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Cosmologies and Lifestyles

A Cultural Ecological Framework and Its Implications for Education Systems

Phil Bayliss and Patrick Dillon

This essay critiques the majoritarian, post-Enlightenment, scientific worldview, the assumptions it makes about human cosmologies and lifestyles and how, in turn, these assumptions influence the nature of education systems. The critique focuses on how the experiences of minority cultures, particularly those cultures that are nomadic or pastoralist, challenge some of the fundamental premises of majoritarian education. There follows a cultural ecological framing which compares the ways in which Western (majoritarian) cultures and minoritarian cultures contextualise education. In Western educational situations, structures, contexts and schemata are substantially pre-defined, and we talk about things as 'context-dependent', since context is something that can be described as the backdrop to behaviour. In minoritarian cultures both meaning and context emerge from people's interactions with their environments and may subsequently be described. These are respectively relational and co-constitutional manifestations of situations. We present a cultural ecological framework in an attempt simultaneously to embrace both interpretations.

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Allen Abramson and Martin Holbraad

How far is the ethnographic study of 'cosmologies' relevant to contemporary anthropology, and how might it illuminate understandings of the contemporary world? In this article we argue for a renewed anthropological interest in matters cosmological by seeking to disentangle the study of cosmology from the concomitants with which it was associated in earlier periods of anthropological research. In particular, we argue that an orientation toward cosmology continues to be of prime importance to the discipline insofar as it can be freed from its associations with holism and exoticism. The shift from 'high modernity' (in which orientations toward cosmos are variously constrained and circumscribed) to the flattening effects of the 'fluid' modernity of neoliberalism, we argue, has tended to thrust concerns with cosmic orders and dynamics back onto the forefront of people's lives. We end the article with a series of programmatic observations of how anthropologists might respond to these shifts, both ethnographically and analytically.

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The Perceptibility of the Invisible Cosmology

Religious Rituals and Embodied Spirituality among the Bahraini Shi‘a

El-Sayed El-Aswad

This article analyses the relationship between the seen and the unseen in the cosmology and practices of Bahraini Shi'a. Rather than contrasting the visible and the invisible, the study delineates the hierarchical relations between them, within a whole or cosmology, as reflected in various discursive and non-discursive actions that are supported by the religious beliefs of Bahraini Shi'a. Issues of the Hidden Imam, concealment, dissimulation and other unseen dimensions of the cosmos are discussed. The article finds that the Shi'a construct the invisible in their social world by using visible ways of creatively enacting their hidden thoughts and beliefs, as represented in their religious discourses, rituals and body symbolism. Their belief in a divine higher power provides a source of emotional, spiritual and socio-political empowerment.

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Moral Topology and the Making of Cosmological Boundaries

The Case of Neo-Pentecostal Exorcism in Brazil

Matan Shapiro

Seeking to uproot evil from people’s life, neo-Pentecostal exorcists in Brazil separate between internal and external bodily surfaces and then ‘close’ the victim’s entire body to protect against further malignant intrusion. Based on fieldwork in Brazil and the analysis of expulsion videos online, I demonstrate that exorcists self-consciously use topological imaginaries of connectedness and disjunction to generate a reality in which demons and humans occupy mutually exclusive ontological domains. I argue that the moral transformation that these rituals encourage is thus contingent on the successful disentanglement of bodily surfaces, which distinguishes inside from outside and humans from demons. I use the term ‘moral topology’ to analyze this process and call for further cross-cultural attention to the ethnographic vitality of topological imaginaries in the making of cosmological boundaries.

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Battle of Cosmologies

The Catholic Church, Adat, and ‘Inculturation’ among Northern Lio, Indonesia

Signe Howell

are Catholic. In this article I will explore to what extent it can be argued that Catholicism has replaced their previous cosmology ( adat ) as a point of existential orientation. I shall show that the Catholic priests and the Lio ‘priest-leaders’ are

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Andrea Butcher

, claims to individual agency and rational resource management. This obscures indigenous perceptions of cosmology, hierarchy and the ritual mediation of a vital geography, all of which are crucial to the successes of worldly activities. Thus, the outcome or

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Avoiding Poison

Congolese Refugees Seeking Cosmological Continuity in Urban Asylum

Georgina Ramsay

cosmologies in research that explores the experiences of refugees, I consider that the insecurities experienced by Congolese refugees in urban Uganda are not reducible to their politico-legal status or (non-)access to sustainable livelihoods, but rather impact

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Recursivity and the Self-Reflexive Cosmos

Tricksters in Cuban and Brazilian Spirit Mediumship Practices

Diana Espírito Santo

A classic example of a non-human shapeshifter is the ‘trickster’, who appears in myriad cross-cultural guises and stories from India to Latin America and in forms as diverse as Mercury, Hermes, Krishna, Raven, Coyote, and Eshu. Cosmologies that

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The Religious Foundations of Capoeira Angola

The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice

Sergio González Varela

mestres constitute important figures in the cosmology of this art form. The ancestors refer to precursors of capoeira before it was formalized, for instance, African slaves during the colonial period or West Afro-Atlantic ritual practices. One of the most

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Afterword

Returning to Cosmology—Thoughts on the Positioning of Belief

Don Handelman

Cosmology may be helpful in positioning belief. I suggest, through discussing the contributions to this collection, that belief, especially propositional belief, is integral to monotheistic cosmoses that are constituted through gigantic fractures (like that between God and human being). Such fractures distinguish between cosmic interior and cosmic exterior. The fracture as boundary is absolute, paradoxical, not to be breached. Thus, the infinite Hebrew God integrates His finite cosmos by holding it together from its outside. The absolute boundary signifies cosmic discontinuity. Here belief in the unfathomable may be central to overcoming such discontinuity and, so, to integrating cosmos. By contrast, an organic cosmos is held together within itself, is more continuous within itself, is more holistic, and, in flowing through itself, obviates any centrality of belief.