Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chapter 13 "Baseball Magic" George Gmelch

When I first saw the title of the ethnography and the subject matter of the chapter which is religion, I was curious to see how baseball was related to religion. Then I read the introduction and got hocked by it, although it took me a while to see the link between the example and the word religion.

In "Baseball Magic", George Gmlech uses the example of baseball players to give us the possibility to approach religion in a different manner. I really thought at the beginning that the ethnography would be based on a specific religion e.g. Catholicism, Judaism or other ones and maybe related it to baseball (even if it seems like it doesn't make sense). However, while going throughout the text especially with the paragraphs of routines, I thought that these baseball players were crazy to think that because they do such thing or eat such thing before a game, it will help them to win. What about if the tuna fish sandwich that Dennis Grossini (p 126) eats before each match has a different ingredient that day? I started to think about all these questions. But then, I definitely reconsidered my opinion and pictured myself having also "weird" rituals. As an example, when I have a test I take a particular attention on how I write my number question. I must write for example 1) and not 1/ because I know this will help me to understand the question and to answer it correctly. I know this appears to be completely absurd (and it is) but I can't help myself on it. It is like my little thing to give me confidence during a test. I have to admit most of the time I am convinced that it works and do not try to show me the contrary.

What it is even more interesting is that I am sure that I have many other rituals that I do daily, but they are so established in my routine that I am not even conscious about.

Taking also into account the paragraph on taboo, I wondered if taboos are also what the society forbids or not, what is “ok” to talk in public, what is not and so on... I think that each culture and person has her own taboo that gives her limits in the way of thinking or behaving. What if we all do whatever we want without having fears or anxiety about it? Like if everything was accepted no matter what, just because it is what I believe in. Anyway, to give an example of a taboo in the domain of marine, I know that if you are on a boat it is strictly banned to say the word "rabbit" because it is bad luck and the boat might sinks. In the same way, to give to someone the salt from hands to hands, might creating troubles between you and this person. In France, we have numerous taboos related to superstition. It gives people to the possibility to have irrational answers for things that they can not control. Therefore it is reassuring. I am afraid of what I can not control of course, and having some explanations or "tricks" to take control over it, gives me confidence.

However, I do not have fetishes or material objects. I am more a routines and rituals person I guess. Maybe my fetish before taking an exam or doing something important is my dad! Lol. But I would definitely say that talking with him on the phone would be more a part of my ritual to give me confidence.

Finally, what I enjoyed the most in this chapter is the fact that through the example of baseball players, the author made me think "outside the box". Yes, religion is not restricted by the God in whom I believe but mostly by my own beliefs. How do they interact in my daily life as well as the roles they play during specific moments of my life. Religion is what I believe, what gives me power and strength to move forward.
So far “Baseball Magic" is my favorite ethnography because I could relate these examples to me and have a new approach on what is religion. It opens my way of thinking.

Gmelch, George. “Baseball Magic”. In Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology, 12 ed., ed. Spradley and McCurdy. Allyn & Bacon, 2008, 126-135.

1 comment:

  1. So what is religion really? You say it opens your way of thinking.. I'm interested to see how you view religion differently now, because for me it always had a lot to do with rituals, superstition and beliefs in some sort of metaphysical power.