A Drought in Bima PPT

A Drought in Bima: People and
their Gods
Caves of Lascaux…
The founder of the anthropology of religion was Sir E.B. Tylor
Religion was born as people tried to understand conditions and events they
could not explain by reference to daily experience.
Tylor believed that our ancestors– and contemporary nonindustrial peoples-were
particularly intrigued with death, dreaming, and trance. In dreams and trances,
people see images they may remember when they wake up or come out of the
trance state.
Tylor concluded that attempts to explain dreams and trances led early humans
to believe that two entities inhabit the body: one active during the day and the
other-a double or soul- active during sleep and trance states. Although they
never meet, they are vital to each other.
When the double permanently leaves the body, the person dies. Death is
departure of the soul. From the Latin for soul, anima, Tylor named this belief
animism. The soul was one sort of spiritual entity; people remembered various
images from their dreams and trances-other spirits. For Tylor, animism, the
earliest form of religion, was a belief in spiritual beings.
Tylor proposed that religion evolved through stages, beginning
with animism, then polytheism (the belief in multiple gods) and then
monotheism (the belief in a single, all-powerful deity) developed
Because religion originated to explain things people didn't
understand, Tylor thought it would decline as science offered better
explanations. To an extent, he was right.
We now have scientific explanations for many things that religion once
dealt with.
Nevertheless, because religion persists, it must do something
more than explain the mysterious.
…a view of the supernatural as a domain of raw impersonal power, or force, that
people can control under certain conditions.
Such a conception of the supernatural is particularly prominent in Melanesia.
Melanesians believed in mana, a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe.
Mana can reside in people, animals, plants, and objects.
Melanesian mana was similar to our notion of efficacy or luck. Melanesians
attributed success to mana, which people could acquire or manipulate in different
ways, such as through magic. Objects with mana could change someone's luck. For
example, a charm or amulet belonging to a successful hunter might transmit the
hunter's mana to the next person who held or wore it. A woman might put a rock in
her garden, see her yields improve dramatically, and attribute the change to the
force contained in the rock.
The Drought…
 Reactions of the two groups, the Dou Donggo and
the Bimanese to drought…
Bimanese, as followers of Islam, declared a day of fasting and
prayer and gathered in the Grand Mosque to beseech Allah to
to give them rain
Dou Donggo, elders and ritual specialists went into the bush to
a particular stream, cleaned debris from the mouth of the
stream and left offerings of rice wine, rice, betel, tobacco and a
sacrificed chicken.
 For the Muslims, their response was to appeal to
Allah, the all-powerful God. Human beings are
dependent on God’s will, which in turn may depend
on their behaviour.
 For the Dou Donggo, however, the rains are part of a
natural order. Mischievous spirits, the remains of
placentas discarded in the forest, interfere and
interrupt the rains. They are ‘the part of us that did
not become human’ and must be placated with
Bimanese…Dou Donggo
 Bimanese had a semi-feudal society in which a
Sultan owned all the land and in theory, all of the
people. Relationship between ruler and ruled was
very much like that of father and child.
 Dou Donggo society is egalitarian, subsistence is
communal as land is owned by the villagers. Spirits
who cause the trouble belong to, and come from
Religion as practiced…
 Anthropological approach to religion has been to
observe it being practiced. Religion is practiced
through ritual behaviour.
 Durkheim-in religion one finds basic social
categorizations and through cosmology people
represent their society to themselves. Religious
rituals are ‘society worshipping itself.”
This creates intense personal communal experiences that
confirm social solidarity.
Arnold van Gennep –Les Rite de Passage (1908)
 van Gennep was a folklorist. He thought of society
as a large house with many rooms, each room
symbolizing a different social status. Rites of
passage move people from one room to another,
allowing them to shed an old status and acquire a
new one.
 Through these transitions ceremonies are held which
move participants from one status to the next.
 vanGennep recognized a common cross-cultural
structure to these rituals.
 Separation-
 Transition-
 Re-incorporation-
Victor Turner
 Symbolic Anthropology…early career as a structural-
functionalist. Best known for his work on symbols,
rituals and rites of passage.
 Expanded on vanGenneps three stages of rites of
passage and further explored the separation stage of
The separation or ‘liminal’ phase was called the ‘betwixt and
between’ stage of the rite. This phase is the most interesting!
From the Latin ‘limen’ meaning ‘threshold’
 ‘Betwixt and between’ --is the quality of ambiguity or
disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a
rite of passage.
 During a ritual's liminal stage, participants "stand at
the threshold" between their previous way of
structuring their identity, time, or community, and a
new way, which the ritual establishes.
 Liminal stage is the stage at which instruction is
given to inform participants of their upcoming
status. They are no longer constrained by their old
Victor Turner…”From Ritual to Theatre”(1984)
 “An experience is itself a process that presses out to
an expression that completes it.”
The stage of liminality in a rite of passage is the creative stage
in which participants are enabled to ‘play’ with the symbols of
their culture. Existing symbols are manipulated into new
forms or new symbols are created which give meaning to the
new experience.
He defined the liminal place as “a gap between the ordered
worlds where almost anything could happen. ”
Belief Systems…
 One thing religion or belief helps us to is deal with
problems that are significant, persistent, and
Provides a set of ideas about how the world is put together that
allows people to accommodate anxieties and deal with
Azande witchcraft – one way in which many traditional cultures
deal with such things is through the belief in and use of
The Azande of Southern Sudan
 Among the Azande the belief in and use of witchcraft
has been a major part of their culture.
 All misfortune is attributed to witchcraft. No death
in Azande communities is without accusation of
witchcraft. The example of the falling granary is
made famous by Evans-Pritchard.
The fact that the granary is weakened by termites is
immaterial…what made the people who were injured sit there
at that particular time? That is where the explanation of
witchcraft provides an answer. As Monaghan and Just state,
the notion that it was coincidence or chance is really no
explanation at all!
Religious Movements…
 What happens when societies must deal with change
as has been the case for many in the recent past?
Religious belief can be overwhelmed by experiences
which are too monumental or life-changing.
Millenary (Millenarianism) movements - the belief by a
religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming
major transformation of society.
Cargo Cults – religious practice that has appeared in many
traditional pre-industrial tribal societies in the wake of
interaction with technologically advanced cultures. Examples
come mainly from Micronesia: John Frum cult and the Prince
Phillip cult, both from Tanna, Vanuatu. Wikipedia
 In Melanesia, the sudden arrival of unimaginably
wealthy and technologically advanced soldiers
during World War II, and then their equally sudden
disappearance at its end, produced tremendous
psychological upheaval for the technologically simple
peoples of the interior. (pg. 126)
Movements arise in order to accommodate for the dislocations
of these experiences.

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