Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
3Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Compare and contrast different conceptualisations of the body and self in at least two world religions. What are the theoretical implications of these conceptualisations?

Compare and contrast different conceptualisations of the body and self in at least two world religions. What are the theoretical implications of these conceptualisations?

Ratings:
(0)
|Views: 44|Likes:
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Elena Georgalla. Originally submitted for Anthropology of Religion at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Mark Harris in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Elena Georgalla. Originally submitted for Anthropology of Religion at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Mark Harris in the category of Social Studies

More info:

Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
See more
See less

10/27/2013

 
Compare and contrast different conceptualisations of the bodyand self in at least two world religions. What are the theoreticalimplications of these conceptualisations?
 Abstract 
 The body can serve as a medium through which people externalise theirreligious experience. Taoism and Greek Orthodox Christianity appear tothe non-connoisseur to exhibit two distinctively different anthropologies,that is, conceptualisations of what it means to be human. However,ethnographic studies of Taoists in Brazil and Orthodox pilgrims in Greececan reverse this view. The body can serve as a medium through whichfollowers to both religious traditions can externalise their religiousexperience. For Taoism, what is particularly at stake is the performativedimension of the Taoist tradition, best expressed in the notion of 
 praktognosis -
embodied knowledge. As for Greek Orthodox Christianity,the struggle to fulfil God's 'image and likeness' becomes an embodiedfight. These ethnographic accounts evoke questions regarding the classicanthropological works on the body, knowledge, and experience andengage into a conversation with Stroller and Mauss.
Introduction
I focus on the comparative analysis of Eastern - specifically Greek -Orthodox Christianity, and Taoism, two separate traditions yet interlinkedin that, from a strictly Western perspective, they both constitute marginal“oriental” religions. Both have distinctive anthropologies- a unique view of what it means to be human. Orthodox Christianity emphasizes a holisticand collectivist form of personhood based on man’s affinity to God. Eventhough it appears that the body is secondary to this relationship, I willshow that people in various contexts externalize their religious experienceusing their bodies as the medium. In the case of Taoism, what isparticularly at stake is the performative dimension of the Taoist tradition,best conceptualized in the notion of 
 praktognosis
- embodied knowledge. The two conceptualizations will be extensively analysed, supported byspecific ethnographic material from a Taoist practice centre in Brazil andritual healing and pilgrimage in Greece.I conclude by embracing Stoller’s view on embodied multi-sensorialexperience and discarding Mauss’ argument on techniques of the body.Essentially, the theoretical implications of the comparison betweenOrthodox Christianity and Taoism are entailed in Stoller’s (1997)
1
 
distinction between histories “from above” (written texts) and histories“from below” (objects and kinetics) – especially body techniques. Centralto this discussion is that knowledge can be imprinted on the body and thatthe body itself can be used as means of establishing relationships andtransmitting knowledge.
Tao Masters in Brazil
 Taoism has seldom triggered the anthropological imagination. I wouldattribute this to its usual study as part of the Chinese religious trinityalongside Confucianism and Buddhism. It seems to me, however, thatthere is a more intellectual dimension to this. To capture Taoismtheoretically poses a biological challenge to the ethnographer given that Taoism is, primarily, pragmatics: one
knows
the legacy of traditionthrough personal embodied experience. Therefore, there is no way of doing an ethnography of Taoism without feeling its effects on the skin(Neto 2006:8). To expand on this reflection with relation to Taoistpersonhood, I discuss an ethnographic study of a particular Taoist practicecentre in Sao Paulo, established by Tao Master Liu Pai Lin (Neto 2006). Theschool attracts various people, from sufferers of chronic illness, to medicalprofessionals interested in the philosophical aspects of corporal therapies,performance artists and a New Age crowd. Unlike Greek OrthodoxChristians, Taoists do no configure a distinct ethnic group. Thus, albeit Taocorporal knowledge being an integral part of all practitioners’ everydaylives, not all of them relate to such practices as a binding spiritual tradition(ibid, 2). Taoist knowledge is acquired more as a performative act and less asdogmatic textual interpretation. In this light, verbal language is of minorsignificance to the Taoist. Neto (2006: 1) asserts that the notion of text,and narration, should include speech and literature, iconographic materialand, above all, techniques of the body. Essentially, the Taoist cultural textis an epistemological hybrid, simultaneously encompassing words, voice,image, and body not as a mere biological “fact”, but constituent of acosmological network. This is in perfect conformity with the notion of 
 praktognosis
: embodied knowledge.
2
 
For Taoism to become intelligible it is important to present its coreideological assumptions. Tao, the central concept of Chinese wisdom,translated the “way”, is the abstract innovator and guide (yet, not creator)of the universe. From an original state of chaos, Tao created twofundamental forces, Yin and Yang, the organic aspects of the world.
TaoTe Ching
, the classic Taoist text, illustrates how Taoism is not a religionbut a kind of “nature mysticism”. In this framework, one may enquireabout the human position. In response to this, Morris writes of Taoism:
In this naturalistic philosophy, human beings were seen as a microcosm of the universe, and subject to the same principles and influences as natureitself. The only manner in which humans could attain the right way, theTao, was to emulate and follow the natural rhythms and patterns of theuniverse.
(1994:100) Taoism is profoundly practical and “this-worldly”. Unlike other mystics,who saw salvation as the separation of the individual from a ‘mattercorrupt’ world, the Taoist tendency is one of self and life affirmation. “The Taoist does not conquer life to win salvation but yields to the eternalreturn of thing” (Girardot 1983: 42). To be Taoist implies voluntaryidentification with the tradition and daily corporal engagement in a projectof self construction. This is conceived as a
return to origins
, to a state of spontaneity, fulfilment and vitality. Taoist techniques of the body may bedescribed as “arts of existence” or “techniques of the self” (Foucault1988:15). A Tao master or disciple, is a link in a dialogical andgenealogical chain, in which spatiotemporal narratives on the eternalsecrets of life and death, inscribed especially in living bodies, aretransmitted through martial arts, meditation, and traditional medicine(Neto, 3). Taoism epistemology conveys a very physical appreciation of the humanbody, conceived primarily through the universal balance of Yin and Yang.Although Yang is a predominantly male principle and Yin is prominent inwomen, neither of these principles exists in a pure form, and a balancedproportion of each has to be present in every functioning human being,creating, in fact, an androgynous consciousness. This interdependent
3

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->