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Hertz, Robert - world, burial, body, funeral, life, time, human
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The Rites of Passage. Translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Verdery, Katherine. Walter, Tony. The Revival of Death. London: Routledge. Williams, Regenna, ed. Personalised recommendations. Cite chapter How to cite? The sacred has been used as an attribute whereby distinctions have been expressed between those things that possess a special cultural value and those that do not demand particular attention or specific rule-governed behaviour.
In dealing with the theory of religion, the scholar with a social-scientific orientation needs a special explanatory perspective in order to display the logic governing cross-cultural regularities in setting something apart as sacred. Some of them refer explicitly to superhuman agents, while some are less overtly religious, for instance the marks such as the flag or soccer matches by which members of a nation-state enhance or preserve its value see Smart ; Bell In ethnographic study of religion the sacred is not as much a metaphysical enigma as an issue of epistemology.
In an attempt to analyse various forms of manufacturing religious realities cf. McCutcheon ; Pyysiainen , the ethnographer of religion does not need to approach the discourses of religious persons from the explicit theological content of their speech acts. Rather, the ethnographer takes another route, starting from the actions, events and intentions of cultural agents in specific contexts as they make distinctions between spaces, mark them for specific uses, create visible and invisible boundaries, and establish cultural conventions of behaviour towards those boundaries see e.
Parkin ; Anttonen ; b. In his posthumously published book Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity , Rappaport provides the broadest possible context for explaining why people have spent so much time, energy, wealth and blood in building temples, supporting priests, sacrificing to gods and killing infidels Ibid.
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His central question is the sacred, the numinous, the occult, the divine and their fusion into the Holy in ritual. The sacred signifies the discursive, logical, intelligible component of religion, which is implicated in the liturgy of ritual specialists, but which also appears in commandments and in the oaths and pledges of non-specialist participants Ibid.
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Otto In addition to the sacred, there is the numinous component, which denotes religion's non-discursive, affective, ineffable, inconceivable, mysterious, awesome qualities Rappaport 23; see also Otto ; Pyysiainen Rappaports' cybernetics of the holy owes to the scholars of religion who have held the category of the numinous to be the core element that characterises religious thought and behaviour. Rappaport does not, however, appeal to sacrality to explain religion, or to religion to explain sacrality.
Rappaport treats the sacred as a category the contents of which are ritually constituted as a response to maintain the adaptive flexibility of human social systems. He examines the effect of human language and increased conceptual capacities on the nature of ritual acts and objects and on adaptive flexibility. Towards the end of the book Rappaport's conclusion seems to be that the ultimate sacred postulates and their unquestionable status are losing significance.
Human social systems are becoming less flexible, which mean an increasing unbalance in adaptive processes. For instance, the authority of political and religious representatives does not rest on sanctity to the same extent as it did in traditional societies; this means that regulatory structures in Western societies are no longer as flexible. Rappaport's ideas are worth keeping in mind in accounting for the emergence of oppositional social movements, both secular and religious, a topic currently in spotlight both in Europe and in the United States.
The Dark Side Of Humanity: The Work Of Robert Hertz And Its Legacy
As a social-scientific category, the sacred has been semantically recontextualised as a taxonomic indicator see Paden for the analysis of both religious and secular systems of thought. In addition to Rappaport, anthropologist Mary Douglas has done remarkable work in developing Durkheimian notions of the sacred into risk analyses. Modifying the notion of the sacred as a collective representation whereby distinctions between notions of purity and impurity, the licit and the forbidden, have been made morally binding see Durkheim , Douglas has moved towards explaining the sacred on the basis of the cognitive mechanisms of the human mind.
She posits that the idea of the sacred is based on the precariousness of the cultural categories guiding human thinking and behaviour. Douglas holds that the sacred is the universe in its dynamic aspect with inexplicable boundaries, because the reasons for any particular way of defining the sacred are embedded in the social consensus which it protects Douglas Even though she has not aimed at creating an anthropological theory of the sacred, her analysis combines the positive and negative aspects of sacredness.
She has treated the sacred as order, unity and integrity, and has also pointed out the necessity of paying attention to the taboo aspect of the sacred. In maintaining the socially legitimated order, individuals and social collectives create symbolic-cultural systems, or even neuroses if you like, by setting apart impure objects, substances, places or times, and emphasising their cognitive status by taboo norms and rules of avoidance see Douglas ; cf.
But whence the notion of the sacred? And moreover, how can the notion of the sacred be viewed as an anthropological constant? In his cognitive theorising Pascal Boyer has argued that since religion is a cultural phenomenon, it is just as culture in general constrained by the human cognitive capacities.