Chapter 7: Taboo (pp. 133-152) from Radcliff-Brown, A. R. (1952). Structure and function in primitive society. New York: Free Press of Glencoe. (M)

How is taboo defined? What are the origins of the word?

Is taboo a human universal?

Give examples of ritual prohibitions. What is the connection between these and taboo?

What is the difference between ritual prohibitions based in magic vs. those based religion?

What is ritual value? How is it defined and connected to taboo?

What is the difference between personal and social values?

What is the role of shared social values in the creation of human society? What role does taboo play in this?

What is meant by the social function of rites, rituals, and taboos?

Discuss the Adaman Islanders’ naming taboo. How does this force all community members to share in the concern of an individual’s “transitional” status?

Describe how taboo serves to affix social value to something and the social function this serves.

1.       Explain why the author suggests that a differentiation between magical rites and religious rites should not be made.

2.       Why is it important to avoid implementing our own ideas of holiness and uncleanliness to simpler societies?

3.       Why is it difficult to find the relationship between rituals and society?

4.       How do ritual theories explain the rituals involving childbirth among the Andaman tribes?

5.       Explain how and why groups form.