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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default About This Forum: Social Sciences, Moral and Religious

    I'm starting this thread for, roughly, the same reasons that Steve started his in the History section. In many ways, this forum is a "grab bag" for both the social sciences (minus History) and religion.

    In many discussions on this council, we have talked back and forth about the importance of cultural knowledge in small wars. As an Anthropologist, that is, I suppose, my stock in trade .

    But "cultural knowledge", in order for it to be useful, must be more than just a cheat sheet of rules and taboos - it must be an understanding of how a group of people "construct their reality". This means that "religion", in this context, is not a dry examination of texts but, rather, a "lived and living reality".

    That is one of the reasons why this forum exists as "Social Science and Religion" (the other reason is probably parsimony, but we don't want too many forums, do we?). Still and all, "religion", as many Anthropologists define it, is "living and lived", even if many people wouldn't consider this definition as "true".
    "Religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."
    Clifford Geertz, 1973 The Interpretation of Cultures
    One of the reasons I like this definition is that it allows us to look at symbol systems that are not generally considered to be "religions", e.g. ideologies, "totemic systems", regimental traditions, etc. Another reason I like this definition is that it totally changes ones understanding of Mao's work on Guerrilla War from a "secular" war to a "sacred" war.

    I'll freely admit that this is one of my own "pet rocks", to use Steve's phrase. I look at many of the small wars that have been fought in the past and, most especially, the GWOT as quintessentially ideological ("religious" in the Geertzian sense) wars - they are a fight over how (and who) "reality" will be constructed.

    Last edited by marct; 04-25-2007 at 09:00 PM.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University

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