Taboos and rituals
Functionalism dominated social anthropology for several decades, particularly in Britain and the Commonwealth countries in which Malinowski and RadcliffeBrown’s ideas were so influential. The work of anthropologists in tribal societies shows this influence very clearly and in this chapter some of this work will be outlined and discussed and contrasted against alternative perspectives in order to get as clear a picture as possible of how functionalist ideas have been applied. Just two themes among the many that the anthropological literature covers, namely taboo and certain types of ritual, specifically communal rituals and rites de passage are considered. Alongside functionalist accounts of these sets of belief and behaviour we shall examine also various alternative interpretations.