Research Paper on Taboos

Taboos (from the Polynesian tapu or tabu – ban) are negative prescriptions (categorical ban) on various people’s actions, breach of which shall result in appropriate sanctions. Taboos emerged and formed on the social, magical and religious basis during primitive society, in which they regulated and govern the lives of individuals and groups (family, clan, tribe, etc.)

The set of taboos imposed by priests and chiefs covered various aspects of life and language (prohibition to utter the names of dead people, spirits, gods, names of animals, etc.), people (women, warriors, rulers, etc.), human body and its parts, communication, sexual and marital relations, various forms and types of everyday life behavior (face covering, freedom of mouvement, etc.), food and drink, animals, plants, various objects and symbols of objects (land, weapons, amulets etc.), visiting certain places and many others.

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According to the existing superstitions and traditions, the violations of the ban resulted in supernatural punishment (in the form of a cause of illness or death) and various social sanctions from the communities and their leaders. During primitive society and later, taboos played the role of a social control and regulation. In the process of their historical development, taboos transformed and came in a variety of representations (e.g., sin), values ​​and norms (e.g., prohibition of portraying a man in Islamic culture, etc.), in morality, religion, law, and everyday life.

It is believed that taboo as a tradition was first observed in 1771 by J. Cook in Aboriginal Tonga (Polynesia) during his circumnavigation.

Among a number of concepts that explain the essential points of the origin, meaning and function of taboos, the greatest weight have: 1) magic (considering the ban as a negative form of practical magic that is different from witchcraft as positive forms of magic – Fraser et al.), 2), theological ( accounting taboos for “sacred laws” and restrictions associated with beliefs in supernatural beings – Taylor et al.), 3) psychological (psychoanalytic provides interpretation of taboos as an expression of ambivalent states and relationship, and emphasizes the role of taboos as a form of primitive morality and one of the “triggers of the civilization” – Freud et al.) 4) anthropological (which interprets taboos as a form of social control – Malinovsky et al.) and their different versions and combinations.

Those college and university students, who decided to devote their research projects to the subject, have to present their own theory on the emerging and evolving of the phenomenon. In their research proposals on taboos, they also will have to explain the functions these rules played in the primitive society.

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