A is for Anthropology & Sociology
A couple days ago Dan & I visited the Minnesota Science Museum for their exhibit on the Maya. I felt that they did a great job, there were many original artifacts, as well as reproductions, and videos discussing different aspects of Maya civilization both ancient and modern culture. This reminded me of the importance of studying anthropology as a modern Pagan. With the tools of anthropology we can look at religions like the Maya that have been suppressed by Christianity, syncretized and later revived as well as uninterrupted traditions, like Hinduism and Shinto to give us an idea of how polytheistic/animistic traditions can be practiced in a modern context.
In college I did not take any anthropology classes, but I did study sociology. Anthropology is the study of human beings and their cultural development, sociology is the study of human society. Basically the two disciplines are coming from different directions, but sometimes study the same subjects. Sociology started out as a way of attempting to understand social changes caused by urbanization and industrialization in the 19th century. Anthropology from what I understand, in part came from British and other Europeans trying to understand pre-industrial cultures that they were colonizing. Indigenous people were often exploited and misrepresented for the promotion of academic careers, and their cultures were harmed. Because of that there is a lot of suspicion from Native peoples toward anthropologists. Modern anthropology has moved beyond its colonial past, but it still has many Western biases. Those are important things to keep in mind.
So here’s my idea for Pagan Blog Project 2014: For at least half the letters I will be blogging about different concepts & ideas from anthropology and sociology that I think would be useful to Western culture-based Neo-Pagans, Polytheists and others in understanding our own religions & subcultures, and in building understanding with indigenous (non-European) traditions.