, tool traditions, diet and hunting, language and intelligence, and locomotion.
Cultural concerns: How valuing social-image shapes social emotion
This course considers inferred behavioral transitions that characterized the origin of our genus and our species. NS 4 cr. This course explores four themes of twentieth-century change in Africa: demographic growth, the redistribution of population through migration and urbanization, the intensification of resource use, and disasters and recoveries.
Classic theories of these processes are related to African data. An introduction to the anthropological study of art and aesthetics. The deeper aim of the course is to examine the degree to which aesthetics reflect, express, and inform the cultures in which they are found. This seminar looks at the phenomenon of modernity from a multidisciplinary point of view. Course readings and discussion focus on the cultural foundations of modernity, specifically and primarily nationalism but also Romanticism, science, and major political ideologies.
Also analyzed are modernization and development as studied by social scientists; modernism and postmodernism in literary and cultural studies; and the nature of man and society in the perspectives of modern philosophy. Current issues and debates in anthropology focusing on contemporary Muslim societies and Islamic civilizations. Fall Media, Market, and Material Culture in Muslim Society This course examines the role of media, the market, and material culture in shaping the intersection of Islam and society. It considers Islam as commodity and fashion, as fiction and film, as popular discourse, and as global as well as local narrative.
Readings, discussion, and films focus on the effects of these on the lives of Muslims in a variety of settings. An introduction to the main themes, states, empires, faiths, and ideologies of the Muslim world that takes advantage of the wealth of resources Boston University has to offer across its many departments. These areas represent vastly different communities, cultures, and histories, and no course can fully elucidate them all.
Instead, the course examines themes that influence the multiple regions, while providing select states, empires, and ideologies as case studies for further development. The course provides a combination of lectures and discussion sessions and includes guest lectures from BU faculty who specialize in the study of the Muslim world. This course examines the imaginings and stereotypes of savagery as they have changed over time, comparing and contrasting them to what anthropologists have found in some real human cultures and societies. Special attention is paid to African and Native American people who have often been depicted in the past in fanciful ways for instance, as human-animal hybrids or transitional forms and have more recently come into sharper ethnographic focus.
The course also devotes attention to some contemporary contexts, for instance areas in civil strife, in which it is not essential qualities of cultures, but situations of contact and interaction, that are deemed savage — or that incline persons involved to think or act in such a way. Finally, bringing nonhuman animals back into the picture, the course asks whether some contemporary human habits and customs that many would call civilized might be construed, from a distance or in retrospect, as savage instead.
Prereq: AN , BI , or consent of instructor. Anatomy, function, development, variation, and pathologies of the human musculoskeletal system, emphasizing issues of human evolution. Basic processes of bone biology; how the skeleton is affected by use, age, sex, diet, and disease.
Meetings are predominantly lab- oriented. Prereq: AN and consent of instructor. This course surveys the theory and methods of evolutionary genetics as applied to human populations. Don't have a Kindle?
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Review a creative contribution to the existing researches on Muslim societies Mohammad Talib Journal Of Islamic Studies Synopsis In the last fifteen years, psychologists have rediscovered culture and its influence on emotion, thought, and self. See all Product description. No customer reviews. Share your thoughts with other customers.
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