Sample Questions

1. How do you think totemism is represented, if at all, in Modern Western Society? How is this different to its representation amongst primitive people?

In modern western society, we see traces of totemism in:
- Childhood
- Neurosis (in terms of overvaluation of psychical activity, and obsessional rituals according to self-implemented taboos)
- In attitudes towards rulers, fathers, the dead and enemies (in terms of emotional ambivalence)
- Elaborate on the nature of each of these, giving evidence (experimental, anecdotal etc.) and evaluate how accurately they can be termed a modern representation of totemism.

In Primitive people totemism was represented through:
- Naming - each clan member shared the same name - that of the totem
- Dressing - they sometimes made themselves into likenesses of their totem
- They obeyed the taboos concerning it - e.g. they would not eat or kill it, and the totem-clan organisation was observed in making marital choices.
- They sometimes made rulers, into totem like figures, surrounded by resulting taboos.
- Totemism, was reflected to an even greater degree in their lifestyle - many ceremonies in which taboos were often broken 'legitimately' in collective behaviour.

Having considered these and others, instances of totemism both in Western society and amongst primitive people, you could look at further questions such as how and why totemism and its representation and influence in life have changed (does a decrease in emotional ambivalence really account for diminishing inclinations to totemism? Or does it simply reflect the transition through the schools of thought from animism, to religion to scientific?) In conclusion, there are stark differences in the beliefs concerning totems however if the relationship between totemism and exogamy is as intimate as suggested, this would be an instance of a pretty constant representation of totemism - which leads to the question of why such an innate horror at incest etc.?

2. Discuss the evidence for and against the proposed relationship between the Oedipus Complex, and the taboos associated with totems.

The problem here requires the similarities - in terms of underlying themes - and differences between each with the taboos and totems to be identified. The Oedipus complex can be seen as a reaction to be repressed, according to the horror of incest that one feels about it - such a horror of incest, and the resultant exogamy is also found in totems and taboos. The Oedipus complex can be seen to comprise emotional ambivalence, in both the love and hate he has for both his mother and father.

The correspondence between narcissism and animism, and the religious thought's correspondence with the stage of object choice, in which the child characteristically attaches himself to his parents, and the scientific phase and its correspondence with the use of the external world as the object of desires.

If the totem animal is indeed equivocal to the father figure in the family - this is very similar to the sort of fear and worship that Oedipus had for his father, his jealousy (as of a totem king etc.) and the same prohibitions that are imposed on the son as the members of a totem clan-he may not have a relationship with his mother, sister, nor kill his father.

On the same line of thought, reports of neurotics, shows that their obsessional rituals according to fears and loves they have imposed on themselves (emotional ambivalence), can be equated to taboos - the obsessional rituals that they impose on their clan members.

Furthermore, as in dreams, it seems that as the secondary revision has a meaning that is different to the operative meaning of the dream thoughts - so too do ceremonial rituals and symbolic totem rituals have two meanings - one true and one operative.

However differences can be found too, so the analogy is not exact. For example - neurotics are inhibited in their ritual actions whereas primitive people are uninhibited in their equivalent rituals - so their purposes might not be as analogous as their similar operatives suggests.

In conclusion, it seems that the similarity between taboos and their totems, might be elucidated further by investigating these analogies, so they do have a role, however it must be borne in mind that these

  By PanEris using Melati.

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