Birth of Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski Hot

Birth of Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski

Bronislaw Malinowski
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Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski is born in Krakow, Poland. Best known developing the school of thought known as Functionalism, Malinowski will argue that all aspects of society and culture work together to create a coherent whole and that each part has a function within that whole — even if outside observers cannot readily detect that function.

Malinowski will also be well known for his ideas about the development of human religion. His theories are developed while studying the Trobriand Islanders of New Guinea; he finds that their superstitions grow more complex the farther the fishermen travel out to sea. While in close in lagoons, they have few rituals. When they enter deep, dangerous waters their rituals become highly complex.

Contrary to many others, Malinowski concludes that superstition is not the product of stupidity; rather, it is the product of uncertainty. Rituals and religious belief systems thus develop as a way both to cope with uncertain situations and to cope with the anxiety that those situations produce in us:

"We find magic wherever the elements of chance and accident, and the emotional play between hope and fear have a wide and extensive range.

We do not find magic wherever the pursuit is certain, reliable, and well under the control of rational methods and technological processes. Further, we find magic where the element of danger is conspicuous."

Thus, Malinowski concludes, we should treat religion and superstition as the natural products of human existence. They must necessarily exist because fear and uncertainty also necessarily exist.

Even if we remove one element of uncertainty and, thereby, one reason for religion, we will only be faced with other elements of uncertainty and, therefore, other reasons for religion. Superstition, magic, and religion are produced by our environment.

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Bronislaw Malinowski

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