Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.246705
Title: Pentecostalism and the adaptive significance of trance
Author: Bloomfield, Michael
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2001
Availability of Full Text:
Access through EThOS:
Access through Institution:
Abstract:
The thesis combines sociocultural anthropology with Darwinism. My ethnographic fieldwork centres on a Pentecostal church in contemporary Britain. Members engage in ecstatic worship that includes glossolalia or speaking in tongues. Utilising a cross-cultural perspective, I suggest that this form of worship is typical in conditions of economic and political deprivation, and in terms of vocalisations, gestures and altered mental states, represents a powerful means of status elevation. I further suggest that ecstatic trance can be seen as an extreme form of "handicap" in Zahavi's sense, as essentially a sociopolitical signal of counter-dominance rather than catharsis (the psychological view) or the expression of cultural themes (the interpretive anthropology view). I regard trance as essentially pathomimetic, i.e. modelled on such pathologies as epilepsy, constituting in other words a kind of "sham epilepsy" which, in rendering the individual temporarily 'insane' and incapacitated, represents the ultimate in collective handicapping. This enables immensely strong bonds to be forged between trance participants. Furthermore, Pentecostalism's strong de-emphasis on material symbols of sacredness and emphasis on God being experienced through performance, which I suggest is typical of nascent religion, allows us to infer the existence of religious activity long before images of divinity began being produced as external figurines or art forms around 35,000 year ago. Finally, the peculiar mental concomitants of trance, which I view as part of a uniquely human capacity I term the alien imagination, are shown to engender highly creative supernatural thought. I propose that trance behaviour may have acted as a 'kick-start' in the evolutionary emergence of novel technological and conceptual frameworks. I thus oppose the cognitivism of writers such as Mithen and favour social factors as causal in cognitive evolution.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.246705  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Darwinism Anthropology Folklore Philosophy Religion
Share: