Cultural Anthropology Quotes

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I chose cultural anthropology, since it offered the greatest opportunity to write high-minded balderdash.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage)
In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.
Mahatma Gandhi (Anthropology of Morality in Melanesia and Beyond, The. Anthropology and Cultural History in Asia and the Indo-Pacific.)
Cultural analysis is intrinsically incomplete. And, worse than that, the more deeply it goes the less complete it is.
Clifford Geertz
[T]here are in fact no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses.
Raymond Williams (Resources of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism)
It may be in the cultural particularities of people — in their oddities — that some of the most instructive revelations of what it is to be generically human are to be found.
Clifford Geertz
Understanding a people's culture exposes their normalness without reducing their particularity...It renders them accessible: setting them in the frame of their own banalities, it dissolves their opacity.
Clifford Geertz (The Interpretation of Cultures)
One-third to one-half of humanity are said to go to bed hungry every night. In the Old Stone Age the fraction must have been much smaller. This is the era of hunger unprecedented. Now, in the time of the greatest technical power, is starvation an institution. Reverse another venerable formula: the amount of hunger increases relatively and absolutely with the evolution of culture.
Marshall Sahlins (Stone Age Economics)
Marriage," "mating," and "love" are socially constructed phenomena that have little or no transferable meaning outside any given culture. The examples we've noted of rampant ritualized group sex, mate-swapping, unrestrained casual affairs, and socially sanctioned sequential sex were all reported in cultures that anthropologists insist are monogamous simply because they've determined that something they call "marriage" takes place there. No wonder so many insist that marriage, monogamy, and the nuclear family are human universals. With such all-encompassing interpretations of the concepts, even the prairie vole, who "sleeps with anyone," would qualify.
Christopher Ryan (Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality)
It seems more than a little patronizing for Westerners to lament the loss of the good old days when life in the Khumbu was so much simpler and more picturesque. Most of the people who live in this rugged country seem to have no desire to be severed from the modern world or the untidy flow of human progress. The last thing Sherpas want is to be preserved as specimens in an anthropological museum.
Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster)
If there is such a thing as being conditioned by climate and geography, and I think there is, it is the West that has conditioned me. It has the forms and lights and colors that I respond to in nature and in art. If there is a western speech, I speak it; if there is a western character or personality, I am some variant of it; if there is a western culture in the small-c , anthropological sense, I have not escaped it. It has to have shaped me. I may even have contributed to it in minor ways, for culture is a pyramid to which each of us brings a stone.
Wallace Stegner (The American West as Living Space)
The more we claim to discriminate between cultures and customs as good and bad, the more completely do we identify ourselves with those we would condemn. By refusing to consider as human those who seem to us to be the most “savage” or “barbarous” of their representatives, we merely adopt one of their own characteristic attitudes. The barbarian is, first and foremost, the man who believes in barbarism.
Claude Lévi-Strauss (Race et histoire)
It is not a scientific proposition to determine that some cultures lack political power because they show nothing similar to what is found in our culture. It is instead the sign of a certain conceptual poverty.
Pierre Clastres (Society Against the State: Essays in Political Anthropology)
An encounter with other cultures can lead to openness only if you can suspend the assumption of superiority, not seeing new worlds to conquer, but new worlds to respect.
Mary Catherine Bateson (Composing a Life)
[T]he choice of human groupings for cultural comparisons is not a natural or scientific choice, but a political one.
Pascal Boyer (Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought)
The assertion that "culture" explains human variation will be taken seriously when there are reports of women war parties raiding villages to capture men as husbands, or of parents cloistering their sons but not their daughters to protect their sons' virtue, or when cultural distributions for preferences concerning physical attractiveness, earning power, relative age, and so on show as many cultures with bias in one direction as in the other.
John Tooby
The single most important human insight to be gained from this way of comparing societies is perhaps the realization that everything could have been different in our own society – that the way we live is only one among innumerable ways of life which humans have adopted. If we glance sideways and backwards, we will quickly discover that modern society, with its many possibilities and seducing offers, its dizzying complexity and its impressive technological advances, is a way of life which has not been tried out for long. Perhaps, psychologically speaking, we have just left the cave: in terms of the history of our species, we have but spent a moment in modern societies. (..) Anthropology may not provide the answer to the question of the meaning of life, but at least it can tell us that there are many ways in which to make a life meaningful.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen (Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (Anthropology, Culture and Society))
Anthropologists say that in every culture in history, children have played the game hide and seek.
Rob Brezsny (Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings)
The classical anthropological question, What is man?—"how like an angel, this quintessence of dust!"—is not now asked by anthropologists. Instead, they commence with a chapter on Physical Anthropology and then forget the whole topic and go on to Culture.
Paul Goodman (Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System)
Culture is not trivial. It is not a decoration or artifice, the songs we sing or even the prayers we chant. It is a blanket of comfort that gives meaning to lives. It is a body of knowledge that allows the individual to make sense out of the infinite sensations of consciousness, to find meaning and order in a universe that ultimately has neither. Culture is a body of laws and traditions, a moral and ethical code that insulates a people from the barbaric heart that lies just beneath the surface of all human societies and indeed all human beings. Culture alone allows us to reach, as Abraham Lincoln said, for the better angels of our nature.
Wade Davis (The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (CBC Massey Lecture))
The idealized market was supposed to deliver ‘friction free’ exchanges, in which the desires of consumers would be met directly, without the need for intervention or mediation by regulatory agencies. Yet the drive to assess the performance of workers and to measure forms of labor which, by their nature, are resistant to quantification, has inevitably required additional layers of management and bureaucracy. What we have is not a direct comparison of workers’ performance or output, but a comparison between the audited representation of that performance and output. Inevitably, a short-circuiting occurs, and work becomes geared towards the generation and massaging of representations rather than to the official goals of the work itself. Indeed, an anthropological study of local government in Britain argues that ‘More effort goes into ensuring that a local authority’s services are represented correctly than goes into actually improving those services’. This reversal of priorities is one of the hallmarks of a system which can be characterized without hyperbole as ‘market Stalinism’. What late capitalism repeats from Stalinism is just this valuing of symbols of achievement over actual achievement. […] It would be a mistake to regard this market Stalinism as some deviation from the ‘true spirit’ of capitalism. On the contrary, it would be better to say that an essential dimension of Stalinism was inhibited by its association with a social project like socialism and can only emerge in a late capitalist culture in which images acquire an autonomous force. The way value is generated on the stock exchange depends of course less on what a company ‘really does’, and more on perceptions of, and beliefs about, its (future) performance. In capitalism, that is to say, all that is solid melts into PR, and late capitalism is defined at least as much by this ubiquitous tendency towards PR-production as it is by the imposition of market mechanisms.
Mark Fisher (Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?)
Try seeing, feeling, and tasting the water you swim in the way a land animal might perceive it. You may find the experience fascinating -- and mind-expanding.
Erin Meyer (The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business)
I am only now, at the wrong end of three centuries after loss of contact, beginning to realise just how broken my own superior culture actually was. They set us here to make exhaustive anthropological notes on the fall of every sparrow. But not to catch a single one of them. To know, but very emphatically not to care.
Adrian Tchaikovsky (Elder Race)
Nowhere else in the whole range of life on earth, is this degradation found--the female capering and prancing before the male. It is absolutely and essentially his function, not hers.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Man-Made World)
The full measure of a culture embraces both the actions of a people and the quality of their aspirations, the nature of the metaphors that propel their lives. And no description of a people can be complete without reference to the character of their homeland, the ecological and geographical matrix in which they have determined to live out their destiny. Just as a landscape defines character, culture springs from a spirit of place.
Wade Davis (The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (CBC Massey Lecture))
Understanding the physiological and neurological features of spiritual experiences should not be interpreted as an attempt to discredit their reality or explain them away. Rather, it demonstrates their physical existence as a fundamental, shared part of human nature. Spiritual experiences cannot be considered irrational, since we have seen that, given their physiological basis, experiencers' descriptions of them are perfectly rational... All human perceptions of material reality can ultimately be documented as chemical reactions in our neurobiology; all our sensations, thoughts, and memories are ultimately reducible to chemistry, yet we feel no need to deny the existence of the material world; it is not less real because our perceptions of it are biologically based... It is not rational to assume that the spiritual reality of core experiences is any less real than the more scientifically documentable material reality.
Sabina Magliocco (Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America (Contemporary Ethnography))
What we mean when we say that something is "cultural" is that it is roughly similar to what we find in other members of the particular group we are considering, and unlike what we would find in members of a contrast group. This is why it is confusing to say that people share a culture, as if culture were common property. We may have strictly identical amounts of money in our respective wallets without sharing any of it!
Pascal Boyer (Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought)
What is even more astonishing is that the entire science of wayfinding is based on dead reckoning. You only know where you are by knowing precisely where you have been and how you got to where you are.
Wade Davis (The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (CBC Massey Lecture))
I have researched aboriginal culture, Mayan hieroglyphics and the corporate culture of a Japanese car manufacturer, and I have written essays on the internal logic of various other societies, but I haven't a clue about my own logic.
Deborah Levy (Hot Milk)
....the line of ill-intentional Egyptologist, equipped with a ferocious erudition , have commited their well known crime against science, by becoming guilty of a deliberate falsification of the history of humanity. Supported by the governing powers of all the Western countries , this ideology, based on a moral and intellectual swindle, easily won out over the true scientific current developed by a parallel group of Egyptologist of good will, whose intellectual uprightness and even courage cannot be stressed stronly enough. The new Egyptological ideology , born at the opportune monment, reinforced the theorectical bases of imperialist ideology. That is why it easily drowned out the voice of science, by throwing the veil of fasificacation over historical truth. This ideology was spread with the help of considerable publicity and taught the world over, because it alone had the material and financial means for its own propagation. Thus imperialism, like the prehistoric hunter, first killed the being spiritually and culturally, before trying to eliminate it physically. The negation of the history and intellectual accomplishments of Black Africans was cultural, mental murder,which preceded and paved the way for their genocide here and there in the world.
Cheikh Anta Diop (Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology)
It's because there are too many people who want to stop us having fun. That's the reason.
Alexander McCall Smith (The World According to Bertie (44 Scotland Street, #4))
It is worthwhile studying other peoples, because every understanding of another culture is an experiment with our own.
Roy Wagner (The Invention of Culture)
There’s this myth that certain cultures have a better way of handling their old leathery people, but we just called him a shaman because Fruit Roll Up with Braids wasn’t on our cultural radar.
Marty Barrett (Limericks of Loss And Regret: Gripping And Poignant Interludes)
Anthropological data clearly showed that cultures practicing religions historically had outlived nonreligious cultures. Fear of being judged by an omniscient deity always helps inspire benevolent behavior.
Dan Brown (Origin (Robert Langdon, #5))
By turning names into things we create false models of reality. By endowing nations, societies or cultures, with the qualities of internally homogeneous and externally distinctive bounded objects, we create a model of the world as a global pool hall in which the entities spin off each other line so many hard and round billiard balls
Eric R. Wolf
If we are interested in cultural processes, the only way in which we can know the significance of the selected detail of behaviour is against the background of the motives and emotions and values that are institutionalized in that culture.
Ruth Benedict (Patterns Of Culture)
Of all the modern social sciences, anthropology is the one historically most closely tied to colonialism, since it was often the case that anthropologists and ethnologists advised colonial rulers on the manners and mores of the native people.
Edward W. Said (Culture and Imperialism)
I remember taking an anthropology class in college and the professor was explaining that there is little 'sexual dimorphism' in humans. He meant that there are few outward, observable differences between makes and females. At the time I was confused, so I raised my hand. 'I feel like it's very easy to tell men and women apart,' I said. 'That's due to culture,' he answered.
Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York)
I do not write every day. I write to the questions and issues before me. I write to deadlines. I write out of my passions. And I write to make peace with my own contradictory nature. For me, writing is a spiritual practice. A small bowl of water sits on my desk, a reminder that even if nothing is happening on the page, something is happening in the room--evaporation. And I always light a candle when I begin to write, a reminder that I have now entered another realm, call it the realm of the Spirit. I am mindful that when one writes, one leaves this world and enters another. My books are collages made from journals, research, and personal experience. I love the images rendered in journal entries, the immediacy that is captured on the page, the handwritten notes. I love the depth of ideas and perspective that research brings to a story, be it biological or anthropological studies or the insights brought to the page by the scholarly work of art historians. When I go into a library, I feel like I am a sleuth looking to solve a mystery. I am completely inspired by the pursuit of knowledge through various references. I read newpapers voraciously. I love what newspapers say about contemporary culture. And then you go back to your own perceptions, your own words, and weigh them against all you have brought together. I am interested in the kaleidoscope of ideas, how you bring many strands of thought into a book and weave them together as one piece of coherent fabric, while at the same time trying to create beautiful language in the service of the story. This is the blood work of the writer. Writing is also about a life engaged. And so, for me, community work, working in the schools or with grassroots conservation organizations is another critical component of my life as a writer. I cannot separate the writing life from a spiritual life, from a life as a teacher or activist or my life intertwined with family and the responsibilities we carry within our own homes. Writing is daring to feel what nurtures and breaks our hearts. Bearing witness is its own form of advocacy. It is a dance with pain and beauty.
Terry Tempest Williams
I did not see Pirahã teenagers moping, sleeping in late, refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions, or trying out what they considered to be radically new approaches to life. They in fact are highly productive and conformist members of their community in the Pirahã sense of productivity (good fishermen, contributing generally to the security, food needs, and other aspects of the physical survival of the community). One gets no sense of teenage angst, depression, or insecurity among the Pirahã youth. They do not seem to be searching for answers. They have them. And new questions rarely arise.
Daniel L. Everett (Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle)
Oh, those lapses, darling. So many of us walk around letting fly with “errors.” We could do better, but we’re so slovenly, so rushed amid the hurly-burly of modern life, so imprinted by the “let it all hang out” ethos of the sixties, that we don’t bother to observe the “rules” of “correct” grammar. To a linguist, if I may share, these “rules” occupy the exact same place as the notion of astrology, alchemy, and medicine being based on the four humors. The “rules” make no logical sense in terms of the history of our language, or what languages around the world are like. Nota bene: linguists savor articulateness in speech and fine composition in writing as much as anyone else. Our position is not—I repeat, not—that we should chuck standards of graceful composition. All of us are agreed that there is usefulness in a standard variety of a language, whose artful and effective usage requires tutelage. No argument there. The argument is about what constitutes artful and effective usage. Quite a few notions that get around out there have nothing to do with grace or clarity, and are just based on misconceptions about how languages work. Yet, in my experience, to try to get these things across to laymen often results in the person’s verging on anger. There is a sense that these “rules” just must be right, and that linguists’ purported expertise on language must be somehow flawed on this score. We are, it is said, permissive—perhaps along the lines of the notorious leftist tilt among academics, or maybe as an outgrowth of the roots of linguistics in anthropology, which teaches that all cultures are equal. In any case, we are wrong. Maybe we have a point here and there, but only that.
John McWhorter (Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English)
In foreign countries I am drawn into grocery shops, supermarkets and kitchen supply houses. I explain this by reminding my friends that, as I was taught in my Introduction to Anthropology, it is not just the Great Works of mankind that make a culture. It is the daily things, like what people eat and how they serve it.
Laurie Colwin (Home Cooking)
Such is the strange situation in which modern philosophy finds itself. No former age was ever in such a favourable position with regard to the sources of our knowledge of human nature. Psychology, ethnology, anthropology, and history have amassed an astoundingly rich and constantly increasing body of facts. Our technical instruments for observation and experimentation have been immensely improved, and our analyses have become sharper and more penetrating. We appear, nonetheless, not yet to have found a method for the mastery and organization of this material. When compared with our own abundance the past may seem very poor. But our wealth of facts is not necessarily a wealth of thoughts. Unless we succeed in finding a clue of Ariadne to lead us out of this labyrinth, we can have no real insight into the general character of human culture; we shall remain lost in a mass of disconnected and disintegrated data which seem to lack all conceptual unity.
Ernst Cassirer (An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture)
Neoclassical economics is precisely the theory one would expect a vastly complex system of international corporations, world markets, and interconnected currencies to create to sustain, justify, explain, and predict "itself." And classical economics, correspondingly, was a predictable expression of an earlier European capitalism.
Roger M. Keesing (Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective (Third Edition))
It's such an essential feature of any culture that it even has a name: 'cognitive dissonance'. Cognitive dissonance is often considered a failure of the human psyche. In fact it is a vital asset. Had people been unable to hold contradictory beliefs and values, it would probably have been impossible to establish and maintain any human culture.
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
Man wants to see nature and evolution as separate from human activities. There is the natural world, and there is man. But man also belongs to the natural world.
Mark Kurlansky (Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World)
Many people seem to think that museums are obsolete now that we have the internet, but the reality is, museums are so critical to the preservation of human culture.
Mackenzie Finklea (Beyond the Halls: An Insider's Guide to Loving Museums)
For better or worse, come flood, famine, or the collapse of society, we cling to our history for a sense of identity and that which makes us human.
Mackenzie Finklea (Beyond the Halls: An Insider's Guide to Loving Museums)
Ultimately amorality is immorality.
Roger M. Keesing (Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective (Third Edition))
There is more to the human mind than its evolutionary heritage.
Kenan Malik
In genealogy you might say that interest lies in the eye of the gene holder. The actual descendants are far more intrigued with it all than the listeners, who quickly sink into a narcoleptic coma after the second or third great-great-somebody kills a bear or beheads Charles I, invents the safety pin or strip-mines Poland, catalogues slime molds, dances flamenco, or falls in love with a sheep. Genealogy is a forced march through stories. Yet everyone loves stories, and that is one reason we seek knowledge of our own blood kin. Through our ancestors we can witness their times. Or, we think, there might be something in their lives, an artist’s or a farmer’s skill, an affection for a certain landscape, that will match or explain something in our own. If we know who they were, perhaps we will know who we are. And few cultures have been as identity-obsessed as ours. So keen is this fascination with ancestry, genealogy has become an industry. Family reunions choke the social calendar. Europe crawls with ancestor-seeking Americans. Your mother or your spouse or your neighbors are too busy to talk to you because they are on the Internet running “heritage quests.” We have climbed so far back into our family trees, we stand inches away from the roots where the primates dominate.
Ellen Meloy (The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky (Pulitzer Prize Finalist))
Introduce an alphabet to a culture and you change its cognitive habits, its social relations, its notions of community, history and religion. Introduce the printing press with movable type, and you do the same. Introduce speed-of-light transmission of images and you make a cultural revolution. Without a vote. Without polemics. Without guerrilla resistance. Here is ideology, pure if not serene.
Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business)
The effect of hallucinogenic mushrooms on the user's experience and behavior depends in part on his or her personality and genetic predisposition, which can vary to a great extent from person to person. As symptoms of psychiatric disorders can sometimes be elicited after one-off use, people with a genetic tendency to depression or psychosis should be discouraged from using psychoactive mushrooms.
John Rush (Entheogens and the Development of Culture: The Anthropology and Neurobiology of Ecstatic Experience)
To comprehend the interactions between Homo sapiens and the vast and diverse microbial world, perspectives must be forged that meld such disparate fields as medicine, environmentalism, public health, basic ecology, primate biology, human behavior, economic development, cultural anthropology, human rights law, entomology, parasitology, virology, bacteriology, evolutionary biology, and epidemiology.
Laurie Garrett (The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance)
Thus the writing of ethnography becomes a magical act, no less than the creation of a ritual, the making of a spell, or the manufacture of a sacred object: the ethnographer is by definition a magician.
Sabina Magliocco (Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America (Contemporary Ethnography))
We live in a culture of complaint because everyone is always looking for things to complain about. It's all tied in with the desire to blame others for misfortunes and to get some form of compensation into the bargain.
Alexander McCall Smith (The World According to Bertie (44 Scotland Street, #4))
As I see it, anthropology’s mission is to attempt, alongside other sciences but using its own methods, to render intelligible the way in which organisms of a particular kind find a place in the world, acquire a stable representation of it, and contribute to its transformation by forging with it and between one another links either constant or occasional and of a remarkable but not infinite diversity. Before constructing a new charter for the future in gestation, we need first to map out those links, understand their nature more clearly, establish their modes of compatibility and incompatibility, and examine how they take shape in their patently distinctive ways of being in the world.
Philippe Descola (Beyond Nature and Culture)
the key point is this: with or without a formal training in anthropology, we all do need to think about the cultural patterns and classification systems that we use. If we do, we can master our silos. If we do not, they will master us.
Gillian Tett (The Silo Effect: Why putting everything in its place isn't such a bright idea)
My specialty is cultural anthropology,” the Professor said. “I gave up being a scholar some time ago, but I’m still permeated with the spirit of the discipline. One aim of my field is to relativize the images possessed by individuals, discover in these images the factors universal to all human beings, and feed these universal truths back to those same individuals. As a result of this process, people might be able to belong to something even as they maintain their autonomy.
Haruki Murakami (1Q84 (1Q84, #1-3))
The impact of philosophical pluralism on Western culture is incalculable. It touches virtually every discipline—history, art, literature, anthropology, education, philosophy, psychology, the social sciences, even, increasingly, the “hard” sciences—but it has already achieved popularity in the public square, even when its existence is not recognized. It achieves its greatest victory in redefining religious pluralism so as to render heretical the idea that heresy is possible.
Donald Arthur Carson (The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism)
Inhaling fumes directly from burning foliage, either in a confined space such as a cave or a tent, or scooping up and breathing in the vapors from psychoactive plant materials scattered on a bowl full of hot coals, must be an extremely ancient practice. Herodotus's account from the fifth-century BCE, describing the use of small tents by the Scythians (a northwestern Iranian tribe) for inhaling the smoke of cannabis, is probably the most famous account that confirms the antiquity of the use of cannabis as a ritual intoxicant.
John Rush (Entheogens and the Development of Culture: The Anthropology and Neurobiology of Ecstatic Experience)
The fundamental thesis of generative anthropology is that the principal concern of human culture is and has been from the outset to defer the potential violence of mimetic desire. To this mode of thought, constructing a model of the good society in any but the general terms of “exchange” and “reciprocity” is unfaithful to the human community, whose operations have been from the beginning beyond the grasp of any individual mind whitin the society, and in which since the rise of the market system we participate largely unmediated by ritual.
Eric Gans
It is my conviction that, with the spread of true scientific culture, whatever may be the medium, historical, philological, philosophical, or physical, through which that culture is conveyed, and with its necessary concomitant, a constant elevation of the standard of veracity, the end of the evolution of theology will be like its beginning—it will cease to have any relation to ethics. I suppose that, so long as the human mind exists, it will not escape its deep-seated instinct to personify its intellectual conceptions. The science of the present day is as full of this particular form of intellectual shadow-worship as is the nescience of ignorant ages. The difference is that the philosopher who is worthy of the name knows that his personified hypotheses, such as law, and force, and ether, and the like, are merely useful symbols, while the ignorant and the careless take them for adequate expressions of reality. So, it may be, that the majority of mankind may find the practice of morality made easier by the use of theological symbols. And unless these are converted from symbols into idols, I do not see that science has anything to say to the practice, except to give an occasional warning of its dangers. But, when such symbols are dealt with as real existences, I think the highest duty which is laid upon men of science is to show that these dogmatic idols have no greater value than the fabrications of men's hands, the stocks and the stones, which they have replaced.
Thomas Henry Huxley (The Evolution Of Theology: An Anthropological Study)
There is a big difference between living in a society that hunts whales and living in one that views them. Nature is being reduced to precious demonstrations for entertainment and education, something far less natural than hunting. Are we headed for a world where nothing is left of nature but parks?
Mark Kurlansky (Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World)
The notion of dream interpretation far antedates the birth of psychoanalysis, and probably served an important function in most, if not all, historical societies. In having lost this function, modern man has also lost the best part of his nature, which he obliviously passes on to the next generation of dreamers.
Neel Burton (Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception)
He is an unsuccessful scapegoat whose heroic willingness to die for the truth will ultimately make the entire cycle of satanic violence visible to all people and therefore inoperative. The "kingdom of Satan" will give way to the "kingdom of God." Thanks to Jesus' death, the Spirit of God, alias the Paraclete (a word that signifies "the lawyer for the defense"), wins a foothold in the kingdom of Satan. He reveals the innocence of Jesus to the disciples first and then to all of us. The defense of victims is both a moral imperative and the source of our increasing power to demystify scapegoating. The Passion accounts reveal a phenomenon that unbeknownst to us generates all human cultures and still warps our human vision in favor of all sorts of exclusions and scapegoating. If this analysis is true, the explanatory power of Jesus' death is much greater than we realize, and Paul's exalted idea of the Cross as the source of all knowledge is anthropologically sound. The
René Girard (I See Satan Fall Like Lightning)
Yes, it is true that one generally needs to speak to the members of the key audience for a product or service. But as we are not trying to plumb an individual psyche for psychological motivation, but are rather trying to elucidate the relevant symbolic cultural meanings and practices, information garnered from those who do not like something is also relevant to understanding the cultural picture. In fact, contestation between points of view and meanings is a crucial aspect of the social dynamic. These nodal points of disagreement and different points of view can be precisely the most intriguing domains of cultural movement and thus new opportunities.
Patricia L. Sunderland (Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research)
The growth patterns of mushrooms are difficult to view since they come and go so quickly, appearing and disappearing overnight as if by magic. Their apparent lack of seed is another feature that was likely observed by early peoples who encountered them, perhaps providing further mystery as to the origin of the strange organisms.
John Rush (Entheogens and the Development of Culture: The Anthropology and Neurobiology of Ecstatic Experience)
The hero of the following account, Homo immunologicus, who must give his life, with all its dangers and surfeits, a symbolic framework, is the human being that struggles with itself in concern for its form. We will characterize it more closely as the ethical human being, or rather Homo repetitious, Homo artista, the human in training. None of the circulating theories of behaviour or action is capable of grasping the practising human - on the contrary: we will understand why previous theories had to make it vanish systematically, regardless of whether they divided the field of observation into work and interaction, processes and communications, or active and contemplative life. With a concept of practice based on a broad anthropological foundation, we finally have the right instrument to overcome the gap, supposedly unbridgeable by methodological means, between biological and cultural phenomena of immunity - that is, between natural processes on the one hand and actions on the other.
Peter Sloterdijk (Du mußt dein Leben ändern)
REVIEW: Like a master artisan, Weisberger weaves together threads of anthropology, botany, ecology and psychology in an inspiring tapestry of ideas sure to keep discerning readers warm and hopeful in these cold and desolate times.Unlike other texts, which ordinarily prescribe structural (ie. social, political, economic) solutions to the global crisis of environmental destruction, Rainforest Medicine hones in on the root cause of Western schizophrenia: spiritual poverty, and the resultant alienation of the individual from his environment. This incisive perception is married to a message of hope: that the keys to the door leading to promising new human vistas are held in the humblest of hands; those of the spiritual masters of the Amazon and the traditional cultures from which they hail. By illumining the ancient practices of authentic indigenous Amazonian shamanism, Weisberger supplies us with a manual for conservation of both the rainforest and the soul. And frankly, it could not have arrived at a better time.
Jonathon Miller Weisberger (Rainforest Medicine: Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon)
This is a subject I've given a lot of thought to, and I think I have the answer. I've tried to encompass in my theory all the sociological, mythological, religious, philosophical, muscular, economic, cultural, musical, physical, ethical, intellectual, metaphysical, anthropological, gynecological, historical, hormonal, environmental, judicial, legal, moral, ethnic, governmental, linguistic, psychological, schizophrenic, glottal, racial, poetic, dental [this was the logical link] artistic, military, and urinary considerations from prehistoric times to the present.I have been able to synthesize these considerations into one inescapable formulation: men can knock the shit out of women.
Fran Ross (Oreo)
The specious idea that gender differences are due entirely to culture, and have nothing to do with biological or archetypal predispositions, still enjoys wide currency in our society, yet it rests on the discredited tabula rasa theory of human development and is at variance with the overwhelming mass of anthropological and scientific evidence.
Anthony Stevens (Jung: A Very Short Introduction)
A final point is the fact that discrimination based on presumed inborn and immutable characteristics (race) tends to be stronger and more inflexible than ethnic discrimination which is not based on ‘racial’ differences. Members of a presumed race cannot change their assumed inherited traits, while ethnic groups can change their culture and, ultimately,
Thomas Hylland Eriksen (Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives (Anthropology, Culture and Society))
Rasa has two primary meanings: 'feeling' and 'meaning'. As 'feeling' it is one of the traditional Javanese five senses - seeing, hearing, talking, smelling and feeling, and it includes within itself three aspects of "feeling" that our view of the 5 senses separates: taste of tongue, touch on the body, and emotional 'feeling' within the 'heart' like sadness and happiness. The taste of a banana is its rasa; a hunch is a rasa; a pain is a rasa; and so is the passion. As 'meaning', rasa is applied to words in a letter, in a poem, or even in common speech to indicate the between-the-lines type of indirection and allusive suggestion that is so important in Javanese communication and social intercourse. And it is given the same application to behavioral acts generally: to indicate the implicit import, the connotative 'feeling' of dance movements, polite gestures, and so forth. But int his second, semantic sense, it also means 'ultimate significance' - the deepest meaning at which one arrives by dint of mystical effort and whose clarification resolves all the ambiguities of mundane existence(...) (The interpretation of cultures)
Clifford Geertz
The incompatibility here [between some anthropologies] rests with basic attitudes toward cultural others, which in turn rests on fundamentally different understandings of history. The one sees the Other as different and *separate,* a product of its own history and carrying its own hitoricity...The second sees the Other as different but *connected,* a product of a particular history that is itself intertwined with a larger set of economic, political, social, and cultural processes to such an extent that analytical separation of "our" history and "their" history is impossible. In this view, there are no cultures-outside-of-history to be reconstructed, no culture without history, no culture or society "with its own structure and history" to which world-historical forces arrive.
William Roseberry (Anthropologies and Histories: Essays in Culture, History, and Political Economy (Hegemony and Experience))
As for the women, it is true to say, with Erikson, that male domination tends to "restrict their verbal consciousness" so long as this is taken to mean not that they are forbidden all talk of sex, but that their discourse is dominated by the male virtues of virility, so that all reference to specifically female sexual "interests" is excluded from this aggressive and shame-filled cult of male potency.
Pierre Bourdieu (Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Series Number 16))
pathar pocha’, a leaf-wiper, an Adivasi. The manner of cleaning one’s bottom is stronger than any other custom in a culture. Most Adivasi people, left to themselves, use leaves. I pursued the rather neglected science of examining the qualities of various species of leaves; even sent my findings to the Kew Bulletin for publication but was turned down as their editorial board found it ‘rather inappropriate’.
Madhu Ramnath (Woodsmoke and Leafcups: Autobiographical Footnotes to the Anthropology of the Durwa People)
It is the food that looks backwards through our shared family memories. It is comfort food, the food inextricably linked in our cultural consciousness with motherhood and nationhood. Even though the pies are no longer a daily item on our dinner tables, they still figure large in many of our memories: pies mean Thanksgiving and Christmas and picnics and silly old Aunt Mabel and going to the football with Dad.
Janet Clarkson (Pie: A Global History (The Edible Series))
Since the late 1990s, scholars in disciplines as diverse as literary studies, anthropology, sociology, museum studies, and marketing have raised collective eyebrows at hoarding’s pathologization. Together they concentrate on the diagnostic politics of material deviance, the social constructions of an aberrant relationship with your things. One finds extreme accumulation to be “a psychiatric concern with deviance in terms of material culture.
Scott Herring (The Hoarders: Material Deviance in Modern American Culture)
Notice in Acts 4 that there were “no needy persons among them.” Why? Because they shared with “anyone one who had need.” The expression of neediness in the community allowed the economy of love to flow. But in churches in America and other places where affluence poses special problems, the situation is very different. These cultures are enslaved to the fear of death and death avoidance holds serious sway. In these cultures the expression of need is taboo and pornographic. What results is neurotic image-management, the pressure to be “fine.” The perversity here is that on the surface American churches do look like the church in Acts 4 - there are “no needy persons” among us. We all appear to be doing just fine, thank you very much. But we know this to be a sham, a collective delusion driven by the fear of death. I’m really not fine and neither are you. But you are afraid of me and I’m afraid of you. We are neurotic about being vulnerable with each other. We fear exposing our need and failure to each other. And because of this fear - the fear of being needy within a community of neediness - the witness of the church is compromised. A collection of self-sustaining and self-reliant people - people who are all pretending to be fine - is not the Kingdom of God. It’s a church built upon the delusional anthropology we described earlier. Specifically, a church where everyone is “fine” is a group of humans refusing to be human beings and pretending to be gods. Such a “church” is comprised of fearful people working hard to keep up appearances and unable to trust each other to the point of loving self-sacrifice. In such a “church” each member is expected to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining, thus making no demands upon others. Unfortunately, where there is no need and no vulnerability, there can be no love.
Richard Beck (The Slavery of Death)
Written culture itself, up to its recently implemented universal literacy, has had sharply selective effects. It has riven its host societies and formed a divide between literate and illiterate human beings, whose unbridgeability almost attained the firmness of a species differentiation. If one wished, despite Heidegger’s dissuasions, to speak anthropologically again, then the human beings of historical times could be defined as the animals of whom some can read and write while the others cannot. From here it is only a single step, if a demanding one, to the thesis that human beings are the animals of whom some breed those like them, while the others are bred—a thought that belongs to the pastoral folklore of Europeans since the time of Plato’s reflections on education and the state. Something of this is still heard in Nietzsche’s statement that few of the human beings in the small houses will, but most are willed. But to be only willed means to exist merely as an object, not as a subject, of selection.
Peter Sloterdijk (Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger)
People who have made comparative studies of many different societies, know that when status is ascribed, rather than achieved, individual efforts towards excellence are not directed through any form of innovation; rather, the enhancement of status occurs only through the realisation of a previously well defined role position. It is only with social change, or when some form of continual dynamic disequilibium occurs in a society, that we begin to observe the development of achievement motivation in its modern form.
Dor Bahadur Bista (Fatalism and Development: Nepal's Struggle For Modernization)
The whole concept of European culture as a cornucopia from which things are freely given is misleading. It does not take a specialist in anthropology to see that the European “give” is always highly selective. We never give any native people under our control – and we never shall, for it would be sheer folly as long as we stand on the basis of our present Realpolitik – the following elements of culture: 1. The instruments of physical power: fire-arms, bombing planes, poison gas, and all that makes an effective defence or aggression possible 2. We do not give out instruments of political mastery [i.e. sovereignty or voting rights] 3. We do not share with them the substance of economic wealth and advantages…. Even when under indirect economic exploitation… we allow the native a share of the profits, the full control of the economic organization remains in the hands of Western enterprise. 4. We do not admit them as equals to Church, Assembly, school, or drawing room… Full political, social and even religious equality is nowhere granted.
Bronisław Malinowski
Cooking gave us not just the meal but also the occasion: the practice of eating together at an appointed time and place. This was something new under the sun, for the forager of raw food would have likely fed himself on the go and alone, like all the other animals. (Or, come to think of it, like the industrial eaters we've more recently become, grazing at gas stations and eating by ourselves whenever and wherever.) But sitting down to common meals, making eye contact, sharing food, and exercising self-restraint all served to civilize us.
Michael Pollan (Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation)
A bare two years after Vasco da Gama’s voyage a Portuguese fleet led by Pedro Alvarez Cabral arrived on the Malabar coast. Cabral delivered a letter from the king of Portugal to the Samudri (Samudra-raja or Sea-king), the Hindu ruler of the city-state of Calicut, demanding that he expel all Muslims from his kingdom as they were enemies of the ‘Holy Faith’. He met with a blank refusal; then afterwards the Samudra steadfastly maintained that Calicut had always been open to everyone who wished to trade there… During those early years the people who had traditionally participated in the Indian Ocean trade were taken completely by surprise. In all the centuries in which it had flourished and grown, no state or kings or ruling power had ever before tried to gain control of the Indian Ocean trade by force of arms. The territorial and dynastic ambitions that were pursued with such determination on land were generally not allowed to spill over into the sea. Within the Western historiographical record the unarmed character of the Indian Ocean trade is often represented as a lack, or failure, one that invited the intervention of Europe, with its increasing proficiency in war. When a defeat is as complete as was that of the trading cultures of the Indian Ocean, it is hard to allow the vanquished the dignity of nuances of choice and preference. Yet it is worth allowing for the possibility that the peaceful traditions of the oceanic trade may have been, in a quiet and inarticulate way, the product of a rare cultural choice — one that may have owed a great deal to the pacifist customs and beliefs of the Gujarati Jains and Vanias who played such an important part in it. At the time, at least one European was moved to bewilderment by the unfamiliar mores of the region; a response more honest perhaps than the trust in historical inevitability that has supplanted it since. ‘The heathen [of Gujarat]’, wrote Tomé Pires, early in the sixteenth century, ‘held that they must never kill anyone, nor must they have armed men in their company. If they were captured and [their captors] wanted to kill them all, they did not resist. This is the Gujarat law among the heathen.’ It was because of those singular traditions, perhaps, that the rulers of the Indian Ocean ports were utterly confounded by the demands and actions of the Portuguese. Having long been accustomed to the tradesmen’s rules of bargaining and compromise they tried time and time again to reach an understanding with the Europeans — only to discover, as one historian has put it, that the choice was ‘between resistance and submission; co-operation was not offered.’ Unable to compete in the Indian Ocean trade by purely commercial means, the Europeans were bent on taking control of it by aggression, pure and distilled, by unleashing violence on a scale unprecedented on those shores.
Amitav Ghosh (In an Antique Land)
I began to realize something fundamental about field-work: that it is useless to concentrate exclusively on one's 'research project.' One has to be endlessly curious about everything, sharpen one's eyes and ears, and take notes about everything. The experience of strangeness makes all your senses more sensitive than normal, and your attachment to comparison grows deeper. This is why fieldwork is also so useful when you return home. You will have developed habits of observation and comparison that encourage or force you to start noticing that your own culture is just as strange.
Benedict Anderson (A Life Beyond Boundaries)
Somewhere beyond Tibet, among the icy peaks and secluded valleys of Central Asia, there lies an inaccessible paradise, a place of universal wisdom and ineffable peace called Shambhala . . . It is inhabited by adepts from every race and culture who form an inner circle of humanity secretly guiding its evolution. In that place, so the legends say, sages have existed since the beginning of human history in a valley of supreme beatitude that is sheltered from the icy arctic winds and where the climate is always warm and temperate, the sun always shines, the gentle airs are always beneficent and nature flowers luxuriantly.
Victoria LePage (Shambhala: The Fascinating Truth Behind the Myth of Shangri-La)
A wide diversity of treatment and social support models needs to be made available to drug users, ranging from one-strike-you’re-out abstinence to harm reduction, methadone maintenance, buprenorphine detox, heroin prescription, and subsidized employment initiatives. Treatment programs also need to take advantage of the moments of life crisis that drive long-term injectors to seek treatment. Most of the spur of the moment, crisis-driven windows of opportunity for changing the lives of street addicts are missed because underfunding, exacerbated by neoliberal audit culture, forces treatment programs to exclude risky patients.
Philippe Bourgois (Righteous Dopefiend (California Series in Public Anthropology Book 21))
People often ask, Why is infidelity such a big deal today? Why does it hurt so much? How has it become one of the leading causes of divorce? Only by taking a brief trip back in time to look at the changes of love, sex and marriage over the last few centuries can we have an informed conversation about modern infidelity. History and culture have always set the stage for our domestic dramas. In particular, the rise of individualism, the emergence of consumer culture, and the mandate for happiness have transformed matrimony and its adulterous shadow. Affairs are not what they used to be because marriage is not what it used to be.
Esther Perel (The State of Affairs Rethinking Infidelity / Mating In Captivity 2 Books)
Such are the incalculable effects of that negative passion of indifference, that hysterical and speculative resurrection of the other. Racism, for example. Logically, it should have declined with the advance of Enlightenment and democracy. Yet the more hybrid our cultures become, and the more the theoretical and genetic bases of racism crumble away, the stronger it grows. But this is because we are dealing here with a mental object, an artificial construct, based on an erosion of the singularity of cultures and entry into the fetishistic system of difference. So long as there is otherness, strangeness and the (possibly violent) dual relation -- as we see in anthropological accounts up to the eighteenth century and into the colonial phase -- there is no racism properly so-called. Once that `natural' relation is lost, we enter into a phobic relationship with an artificial other, idealized by hatred. And because it is an ideal other, this relationship is an exponential one: nothing can stop it, since the whole trend of our culture is towards a fanatically pursued differential construction, a perpetual extrapolation of the same from the other. Autistic culture by dint of fake altruism. All forms of sexist, racist, ethnic or cultural discrimination arise out of the same profound disaffection and out of a collective mourning, a mourning for a dead otherness, set against a background of general indifference -- a logical product of our marvellous planet-wide conviviality. The same indifference can give rise to exactly opposite behaviour. Racism is desperately seeking the other in the form of an evil to be combated. The humanitarian seeks the other just as desperately in the form of victims to aid. Idealization plays for better or for worse. The scapegoat is no longer the person you hound, but the one whose lot you lament. But he is still a scapegoat. And it is still the same person.
Jean Baudrillard (The Perfect Crime)
This crucial functional role for alcohol and other intoxicants is slowly gaining wider acceptance in the anthropological community. 131 Proponents of the beer before bread hypotheses rightly emphasize how the increased cohesiveness and scale of intoxicant-using cultures would give them a distinct advantage in competition with other groups, allowing them to cooperate more effectively in work, food production, and warfare. 132 The inexorable pressure of cultural group selection would, in this way, encourage and disseminate the cultural use of intoxicants in the manner that we actually observe in the historical record, and that is completely inconsistent with any hijack or hangover theory of intoxication.
Edward Slingerland (Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization)
As the idea of culture has migrated from anthropology to organizational theory, so it has become highly instrumentalized and reified. It is another example of the hubris of managerialism, which claims to be able to analyse, predict and control the intangible, and with the result that it can bring about the opposite of what it intends. In other words, with the intention of ensuring that employees are more committed to their work and are more productive, repeated culture change programmes can have the effect of inducing cynicism or resistance in staff (McKinlay and Taylor, 1996). With an insistence that staff align their values with those of the organization, what may result is gaming strategies on the part of staff to cover over what they really think and feel (Jackall, 2009).
Chris Mowles (Managing in Uncertainty: Complexity and the paradoxes of everyday organizational life)
A culture, like an individual, is a more or less consistent pattern of thought and action. [...] Each people further and further consolidates its experience, and in proportion to the urgency of these drives the heterogenous items of behaviour take more and more congruous shape. [...] Such patterning of culture cannot be ignored as if it were an unimportant detail. The whole, as modern science is insisting in many fields, is not merely the sum of all its parts, but the result of a unique arrangement and interrelation of the parts that has brought about a new entity. Gunpowder is not merely the sum of sulphur and charcoal and saltpeter, and no amount of knowledge even of all three of tis elements in all the forms they take in the natural world will demonstrate the nature of gunpowder.
Ruth Benedict (Patterns Of Culture)
Among the most virulent of all such cultural parasite-equivalents is the religion-based denial of organic evolution. About one-half of Americans (46 percent in 2013, up from 44 percent in 1980), most of whom are evangelical Christians, together with a comparable fraction of Muslims worldwide, believe that no such process has ever occurred. As Creationists, they insist that God created humankind and the rest of life in one to several magical mega-strokes. Their minds are closed to the overwhelming mass of factual demonstrations of evolution, which is increasingly interlocked across every level of biological organization from molecules to ecosystem and the geography of biodiversity. They ignore, or more precisely they call it virtue to remain ignorant of, ongoing evolution observed in the field and even traced to the genes involved. Also looked past are new species created in the laboratory. To Creationists, evolution is at best just an unproven theory. To a few, it is an idea invented by Satan and transmitted through Darwin and later scientists in order to mislead humanity. When I was a small boy attending an evangelical church in Florida, I was taught that the secular agents of Satan are extremely bright and determined, but liars all, man and woman, and so no matter what I heard I must stick my fingers in my ears and hold fast to the true faith. We are all free in a democracy to believe whatever we wish, so why call any opinion such as Creationism a virulent cultural parasite-equivalent? Because it represents a triumph of blind religious faith over carefully tested fact. It is not a conception of reality forged by evidence and logical judgment. Instead, it is part of the price of admission to a religious tribe. Faith is the evidence given of a person’s submission to a particular god, and even then not to the deity directly but to other humans who claim to represent the god. The cost to society as a whole of the bowed head has been enormous. Evolution is a fundamental process of the Universe, not just in living organisms but everywhere, at every level. Its analysis is vital to biology, including medicine, microbiology, and agronomy. Furthermore psychology, anthropology, and even the history of religion itself make no sense without evolution as the key component followed through the passage of time. The explicit denial of evolution presented as a part of a “creation science” is an outright falsehood, the adult equivalent of plugging one’s ears, and a deficit to any society that chooses to acquiesce in this manner to a fundamentalist faith.
Edward O. Wilson (The Meaning of Human Existence)
The view that many well-established theoretical positions in psychology cannot be as widely generalized as their authors assume was given a boost by a carefully argued paper published in 2010. Joe Henrich and colleagues challenged the very foundations of the discipline in arguing that psychologists fail to account for the influence of culture or nurture on human behavior. From a large-scale survey they determined that the vast majority of research in psychology is carried out with citizens – especially college students – of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democracies (WEIRD). They note that, where comparative data are available “people in [WEIRD] societies consistently occupy the extreme end of the … distribution [making them] one of the worst subpopulations one could study for generalizing about Homo sapiens” (Henrich et al. 2010: 63, 65, 79).
David F. Lancy (The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings)
It is evident that wealth is even more unevenly distributed than income and that the gap is widening. Since 1976, wealth has increased by 63 percent for the wealthiest 1 percent of the population and by 71 percent for the top 20 percent. Wealth has decreased by 43 percent for the bottom 40 percent of the U.S. population (Economic Policy Institute 2011). The widening gap has multiple causes. First, shifts in the U.S. tax code have lowered the top tax rate from 91 percent in the years from 1950 to 1963, to 35 percent from 2003 to 2012, allowing the wealthy to retain far more of their income (Tax Policy Center 2012). Second, wages for most U.S. families have stagnated since the early 1970s. Moreover, credit card, education, and mortgage debt have skyrocketed. Finally, the collapse of the housing market beginning in 2007 dramatically affected many middleclass families who held a significant portion of their wealth in the value of their home. By 2012, fully 31 percent of all homeowners owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth (Zillow 2012).
Kenneth J. Guest (Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age)
When the knowledge of biological fact is conjoined with imagination, on the other hand, one gets facts stranger than most fiction. When biology and morphology combine perspective with religion, they become a chimera of facts that can change the world view of spirituality. Cats bring this blending of biology, morphology and imagination to the prospective table of religious discussion especially. This is so because they have differing physiological functionalities that humans do not. These differences may seem trivial to many but one wonders how these variations would work themselves out in a sapient religion or spirituality centred on these quadrupedal predatory and often nocturnal creatures. Imagine not the cat worship that other religions in the past may have done. Instead, imagine what religion would be like if cats experienced it as sapient beings. The religion's context would take place in the physical form of the domestic cat, not the anthropological form. From the perspective of cats, the mirror of divinity reflected back at them would be quite different.
Leviak B. Kelly (Religion: The Ultimate STD: Living a Spiritual Life without Dogmatics or Cultural Destruction)
Political economist and sociologist Max Weber famously spoke of the “disenchantment of the world,” as rationalization and science led Europe and America into modern industrial society, pushing back religion and all “magical” theories about reality. Now we are witnessing the disenchantment of the self. One of the many dangers in this process is that if we remove the magic from our image of ourselves, we may also remove it from our image of others. We could become disenchanted with one another. Our image of Homo sapiens underlies our everyday practice and culture; it shapes the way we treat one another as well as how we subjectively experience ourselves. In Western societies, the Judeo-Christian image of humankind—whether you are a believer or not—has secured a minimal moral consensus in everyday life. It has been a major factor in social cohesion. Now that the neurosciences have irrevocably dissolved the Judeo-Christian image of a human being as containing an immortal spark of the divine, we are beginning to realize that they have not substituted anything that could hold society together and provide a common ground for shared moral intuitions and values. An anthropological and ethical vacuum may well follow on the heels of neuroscientific findings. This is a dangerous situation. One potential scenario is that long before neuroscientists and philosophers have settled any of the perennial issues—for example, the nature of the self, the freedom of the will, the relationship between mind and brain, or what makes a person a person—a vulgar materialism might take hold. More and more people will start telling themselves: “I don’t understand what all these neuroexperts and consciousness philosophers are talking about, but the upshot seems pretty clear to me. The cat is out of the bag: We are gene-copying bio- robots, living out here on a lonely planet in a cold and empty physical universe. We have brains but no immortal souls, and after seventy years or so the curtain drops. There will never be an afterlife, or any kind of reward or punishment for anyone, and ultimately everyone is alone. I get the message, and you had better believe I will adjust my behavior to it. It would probably be smart not to let anybody know I’ve seen through the game.
Thomas Metzinger
I've asked a number of analytic metaphysicians whether they can distinguish their enterprise from naïve naïve naive auto-anthropology of their clan, and have not received any compelling answers. The alternative is sophisticated naïve anthropology (both auto- and hetero-)-- the anthropology that reserves judgment about whether any of the theorems produced by the exercise deserve to be trusted--and this is a feasible and frequently valuable project. I propose that this is the enterprise to which analytic metaphysicians should turn, since it requires rather minimal adjustments to their methods and only one major revision of their raison d'être : they must rollback their pretensions and acknowledge that their research is best seen as a preparatory reconnaissance of the terrain of the manifest image, suspending both belief and disbelief the way anthropologists do when studying an exotic culture: let's pretend for the nonce that the natives are right, and see what falls out. Since at least a large part of philosophy’s task, in my vision of the discipline, consists in negotiating the traffic back and forth between the manifest and scientific images, it is a good idea for philosophers to analyze what they are up against in the way of focus options before launching into their theory-building and theory-criticizing. One of the hallmarks of sophisticated naïve anthropology is its openness to counterintuitive discoveries. As long as you're doing naïve anthropology, counterintuitiveness (to the natives) counts against your reconstruction; when you shift gears and begin asking which aspects of the naïve “theory” are true, counterintuitiveness loses its force as an objection and even becomes, on occasion, a sign of significant progress. In science in general, counterintuitive results are prized, after all.
Daniel C. Dennett (Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking)
Palo Mayombe is perhaps best known for its display of human skulls in iron cauldrons and accompanied by necromantic practices that contribute to its eerie reputation of being a cult of antinomian and hateful sorcerers. This murky reputation is from time to time reinforced by uninformed journalists and moviemakers who present Palo Mayombe in similar ways as Vodou has been presented through the glamour and horror of Hollywood. It is the age old fear of the unknown and of powers that threaten the established order that are spawned from the umbra of Palo Mayombe. The cult is marked by ambivalence replicating an intense spectre of tension between all possible contrasts, both spiritual and social. This is evident both in the history of Kongo inspired sorcery and practices as well as the tension between present day practitioners and the spiritual conclaves of the cult. Palo Mayombe can be seen either as a religion in its own right or a Kongo inspired cult. This distinction perhaps depends on the nature of ones munanso (temple) and rama (lineage). Personally, I see Palo Mayombe as a religious cult of Creole Sorcery developed in Cuba. The Kongolese heritage derives from several different and distinct regions in West Africa that over time saw a metamorphosis of land, cultures and religions giving Palo Mayombe a unique expression in its variety, but without losing its distinct nucleus. In the history of Palo Mayombe we find elite families of Kongolese aristocracy that contributed to shaping African history and myth, conflicts between the Kongolese and explorers, with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade being the blood red thread in its development. The name Palo Mayombe is a reference to the forest and nature of the Mayombe district in the upper parts of the deltas of the Kongo River, what used to be the Kingdom of Loango. For the European merchants, whether sent by the Church to convert the people or by a king greedy for land and natural resources, everything south of present day Nigeria to the beginning of the Kalahari was simply Kongo. This un-nuanced perception was caused by the linguistic similarities and of course the prejudice towards these ‘savages’ and their ‘primitive’ cultures. To write a book about Palo Mayombe is a delicate endeavor as such a presentation must be sensitive both to the social as well as the emotional memory inherited by the religion. I also consider it important to be true to the fundamental metaphysical principles of the faith if a truthful presentation of the nature of Palo Mayombe is to be given. The few attempts at presenting Palo Mayombe outside ethnographic and anthropological dissertations have not been very successful. They have been rather fragmented attempts demonstrating a lack of sensitivity not only towards the cult itself, but also its roots. Consequently a poor understanding of Palo Mayombe has been offered, often borrowing ideas and concepts from Santeria and Lucumi to explain what is a quite different spirituality. I am of the opinion that Palo Mayombe should not be explained on the basis of the theological principles of Santeria. Santeria is Yoruba inspired and not Kongo inspired and thus one will often risk imposing concepts on Palo Mayombe that distort a truthful understanding of the cult. To get down to the marrow; Santeria is a Christianized form of a Yoruba inspired faith – something that should make the great differences between Santeria and Palo Mayombe plain. Instead, Santeria is read into Palo Mayombe and the cult ends up being presented at best in a distorted form. I will accordingly refrain from this form of syncretism and rather present Palo Mayombe as a Kongo inspired cult of Creole Sorcery that is quite capable
Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold (Palo Mayombe: The Garden of Blood and Bones)
the Cook expedition had another, far less benign result. Cook was not only an experienced seaman and geographer, but also a naval officer. The Royal Society financed a large part of the expedition’s expenses, but the ship itself was provided by the Royal Navy. The navy also seconded eighty-five well-armed sailors and marines, and equipped the ship with artillery, muskets, gunpowder and other weaponry. Much of the information collected by the expedition – particularly the astronomical, geographical, meteorological and anthropological data – was of obvious political and military value. The discovery of an effective treatment for scurvy greatly contributed to British control of the world’s oceans and its ability to send armies to the other side of the world. Cook claimed for Britain many of the islands and lands he ‘discovered’, most notably Australia. The Cook expedition laid the foundation for the British occupation of the south-western Pacific Ocean; for the conquest of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand; for the settlement of millions of Europeans in the new colonies; and for the extermination of their native cultures and most of their native populations.2 In the century following the Cook expedition, the most fertile lands of Australia and New Zealand were taken from their previous inhabitants by European settlers. The native population dropped by up to 90 per cent and the survivors were subjected to a harsh regime of racial oppression. For the Aborigines of Australia and the Maoris of New Zealand, the Cook expedition was the beginning of a catastrophe from which they have never recovered. An even worse fate befell the natives of Tasmania. Having survived for 10,000 years in splendid isolation, they were completely wiped out, to the last man, woman and child, within a century of Cook’s arrival. European settlers first drove them off the richest parts of the island, and then, coveting even the remaining wilderness, hunted them down and killed them systematically. The few survivors were hounded into an evangelical concentration camp, where well-meaning but not particularly open-minded missionaries tried to indoctrinate them in the ways of the modern world. The Tasmanians were instructed in reading and writing, Christianity and various ‘productive skills’ such as sewing clothes and farming. But they refused to learn. They became ever more melancholic, stopped having children, lost all interest in life, and finally chose the only escape route from the modern world of science and progress – death. Alas,
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)