Anthropology Essay

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Anthropology essay

Anthropology essay

E.B. Taylor (1832-1917), of the so-called English school of anthropology, is regarded as the founding father of anthropology of religion. His works still widely read, in particular in religious studies, where he is also regarded as a founder of sorts. But his legacy has become thin in recent years and, in practical terms, throughout both disciplines; his influence is but a memory. In general this is because of his most well known theory, in which Taylor applied evolutionary theory to the study of religion, assuming that stages of material "advancement" corresponded with those of a spiritual nature. In his most famous work, he formulated a theory of animism as the earliest, "primitive" stage of religion. Taylor was joined, in both England and France, by a host of fellow travelers, including James Frazer (1854-1941), whose comparative mythologies were so inspiring to later study and R.R. Marett (1866-1943), who proposed a pre-animistic stage of religion.

Fundamentally, then the anthropology of religion must quite simply be seen as the application of the weight of anthropological theory and method to the analytical and social quandary of religion or religions-What is it? What are they? What do we speak of when we speak of "religion" and how does that relate to particular religions'? What makes religion? What does it do for us? Other disciplines ask the same or similar questions, but in anthropology the focus of the analysis is generally ethnographic. While in history of religion, for example, in asking the same questions of world religions, may look for answers in the literary record, in myth, and the work of religious professionals in world religions anthropology has tended to focus its efforts in ethnography. Of course, anthropologists of religion have never shied away from dealing with the broadest range of religious experiences and values, ...
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