In recent years, sociologists and anthropologists have conducted significant studies of modem life using concepts and perspectives derived from symbolic anthropology. This paper discusses the theoretical and methodological probÂ lems entailed, including the distinction between symbolic and nonsymbolic actions. Research on three major areas of behavior is reviewed: (a) studies of institutions, especially politics, law, and social control; (b) studies of ceremoÂ nial events, including life-cycle rituals, sports, and festivals; and (c) studies of everyday life, including consumer goods and food, and popular culture. We conclude with a discussion of the methodological issues of location and dimensionality and the different forms of symbolic analysis. INTRODUCTION Among anthropologists words like ritual, myth, ceremony, and symbolism are central to the study of social life in primitive societies. In contemporary sociology they have been, at best, peripheral and exotic terms, and the activiÂ ties they denote have not usually been studied in modem societies. While major anthropologists figured prominently in studies of such phenomena in the past, in recent years a special field of symbolic anthropology has emerged especially 0360-0572/84/08 15-0417$02.00 GUSFIELD & MICHALOWICZ oriented to the analysis of symbols and meanings in many areas of social life (Firth 1973, Dolgin
Annual Review of Sociology – Annual Reviews
Published: Aug 1, 1984
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