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Cultural Anthropology: Cultural Variation Among Humans Essay

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Updated: Sep 6th, 2022

Introduction

Anthropology is the study of people and different aspects of their life throughout their evolutionary history. Cultural anthropology is one of the branches that concerns human cultures, social structures, practices, and beliefs. It studies how people’s life is shaped in accordance with their ideas and behaviors, which helps to understand the differences and similarities between the cultures of separate nations and periods. Cultural diversity can be tracked in various areas, among them language, traditions, art, religion, family, politics, medicine, sports, and many others. The versatility of human existence often makes these subjects intertwine, allowing the researchers to draw parallels between them. In that way, Serazio, in his article “Just How Much Is Sports Fandom Like Religion?” points out the resemblance of sports communities and religion. The purpose of this paper is to study the article and the matters that it addresses from an anthropological perspective.

Main body

The article presents the idea that sports teams are a sort of totems for fans that, just like in religion, identify and unite communities. The author states that, even though all the rituals popular among sports fans have “little effect on the outcome” of the game, they have an almost sacred meaning for people involved in sports (Serazio). The reasons for that go beyond motivational purposes and back to the earliest societies. The article refers to the statement made by Emile Durkheim, who emphasizes that worshipping “a divine form” inherent to society means worshipping the society itself at the same time (qtd. in Serazio). This observation compares a sports team to a godlike being for the fans and sports rituals to religious rituals. Indeed, both serve identification purposes, helping the fandom (a society in a way) to distinguish itself through artifacts and ceremonies and find like-minded people. Serazio calls sports a “civic religion,” and the idea does not seem absurd if one turns to anthropology to draw connections between these two contexts. They appear different on the surface, but sports and religion seem to have common roots.

Given the content of the article, its relation to anthropology becomes clear. Such structures as sports fandoms and subcultures are the result of the social nature of people, who tend to associate and form communities. The primary formations used to be religious, but the signs of spiritual behavior can be detected even in other aspects of human life, such as sports. Cultural anthropology studies how people organize social structures based on their ideas and how such structures form their existence in turn. As can be seen from the sports fandom existence, people want to show their affiliation, even if it is not confirmed on an official level in some way. Serazio states that “there is something universal” in the way people united by the appreciation of a particular artifact or phenomenon gather. For communities, some specific objects can have sacred meaning, whether it is a religious item such as a cross or a Star of David, or a fandom attribute, such as a Chargers cap or a sports fan horn. Any of those items are used by individuals to identify themselves.

Apart from sacral objects, there are revered places, such as playing fields remarkable for sports fans or churches for worshippers. Special artifacts, places, events, or ceremonies are only some of the examples of the ways people share their ideas and preferences. Objects and traditions with symbolic meaning can be found in any society, which emphasizes the fact that the sports community is not an exception from the rule. Moreover, anthropology as the study of humans can help to understand the ritualistic nature of sports and see its connections to other aspects of society, including religion.

The article by Serazio highlights sports as an anthropological subject and studies its relation to religion. Such an approach allows the author to determine that the emergence of modern sports subcultures originates from ancient spiritual traditions (Serazio). Rooting for one’s favorite team presupposes group activities that have metaphorical meaning for their participants. Wearing scarves and caps with logos, painting faces on the game day, listening to the anthem, spraying champagne after the win – those are just a few of many traditions common in the sports environment. A holistic approach suggested by anthropology can help to interpret these metaphorical messages and decipher their meaning throughout history, since sports, along with religion, has been a part of humans’ life for a long time.

Conclusion

To sum up, an anthropological approach to the article studied in this paper proves to be an efficient means for defining the connections between the themes studied, namely, sports and religion. It can be stated that both are social phenomena, ritualistic in nature. Besides, symbolic actions and items are common for both sports and religion. As social beings, humans tend to group, shaping the social world they live in; the spheres of their life inevitably overlap, which makes human nature even more interesting for studying. The cross-cultural anthropological analysis can help to understand the connections between different areas and how they are established.

References

Serazio, Michael. The Atlantic, 2013. Web.

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