Start Encyclopedia69 Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
dictionary -  encyclopedia  
Full text search :        
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z   #   




  The word totemism comes from the Amerindian Ojibwa word ote, which means ‘belonging to a local group’. In many tribal societies animal names and emblems were identified with social groups such as clans groups related by descent. Clans are often associated with animal species, plants and natural forms, which clan members take care not to injure. Early anthropologists assumed that totems represented the divinities of the clan, often ancestors of the group.

In the 19th century, theoretical debate concerning totemism was intense. Evolutionists used the belief in a mythical ancestor to explain animal emblems, sacrifices and avoidance taboos. Other anthropologists were concerned with understanding why particular objects of animal species were chosen as totems, and used a number of utilitarian and later psychoanalytic perspectives to investigate the phenomena.

In the 20th century, the functionalist Radliffe-Brown noted that in Australia exogamous (outmarrying) groups were named after birds. The rule of exogamy meant, for example, that eaglehawk men married crow women, and vice versa. He argued that totemism referred not to the mystical beliefs, but to the way humans conceived the relationship between the social and natural world.

The structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss developed the idea that totemism resulted from a universal mode of human classification that created homologies between the natural and cultural spheres. The important factor was not the way an individual totem related to an individual clan, but how relationships between totems reflected relations between social groups. Totemism, according to Lévi-Strauss, was part of a broader cognitive system of classification, which involved divisions between nature/culture and female/male. The relationship posited between natural species became a way of talking about the relationship between social groups. The use of totemism as a classifying system naturalized these differences. CL

Further reading Adam Kuper, The Invention of the Primitive Society; , Claude Lévi-Strauss, Totemism.



Bookmark this page:



<< former term
next term >>
Tourism, Anthropology Of


Other Terms : Rational Choice | Supply-Side Economics | National Socialism
Home |  Add new article  |  Your List |  Tools |  Become an Editor |  Tell a Friend |  Links |  Awards |  Testimonials |  Press |  News |  About |
Copyright ©2009 GeoDZ. All rights reserved.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us