Chapter 3. Theoretical Approaches Toward The Study of Religion

Amanda Zunner-Keating
22 min readDec 1, 2020

Which social scientists had the greatest impact on the study of religion?

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3.1 What is religion?

Before we begin our discussion on the definition of religion, it’s important to understand that anthropologists are not interested in the truth or falsity of any given religion (Guest 61). Due to the very nature of religious phenomena as faith-based and scientifically unprovable, there is no way to examine which religions are “true” or “false” or which types of magic “work” or “do not work.” We are similarly not here to judge which religions are better or worse because, as you already understand, all religions make sense within their own, culturally-specific contexts. So, as we examine the beliefs of the world’s religions, it’s essential that you approach the research with an open mind. Try to separate your own religious beliefs from your study of other religions and do not measure them against your own, culturally-specific standards.

The question, “What is religion” is exceptionally challenging to answer. Reflect on how you might define “religion.” While there is no one, unified agreement on how we might define religion, there are some common ideas that many use to define religion:

  • Religion often engages with a God/Gods/supernatural beings
  • Religion often defines morality
  • Religion includes community and ritual
  • Religion controls people’s behavior

Let’s pause to explain why none of these definitions reflect the total reality of all religions:

  • While most religions believe in a God, not all religions do. For example: there are some branches of Buddhism that focus exclusively on the human experience, inward reflection, and the psyche instead of focusing on whether a god exists or not.
  • Religion very often defines morality, but this is not a unique characteristic of religion. For example, our political parties also strive to define morality for the entire nation and, typically, these definitions are not religious.
  • Most religions do build community through ritual practice, but we similarly have countless cultural rituals that are non-religious (for example: gift-giving during birthdays). So, this is not a unique definition of religion.
  • And, like all elements of culture, religion controls our behavior by promising salvation, enlightenment, or good fortune in exchange for “good” acts. But, as you likely already understand, our behaviors are controlled by non-religious forces, too including: the law, family structures, employment/capitalism, gender roles, and more.

We use the term agnostic to reflect a person or religious group that believes that the human mind cannot conceive of god. This is a commonly misused term, it’s often used to refer to a person who has not selected a religion for themselves yet. In fact, many religions can be agnostic including: many Buddhist groups, many mystical sects of mainstream religions, transcendentalism, Unitarian Universalists, and more. Agnosticism is the idea that human brains could not possibly understand all of the complexities and powers of the divine being or beings that may exist. This worldview embraces the idea that one’s own religion cannot answer all of the questions presented by the nature of reality.

So, while all of these elements are included in religion, there is no one definition of religion that can be universally applied. Nor are there any truly unique characteristics of religion that cannot be found elsewhere in society.

3.2 Edward Burnett Tylor

Edward Burnett Tylor was an early British anthropologist who lived from 1832–1917. Born into a religious minority group in England (a Quaker) he grew up to view religions as cultural structures rather than systems of belief and this view prepared him to be one of the world’s first scholars on the matter of religion (Moore 4).

Edward Burnett Tylor is popularly called “the founder of modern anthropology” as he was the first to define what, exactly, culture was. He organized our field as an inquiry into social systems (Moore 3–4), and separated the study of social systems from biological study (Kuper 3).

3.3 Why Magic Works

Tylor examined the logic that existed within societies that he considered to be less evolved in order to make sense of their beliefs in their own terms (Kuper 25). He argued that non-European people believed in magic and that they reinforced their own ideas in four ways. It’s important to understand that these four characteristics of magical beliefs are applicable to many societies, such as our own, that Tylor had not fully considered. Today, anthropologists consider the existence of these characteristics in all human societies.

Tylor argued that magic might “work” for the following reasons.

  1. Randomly, the desired results will occur. Causing the believers to think that the magic practiced worked.
  2. Sometimes, the person performing the magic will use deception to convince participants.
  3. People tend to remember positive outcomes more often than the occasions when magic doesn’t work.
  4. When magic doesn’t produce the desired results, believers will blame counter-magic from someone else (Winnick 334).

Rebecca and Phillip Stein’s textbook on “The Anthropology of Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion” expands upon the idea of “why magic works.” For example:

  • The human mind frequently sees coincidence as evidence of causation. We might assume that two, unrelated events are causing one another (even in cases where the two events are not related).
  • Magic often attempts to cause outcomes that happen naturally. For example, people are unlikely to perform a rain ritual outside of the rainy season. So, when the rain ritual is performed immediately before the rains naturally start, a community might associate the magic with the outcome.
  • As humans, we are very resistant to changing our beliefs! Overcoming the long-held belief that magic exists can be very hard to overcome.
  • Practitioners of magic typically do not ask impossible things of magic. Magical beliefs and practices are usually restrained to the realm of possibility.

Remember, anthropologists define “magic” as any efforts made to change one’s life by supernatural means. Magic, in this sense, is practiced in nearly all religions and can be examined in a variety of contexts.

3.4 Cultural Evolutionism, Animism, and Diffusionism

In his most famous work, “Primitive Culture” Tylor outlined two key ideas that we will briefly discuss here. Please note that both of Tylor’s ideas are overly-simplistic by the standards of modern religious scholars. While neither fully reflect modern anthropological ideas, they both influenced early anthropological work and carry a small piece of validity that you may still choose to engage with throughout the course.

  • Cultural Evolutionism: The idea that cultures change and adapt over time to meet people’s changing needs (Winick 196).
  • Animism: The belief in spirits beings (Winick 26; Durkheim 27).

Specifically, Tylor argued that all societies believed that the soul continues on, in some form, after death (Tylor 1–43). Tylor specifically highlighted a belief in transmigration or the belief that a spirit can move from one body to another (in the form of reincarnation, for example). Tylor argued that all human societies first develop the idea of a “soul” when they first struggle to understand what is happening to them when they are dreaming (Durkheim 47).

Please note that Tylor’s work was problematic in many ways. His most famous work, “Primitive Cultures” refers to non-European societies as “lower races” and “savages.” He held the belief that societies evolve toward an inevitable level of “civilized” and this idea shaped many his arguments. For example, he wrote extensively on the languages that he encountered abroad and labeled some forms of language as “degenerative” (Moore 5), he strove to identify distinct ‘races’ of human and argued that members of these different groups were fundamentally different from one another in terms of their physical, intellectual, and ethical abilities (King 38–39; Stein and Stein 17), and he equated many non-European’s to “child-like” (Durkheim 50). As explained in the introduction of this course, human society does not always conform to the scientific method and Tylor (and his contemporaries) were deeply interested in taking an empirical approach toward the study of human cultures (Kuper 5). This manifested as an interest in collecting data in a pseudo-scientific sense. All of this reflects a mindset that barred him from ever seeing other cultures as fully human (which is essential for good fieldwork and analysis).

Tylor and his contemporaries took a theoretical approach that modern scholars refer to as “cultural evolutionism.” Before we define the term “evolutionism,” it is important to note that the evolutionist paradigm arose in response to another theoretical approach: “Diffusionism.” Both approaches offer answers the following question: why are there similarities and differences between human societies?

Diffusionism views cultural patterns (practices, beliefs, styles) as moving across trade and migration routes as people share and spread them (Winnick 168). Diffusionists embrace the idea that “greater” civilizations are able to spread their cultural forms across the globe, and often explain cultural changes as the result of practices, beliefs, or styles spreading into new areas, where they are adopted wholesale or modified slightly to fit local traditions. In contrast, evolutionism argues that cultures develop or change in order to adapt to their surroundings, building on their own preexisting adaptations. According to this argument, cultural similarities emerge between groups due to a universal human nature that causes groups all over the world (and at different times throughout our past and future) to solve similar problems in similar ways and to change in a predictable and linear manner.

While these two were initially considered to be at odds, in reality, human cultures are likely the product of both ever-evolving adaptations and migrations and trade across the globe (Moore 5).

3.5 Critiquing Tylor

Let’s critique Tylor’s concepts:

  1. Tylor’s “cultural evolutionism” purported that human cultures inevitably change and evolve over time. We know that it is true that cultures evolve over time, but Tylor’s hypothesis specifically argued that cultures (and religions) evolved in a linear manner. In other words, Tylor was of the view that all religions would evolve from spirit worship, to polytheism, to monotheism (this was, obviously, because he believed in a monotheistic religion and felt that his religion was the most advanced/superior). As we know, religions and cultures do not evolve in any kind of predetermined, linear manner. Furthermore, there is no such thing as a “more” or “less” evolved culture (these are all culturally-specific ideas). So, we do still consider Tylor’s ideas because cultures do evolve and adapt in a variety of directions, but we do not embrace the idea that cultures evolve in a linear manner (Reed 322–323).
  2. Tylor established the idea of “animism” or the idea that all religions share one thing in common: the belief in spirits (Stocking 103). For Tylor, spirits might manifest as human souls, as the power of the Gods/divine, or as the spirits of nature. While this is an interesting argument, we know that some forms of Buddhism do not actually believe in any spirit beings at all (not even the human soul). Furthermore, some people believe in supernatural spirit beings such as the existence of leprechauns, ghosts, or guardian angels but they may not belong to an organized religion that governs these beliefs. So, while the term “animism” is helpful to discuss a common thread across religions, it’s not a universal or exclusive characteristic that can be applied in all cases.

3.7 Robert Marrett and Animatism

R.R. Marrett (1866–1943) was, similar to Tylor, an anthropologist who studied religion and who adopted the evolutionary approach. In Marrett’s view, the first form of religion was a belief in an ever-present and ubiquitous force that gave power to all elements of life (Durkheim 203). Marrett called this concept “mana,” a term used in Polynesia and Melanesia to describe the supernatural forces involved in ritual (Winick 341; McCurdy, Shandy, and Spradley 25).

Marret argued that supernatural, spiritual, and religious beliefs emerge when human beings are overwhelmed by the absolute power of nature. When we cannot explain how the universe around us works, we strive to make sense of it through constructions of the mind. Marrett called this “animatism,” and it refers to the supernatural powers like mana (Winick 26). According to Durkheim’s summary of Marrett’s arguments, animatism arises in the face of “anything that makes us feel admiration or fear (203).”

3.8 Marxism

Karl Marx is best known for writing “The Communist Manifesto” along with Friedrich Engels. “The Communist Manifesto” was published in 1848 and is a critique of the capitalist systems of production that, in the Marxist view, commodifies workers for the benefit of wealthier employers. Marx and Engels’ works examined their understanding of the historical evolution of modern economic systems and highlighted the power imbalances within the capitalist system.

Consider the following scenario: the majority of students reading this work 40 hours every week in order to cover the basic expenses of rent, food, healthcare, tuition, etc. When you work 40 hours every week for an employer, you have 40 fewer hours every week to participate in activism, to raise or educate your children, to create art, to study, to be with loved ones, or to contribute to the wellbeing of your community. Instead of using those 40 hours to create a world that reflects your value system, you’re spending those 40 hours following guidelines set out by your employer (which typically means making them more money — and therefore creating a world in which they are more powerful). Employers typically hire workers at the lowest possible wage that the worker will accept. In the case of for-profit companies, the workers are then required to spend each hour (at the lowest possible wage) working to accumulate wealth for the employer that already had a great deal more money and power than the employee has. And so, in this system, the wealthy are able to buy your power from you by purchasing hours of your life from you.

In other words, in a capitalist culture, less wealthy people leave their families and communities every day in order to earn more wealth for the most powerful members of our society. This perspective on money and power is increasingly mainstream as more information about income inequality enters the realm of popular culture. As Oxfam highlighted in January 2020, “The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than…4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the planet’s [poorest communities].” When only 2,000 people have as much money and power as 60% of the rest of humanity, what makes workers continue to show up for work?

Marx argued that religion, as an ideology, maintains this system of inequality. In Marx’s view, those without wealth or power continue to work for low wages because they have internalized the idea that any type of work is, itself, an inherent moral value. Within a religious, capitalist culture, people work to benefit the rich because they believe that we will be rewarded in the afterlife.

3.9 “The Opium of the People”

Marx once described religion as “the opium of the people” which is a commonly cited and commonly misunderstood quote. Many dictatorial regimes have, historically, misappropriated this Marxist argument to justify a violent crackdown on religion in their countries (Eagleton 128). At the time of Marx’s claim, opium was legal and was widely used to relieve pain. So, he was not arguing that religion was some kind of addictive drug that people behave in an unreasonable manner. Rather, he was arguing that religion was a comfort to people who were suffering (Stein and Stein 18).

Marx’s exact quote on the matter is,

“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusion.”

Marx was not seeking to punish or eliminate religion but, rather, did not consider religion to be as real as a person’s material necessities required to survive (Eagleton 128). Marx and Engels did not view religion as an inherent part of human nature but, rather as a construction offered by powerful groups in order to maintain the “false consciousness” necessary to keep workers working (Stein and Stein 18). Marx argued that power flows from the top of society downward to influence the internalized ideologies of those with less power (Mascia-Lees 157).

Marx and Engels’ works have had variety of influences across the world since their original publications: socialism has taken hold in a variety of degrees across the world with varying levels of success, at the same time, socialism has been rejected in other parts of the world resulting in a strengthened cultural commitment to capitalism (also with varying levels of success). In cultural anthropology, Marx and Engels’ influence resulted in a new theoretical approach toward the study of culture which we call The Marxist Approach (Kuper 182–183). The Marxist Approach examines power imbalances that exist within and across cultures. Specifically, the Marxist Approach considers how “material conditions” (or, the production of things that people need to survive) leads to the spread, or elimination, or maintenance of particular cultural trends, beliefs in traditions.

For an advanced understanding of Marxism and Anthropology, read the following optional pages:

3.10 Clifford Geertz and Symbolism

Clifford Geertz was an American, symbolic anthropologist who strove to understand how human societies construct and engage with symbols used to convey layers of meaning in life. Geertz established his own definition of religion as outlined in his book, “The Interpretation of Cultures.”
He defines religion as,

  1. “A system of symbols which acts to
  2. Establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivation in [people] by
  3. Formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and by
  4. Clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that
  5. The moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic. “(97)

What his definition means is:

  1. Religion is a system of symbols. When we look at our own religions, we can see a variety of symbols that are quite literal and then other symbols which are more powerful and which reflect our ideologies. Consider, for example, when you enter a church you may see a crucifix on the wall. The crucifix represents Christ’s death (this is a literal symbol). However, Jesus’ crucifixion symbolizes a much more important set of values that are central to Christianity including: God’s unending love for humanity and Jesus’ immense suffering to gain humanity’s forgiveness.
  2. These symbols (both large and small) establish certain moods and motivations within us. For example, at the most literal level, you may not feel particularly religious until you enter a beautiful church. Upon seeing the tall structure, stained glass windows with religious symbols on them, and upon hearing the religious hymns, you may start to feel more religious and to reflect on religious concepts. On an ideological level, the symbols of your religion establish motivations in you that change your behavior. To use Christianity example again, you may decide to forgive someone who wronged you based on your understanding that Jesus suffered a great deal and still forgave humanity.
  3. Using symbols, religions establish a general order of existence. For example, nearly all religions promise good outcomes for humans who behave properly. Perhaps your religion promises Heaven, blessings for future generations, or reincarnation into a better life. However the universe is ordered in the context of your own religion, these concepts are presented using religious symbols. For example: artwork and religious texts may reflect the wheel of reincarnation or a soul’s ascent into heaven.
  4. Geertz points out that these symbols and correlating value systems are presented to us as absolute fact. As we’ve discussed before, religion requires faith to exist and it cannot be proven scientifically. As the majority of humanity is assigned a religion immediately at birth, the ideologies of our religions are established as absolute fact in our minds.
  5. Then, because these religious values and principles are established as fact and presented symbolically, the moods and motivations feel like they are uniquely our own and they feel like they are coming, organically and naturally, from our spirits.

Clifford Geertz argued that our religions shape our reality and our sense of community. In this way, religion creates meaning in our lives. Anthropologists closely examine the symbolic nature of religious life in order to better understand these elements.

3.11 Functionalists on Religion

Functionalists argue that human cultural forms serve a particular function typically aimed at facilitating survival or procreation (but, not limited to these functions). Functionalists ask themselves, “what is the function of this cultural belief or practice?” and then strive to make sense of the practice holistically.

When we ask, “what is religion?” we can refer to answers proposed by two social scientists who we have already discussed and who have applied functionalism to this question.

Bronislaw Malinowski argued in a way that is somewhat similar to Marx’s argument: religions offer comfort and control to people. Malinowski argued that religion helps people meet basic human needs: a need for control and certainty in an otherwise uncertain world (Stein and Stein 19–20). Whereas Marx argued that religion comforts people in the face of their societal oppression, Malinowski argued that religion comforts us and gives us a sense of control in the face of a natural world that is, in reality, completely out of our control.

An example of Malinowski’s arguments on this matter can be found In his research among the Trobriand Islanders. His research on their ritual practices are widely referenced because they reflect a pattern that exists across many human cultures including our own. Anthropologist George Gmelch explains Malinowski’s conclusions in “Baseball Magic,”

“Trobriand islanders, according to anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, felt the same way about their fishing magic. Trobrianders fished in two different settings: in the inner lagoon where fish was plentiful and there was a little danger, and on the open sea where fishing was dangerous and yields very widely. Malinowski found that magic was not used in the lagoon fishing where men could rely solely on their knowledge and skill. But when fishing on the open sea, Trobrianders relied on and used a great deal of magic to ensure safety and increase their catch (Gmelch 267).”

In other words, human beings are likely to rely on magic and religions in times where we have little control over our circumstances. On occasions where we can count on our skills, abilities or knowledge to assure a good outcome, we are likely to rely on those rather than turning to the supernatural to assist us. In Malinowski’s view, this reveals the reality that religions fill a gap in human life by creating a sense of control and comfort.

3.12 Émile Durkheim on Functionalism

Another early proponent of functionalism, sociologist Émile Durkheim, argued that religion in human societies serves the function of encouraging good behavior and, thus, facilitating human survival. Writing at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Durkheim accepted a widespread belief that in ancient human societies, most adults regularly performed similar tasks to other adult members of their groups. Within such societies — where each family met its own needs by engaging in the same activities as its neighbors — Durkheim reasoned that religious beliefs would have served several critical functions for the good of the group:

  • Religion lays out basic rules for behavior, creates a uniform understanding of which behaviors are appropriate and which are not
  • Religion restrains natural selfishness and promotes cooperation (Stein and Stein 18–20).

In contrast, within “modern” societies (here Durkheim was referring mostly to the European societies of his day), social life was highly differentiated, which is to say that there existed a variety of different professions, interest groups, and social classes. For Durkheim, it was clearly not the case that all adult members of French society in the 1890s lived similarly to one another. In particular, ‘modern’ societies featured a “division of labor” — meaning that not all members engaged in similar tasks on a daily basis.

Durkheim likened a differentiated society to a living organism, and suggested that the differentiated groups within these societies could be thought of as distinct organs inside a living body. Each social class and professional group produced goods or performed tasks that somehow helped the organism — the society itself — to survive. Groups within a society (unique “organs”) then exchanged the products of their labor with others so that all could efficiently meet their needs.

Certainly, this “organic” view was an optimistic way of understanding how society and economy work, and you might find it easy to think of professions or perhaps entire social classes that you feel do not benefit anyone but themselves, let alone their entire society (Karl Marx would have agreed, and the overly optimistic nature of Durkheim’s ideas and of functionalism in general are certainly legitimate critiques).

Durkheim’s central point, however, was that in a society that features a division of labor and where people experience vastly different lives than their neighbors, there must be some way to build cohesion, to maintain trust, and to enable cooperation between groups. He theorized that as societies become differentiated at some point in their development, religion tends to transform from its original functions (see bullet points above) to fill this new need.

Religion in “modern” societies (those that feature a division of labor) thus serves a different function than it did in ancient ones, now creating what Durkheim called “organic solidarity” — a sense of common identity or common interest among the different organs of a differentiated society.

Durkheim’s theory of religion and its functions exemplifies the kind of ‘linear thinking’ we outlined in the discussion of Edward Burnett Tylor outlined earlier. Durkheim accepted the idea we first saw in Tylor’s work, that all societies develop along similar trajectories, from one ‘type’ to the next in a series of universal stages. Building on this framework, Durkheim proposed that as transitions between these universal stages occurred, religious beliefs would have automatically changed too, thus enabling human groups to adapt to the new challenges they faced by keeping increasingly differentiated groups working together.

3.13 Common Characteristics of Religion

In this chapter, we’ve discussed some of the most widely used arguments developed by social scientists throughout the examination of religion, and you are encouraged to embrace the theoretical approach that best speaks to you.

Due to diversity and complexity, it is exceptionally challenging to even define “religion” in any way that will be applicable to all of what you likely consider to be the world’s religions. However, we can identify a handful of characteristics that often exist within most religions. Please note that none of these characteristics are universal and not all characteristics will be present in every single religion. But, at this point in the course, you need to be familiar with these common religious characteristics.

Most human religions incorporate some version of each of the following elements:

  • Animism: Belief in spirit beings (as discussed above).
  • Enchanted Worldview: Belief in powers or worlds that are not perceived by humans. An “enchanted worldview” is the idea that there is a great deal in the universe that human beings can not fully see; some examples include the existence of ghosts, guardian angels, a karmic law, the presence of magic, and so on. Most religions (not all) embrace an idea that there are elements of reality that are beyond our perception.
  • Ritual: Ceremonial actions that are performed according to a prescribed order.
  • Death Ritual: Funerary practices intended to mark the passing of a person. Death rituals are usually to be the final rite of passage and vary widely across the globe.
  • Magic: Whenever people try to take control of their circumstances by calling upon supernatural powers, anthropologists consider them to be engaging with magic. For example: if you complete a spell in the woods to bring about fertility then you are engaging in magic. At the same time, if you are praying to the Christian God to give you an A on an exam, then you are engaging in magic (in an anthropological sense).
  • Myth: A sacred story that informs a people’s worldview.
  • Meaning: Attempts to create order and control of the natural world in the face of uncertainty. This is arguably the most important element of religion: religions help human beings create a sense of meaning in their lives by creating community, developing a sense of morality, and by answering the questions that are, otherwise, unanswerable.

So, throughout the remainder of this course, try to see how many of these characteristics you can find in any given religion. And, as always, please be prepared to critique and engage with the arguments outlined above (and throughout all of these lessons).

3.14 Taboos

When we strive to define “religion” we often find ourselves engaging with other magical, superstitious, or cultural beliefs that can shape or alter behavior but that you may not initially believe to be “religious.” Although, as we’ve already discussed, these definitions can sometimes bleed together and the borders between them can be harder and harder to define. The concept of the “taboo” is complex and taboos can sometimes fall in the grey area between religion and secular life.

We use the term “taboo” to refer to anything that is culturally forbidden. You are likely familiar with a variety of things that are forbidden in your culture. Consider words that are forbidden, topics of discussion that are forbidden at family gatherings or holidays, maybe certain colors or articles of clothing are forbidden in your culture.

But anthropologists use the term taboo in a slightly different way. We define a “taboo“ as anything that is believed to bring about automatic, negative consequences. All cultures have taboos, and most of us view these as governing rules of the universe that, if followed, keep people out of trouble. Typically, these taboos are viewed as natural laws; even if a person breaks the taboo by accident, they will still bring about automatic, negative consequences.

What happens, for example, if you break a mirror? You may have encountered a cultural belief that you will have seven years of bad luck. Most likely, you didn’t break the mirror on purpose in order to cause yourself bad luck… And yet the negative consequences of this action are still believed to occur automatically. We view these superstitions like natural laws.

Similarly, you may have heard the expression, “If you step on a crack you break your mother’s back.” Most of us might not actually believe that that one is true. But, an anthropologist who studies superstition still will struggle to walk under ladders without feeling afraid that something bad will happen to her as a result. We know that walking under a ladder is not connected to misfortune, but the cultural taboo is so deeply ingrained in us that we struggle to overcome it.

American anthropologist George Gmelch closely examined the taboos and rituals that exist among professional athletes and their fans. In this study, we can see that some superstitions are so important to people that they become religious while others even incorporate religious elements. Read his work and then decide, for yourself, where the line can be drawn between religion and superstition.

3.15 “Baseball Magic”

Before continuing, please read and take notes on the following material:



“Anthropology for the 21st Century.” Essentials of Cultural Anthropology: a Toolkit for a Global Age, by Kenneth J. Guest, W. W. Norton and Company, 2020.

Beverley, James A. Religions A-Z. Thomas Nelson, 2005.

Bloch, Maurice. Marxism and Anthropology The History of a Relationship. Taylor and Francis, 2013.

Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford University Press, 2008.

Gmelch, George. “Baseball Magic.” Society, vol. 8, no. 8, 1971, pp. 39–41., doi:10.1007/bf02908325.

King, Charles. Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and … Gender in the Twentieth Century. ANCHOR, 2020.

Kuper, Adam. Anthropology and Anthropologists: the Modern British School. Routledge, 2014.

Mascia-Lees, Frances E. Gender & Difference in a Globalizing World: Twenty-First Century Anthropology. Waveland Press, 2010.

McCurdy, David W., et al. Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. Pearson, 2016.

Moore, Jerry D. Visions of Culture: an Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.

Reed, Erik. “Diffusionism and Darwinism.” Readings in Anthropology, edited by E. Adamson Hoebel and Jesse D. Jennings, McGraw-Hill, 1955.

Roseberry, William (1988). “Political Economy”. Annual Review of Anthropology. []

Stein, Rebecca, and Stein, Phillip. Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft. 3rd Ed.

Stocking, George W. Race, Culture, and Evolution.

Tylor, Edward B. Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom. Dover Publications, 2016.

Weber, M. (2001). The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Routledge.

Wallerstein, Immanuel (2004). World-systems analysis: an introduction (5. print. ed.). Durham: Duke University Press. [ ]

Winick, Charles. Dictionary of Anthropology. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2014.



This is part of “Beliefs: An Open Invitation to the Anthropology of Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion.” This chapter is written and edited by Amanda Zunner-Keating and Ben Shepard for Los Angeles Valley College, recorded by Amanda Zunner-Keating. Photo by James Lee on Unsplash. Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.