Theories of Primitive Religion - Summary and Key Ideas

The book 'Theories of Primitive Religion' critically examines various anthropological theories on religion found amongst primitive societies. Throughout the book, the author, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, provides his views on these diverse theories, often demonstrating their inadequacies through logical analysis and field research documentation.

The book caters to scholars and students engaged in anthropological or religious studies. Its content promises to be valuable for those interested in understanding primitive religious phenomena and tradition. It also offers insight into historical perspectives and evolution of anthropological theories on religion.

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Theories of Primitive Religion

Key ideas


The origin and nature of primitive religions stem from various conjectures and theories encompassing intellectual, emotional, and sociological aspects.

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While emotions influence religion, it's complex social and cultural dynamics that primarily shape religious beliefs and practices.

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Religion, derived from social life and maintaining solidarity, embodies society through symbolic rituals, despite its ever speculative, socioeconomic interpretations.

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Primitive religions embody empirical knowledge and social functions, challenging early anthropological theories' simplistic understanding.

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The complexity of religion, both primitive and modern, necessitates an empirical sociology focusing on its functional relations to society and influence on beliefs and values.

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Summary & Review

"The Theories of Primitive Religion" by E.E. Evans-Pritchard is an anthropological examination of various theories that attempt to explain and understand the religious beliefs and practices of primitive peoples. The author addresses different theories, pragmatist views, sociological theories of religion, and the influence of these theories on the shaping of early societies. Evans-Pritchard concludes that what were once common-sense explanations now appear inadequately to account for the religions of primitives. However, he acknowledges these theories' historical value and their contribution to the development of social anthropology.

E.E. Evans-Pritchard

E.E. Evans-Pritchard was an influential anthropologist, known for his substantial contributions to social anthropology. He held the position of Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford. His research and insights went beyond the boundaries of traditional anthropological studies, often challenging existing theories and concepts.

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