Folk Religion and Magic


How does a cenotaph of a former military hero, in the logic of Taussig’s argument in The Magic of the State increase the symbolic capital of the state? What are the processes by which nothing is converted to extra value? How does this align with our discussion and definition of the process of Mythologization from earlier in the quarter?
2) Over and over again, from testimonies from the survivors of Jonestown, to Messinger’s article, we’ve seen the description of members of religious break-away groups as ordinary, well-meaning, middle-class, “average” people….not monsters, not kooks, not cultists. Discuss the rise of cults and so-called fringe Christian religions in the U.S. – Methodists, Amish, Puritans, Pentecostals, People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, the FLDS, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehova’s Witnesses. All these have broken away from the “mainstream” and made a claim – what was this claim(s)? What is the appeal of these break-away religions to the followers, and how does this again emphasize the relationship between practice and belief?
3) In “Cultural Diversity, Alternative Medicine, and FolkMedicine,” by David J. Hufford, Ph.D., Hufford shows that popular beliefs about those who practice “alternative Medicine” consider these practitioners to be:
1. are recent immigrants to the mainland United States,
2. who live in ethnic enclaves,
3. who prefer to use their native tongue,
4. who were educated in their country of origin,
5. who migrate back and forth to the country of origin, and
6. who are in constant contact with older individuals whomaintain a high degree of ethnic identity. AND YET, most studies show that it is American-born, English-speaking,
middle class people with college educations who are the LARGEST group using Alternative practices. Please comment in this, including our discussion in class on CAMs (complementary alternative medicine), the video on “Vaccine Wars” and our resultant class discussion, andHufford’s lecture ( assigned on the syllabus) on “The Explosion of Interest in Spirituality in Health.” Comment on his claim that “consciousness did not get secularized along with medicine,” i.e., 89% of Americans believe that god answers prayers!!!! And link this to the claim that MAGIC IS AN ASPECT OF CONSCIOUSNESS. (Seems as if the first part of the question, with the popular construction of alternative med practitioners as “those guys” is a response to the secularization of the institution of medicine, whereas the second half deals with the actual persistence of spirituality in daily practice and belief.)

4) What is a millennial movement. How is the apocalypse or apocalyptic beliefs central to these and how does this effect a notion of exceptionalism in the group and group members? Apply this to the American Experience (historically), and to its “match” with the notion of “American Exceptionalism.”
5) Homeopathy – “an alternative medical practice that is based on “curing by duplicating the symptoms.”” For example: using a dilution of stinging nettle to help with stings and insect bites. Homeopathy arose in the 1880s in America because of people’s dissatisfaction with conventional medicine. Clearly, at some level this is a form of “Homeopathic Magic” – operating on the principle of “like produces like”. And yet, many vaccines, such as the vaccine for smallpox, in which a person is infected with a small dose of cowpox to provoke the body into producing its own immunity, are proven, fact-based preventative medicine, embraced by the public health establishment. How do these two examples demonstrate an intersection between science and magic, and how does this overlap again point to the impossibility of the divisions between religion-magic-science that we have become so accustomed to?
6)Comment on how Taussig argues that spirit Possession is central to the operations of the modern state, deriving power from possession of the dead. (include how notions of possession, Pilgrimage, trance, overlain onto the terrain of the indigenous, the female, the “underdeveloped,” the colonized, have long been the focus and the object of anthropological studies and public fascination). Further argue how this possession occurs at both the monumental and quotidian level, its ubiquity “Naturalizing” the phenomenon in the popular mind. Finally demonstrate how in this process – materializing the abstract, negation, and then RE-abstracting it as a symbol — the state gains power and value (the circulation of money is a great analogy).


You will need to be able to write anthropology material using certain chapters from these books

-“Cultural Diversity, Alternative Medicine, and Folk Medicine,” by David J. Hufford,
-“The Magic of the State” Taussig


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