Anthropology of magic and religion
The assignment is out of 100 points. You must answer 5 of the 6 questions below. Each of the 5 questions is equally weighted equally and worth 20 points.
Please read each question carefully and answer all parts of the question! Make sure you fully answer all the questions within a question, as well as doing so correctly. Some questions are opinion questions, so you must explain your opinion stating why you feel a certain way. Simply stating, “no I don’t think so” is not an answer! I find many people end up losing points on questions because they only answered some parts of the question and not all parts.
Likewise, if you are having trouble answering all parts of the seven questions, answer as many parts of each question as you can. Partial credit is better than simply not trying to answer a question and getting no credit.
Please type your answers, double-spaced and spellcheck your work. If you use outside sources to answer the questions then please include the references you used below each question/answer. You do not need to cite the book, articles, films or lectures.
Each question can be answered in half a page to a page. Please do your best to keep your answers for each question under a page. You do not need to write a lengthy paper for each answer. Please do try to answer them in some form of a short essay or paragraph, rather than short brief sentences or statements. I find this forces you to think about your answers and state them clearly. It might help you to craft your answers as if I do not know the answers to these questions and you are explaining them to me.
Please do not simply copy multiple sentences word for word from the book or articles for your answers! You can use short quotes, but try and frame answers in your own words so I know you understand the material.While you are free to use your notes, the textbook and outside research, this does NOT include using each other!
Answer the questions
2. Using the Gordon article “A Controversial Rite: Female Circumcision,” briefly explain what Female Circumcision is and what are some of the reasons it is practiced? What faults does Gordon find with these reasons? Anthropologists like Gordon have recently come out against the practice as a violation of human rights. What arguments do anthropologists opposing the ritual of female circumcision give for doing so? What arguments are often made for allowing the ritual to continue? In your opinion, should the ritual be outlawed or allowed to continue, why or why not?
3. What is a transformed being, and how does this category of beings differ from the ideas of gods and spirits? In the Barber article "The Real Vampire,” who was likely to be accused of being a vampire and why? What was the physical evidence used to justify someone was a vampire in the 18th century? How would such evidence be explained today by western science? How does our idea of the vampire in today’s cultural and/or popular culture differ from those of the 18th century?
4. In the Freed and Freed article “Taraka’s Ghost,” how do Hindu beliefs about the soul and the dead make the ghost a reality in their culture, whereas in ours it is simply a personal belief only some believe in? What happened to Sita that made her a good candidate for spirit possession in terms of her and her people’s beliefs (emic explanation)? What was it about her situation that caused the anthropologists to offer an alternative (etic) explanation, and what was their theory as to the true cause of her possession?
5 Discuss the functions of the Berawan funeral as explained by Metcalf in the article "Death Be Not Strange." That is to say, what is the purpose of it and how is the funeral important for both the living and the dead? How could an improper burial cause significant problems for the Berawan people, and why were the Berawan so shocked by American funerary practices? In your opinion, are there any elements of our own American funerary practices that function to protect or aid both the living and the dead?
6. In the Vitebsky article “Shamanism,” what are some common conceptions and misconceptions about shamanism? How does Vitebsky’s working definition of ‘shaman’ agree with or counter those notions? What is the shaman’s role in his/her community and how does this play out in day-to-day life? Vitebsky last section in the article is headed by the bold title “A Shamanic Revival?” What accounts for the question mark in his final subhead? Do you agree with Vitebsky’s reservations and concluding remarks? Why or why not. “The Dark Side of the Shaman” article may also be of help here
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