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Arthur Goldhammer

Belief in the possibility of a revolutionary transformation of French society sustained much of the political and cultural ferment in France in the quarter century following the end of World War II. Perry Anderson, in two articles published in the London Review of Books, argues that the decline of this faith has cast a pall over France, and he traces this decline in large part to the work of historians François Furet and Pierre Nora. It is argued here that Anderson neglects broader economic, societal, and cultural forces that combined to undermine belief in the transformative power of revolution and is therefore led to an unduly pessimistic interpretation of the cultural turn of the 1970s.

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Introduction

The Importance of Rituals in Everyday Life in the Middle East

Zubaydah Ashkanani and Soheila Shahshahani

A culture can be expressed in a succinct way in its rituals, the manifestations of the culmination of its deepest beliefs. Rituals are also attempts to maintain cohesion, which they do most successfully in the material and non-material arts. Knowledge of a culture is necessary in order to portray the totality of that culture through its rituals and ceremonies. As a central topic in anthropology, ritual has been regarded as a phenomenon that is resistant to change and bound to a great extent to certain norms and regulations. Yet it is obvious that rituals are not rigid, unvarying sets of performances and that they have undergone many changes in definitions, functions and interpretations. Indeed, all aspects of culture, including rituals, are subject to change. Drawing on the past, cultures sustain their beliefs by making use of what is at hand in the present.

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Treating the Sick with a Morality Play

The Kardecist-Spiritist Disobsession in Brazil

Sidney M. Greenfield

This essay examines a ritual called a 'disobsession' by Brazilian Kardecist-Spiritists, discussing how it might affect the biophysiology of the patient and provide more than symbolic assistance. In the ritual, mediums enter into trance, communicate with and/or receive spirits, and engage in exchanges with them, while the patient being treated merely observes. Since the sufferer is not knowledgeable about the Kardecist belief system, an analysis that assumes shared values, contexts, and systems of semiosis between healer and patient does not apply. I argue instead that the participants are in a trance-like, hypnotic state during which they respond as do patients treated elsewhere with hypnotically facilitated psychology or hypnotherapy. While not necessarily aware of it, during the ritual they internalize beliefs about the powers of spirits that may be transduced to produce proteins that activate the immune and other bodily systems, thereby contributing to their cure.

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Franca Maino

The regional elections of 16 April 2000 had a wide national impact:

they brought about the fall of the D’Alema Government and the formation

of the Amato Government. These elections represented a

political, rather than an electoral, defeat for the Center-Left. Even

though their outcome, in fact, could be interpreted as a mark of

electoral stability, it flew in the face of D’Alema’s belief that the

government’s action would translate into more support for the

Center-Left at the regional level.

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Editorial

Everyday Life in the Middle East

Soheila Shahshahani

Ever since the 1970s, when I attended a conference of the American Anthropological Association for the first time, a question had been with me: Why do anthropologists of the Middle East not have a common forum in the form of a journal or an anthropology association? Now, as Anthropology of the Middle East makes its debut, my belief in the need for such a publication has become even stronger.

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Welcome and Unwelcome Truths between Jews, Christians and Muslims

A Platform Statement from the Sternberg Centre JCM Dialogue Group

Sternberg Centre JCM Dialogue Group

We are a group of Jews, Christians and Muslims who have been meeting for twelve years though some of us have joined more recently. We feel it is time to make a public statement to express our shared concerns. We wish to emphasise our shared belief in God, the shared moral and spiritual values of our three faiths, and to draw attention to the urgent need for inter-religious understanding and co-operation to promote a more just and peaceful and ecologically sustainable world.

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Kyrgyzchylyk

Searching New Paradigms for Ancient Practices

Gulnara Aitpaeva

This essay discusses the concept of kyrgyzchylyk (rather inadequately rendered in English as 'Kyrgyzness') as a way of transcending different boundaries: the Soviet past, Koran-based Islam, rational thinking. Several aspects of the concept and its meaning in everyday life are discussed; in particular the idea of kyrgyzchylyk as spirituality is examined. Moreover, the concept can be seen as transcending the boundaries between traditional beliefs and Islam. Traditional practitioners - healers, clairvoyants, epic storytellers, sacred sites custodians and others - are seen as becoming powerful people through their practices, and the role of kyrgyzchylyk in the context of the traditional worldview is assessed.

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Calamity Meat and Cows of Abundance

Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Irish Folklore

Patricia Monaghan

Opposition between evidence-based science and improvable religious belief is assumed in Western intellectual tradition. By contrast, Native American theorists argue that religion constitutes part of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), which this paper argues exists in European contexts. Irish tales of changeling cattle encoded vital data for survival in a specific region; such Local Sanctions describe human difficulties that follow ecologically inappropriate actions. Other narratives are Global Warnings, concerning interconnections whose significance transcends individual health to include threats to the health of the planetary system. This paper urges analysis of European folktales and folk rituals as traditional environmental texts.

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Language Ideologies at Work

Economies of Yupik Language Maintenance and Loss

Daria Morgounova Schwalbe

Using an ethnography of speaking approach, this article discusses the ideological aspects of language practices, as they are played out in a traditional Yupik (Eskimo) village in Chukotka, in the Far East of the Russian Federation. The article shows how local linguistic practices and language choices of individual speakers intersect with purist language ideologies, which frame certain beliefs about languages and ways of speaking, making them appear more normal and appropriate than others. Placing the “work of speaking” within the context of cross-cultural dynamics and purist language economies, this article challenges the basic assumption of linguistic purism about language and identity being intertwined.

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Carol Banks

Whereas questions of race, class and gender may be uppermost in the minds of many late twentieth-century scholars and critics, in the early modern period tradition and belief were the predominant preoccupations, in practical terms, custom and Christianity were inextricably intertwined within the changing culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. An awareness of these past concerns motivates each of the seven articles in this issue, articles which re-examine literary and historical texts, not as past mirrors in which we might speculate upon our own particular preoccupations, but as sources of a more anthropological and spiritual history.