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Deviance C

Deviance C Deviance Seminar Week 2

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  1. Please reply to this thread with a brief summary/key points of at least one text from the general reading. When reading whole books /edited collections, look at the Introduction and, from this, identify at least one other chapter that will be useful for the discussion.
     
  2. In order to grasp a level of understanding regarding the state of attitudes towards religious deviance at the start of the Sixteenth century, I read a chapter of H. Kamen's/The Rise of Toleration. /Entitled '/The Problem of Toleration',/the chapter briefly charts the rise of Church power following the fall of Rome to start of C16th and introduces the progression of other precursory social changes during the medieval period which serve to influencethe toleration/intoleration debate. The chapter then proceeds to analyses the theoretical basis of toleration within Christianity and provides reasons why intoleration held a significant presence in society with particular reference to religious deviance. The presence of intoleration, particularly regarding the Church's treatment of heretics, initially seems confusing. Bible references such as Gal 3:28: 'you are all one person in Jesus Christ' implies a strong theoretical basis for religious toleration within Europe once Church had gained State-like power after the fall of Rome; Kamen cites the Church achieving this by C8th. Indeed initially this was the case: for long periods of time, Jews and Muslims lived in toleration in the Meditteranean for large amounts of the Medieval period. Gradually, however, seditious preaching and rebellion was quashed within the lower classes in order to preserve social unity within Christendom. Kamen presents this culminated in extreme persecution against heretics, who were punished upon grounds that lack of faith threatened the social fabric of society. Dissident sects would henceforth conform to legislation and social norms to some extent set out by the rising Church-State alliance in order to secure toleration for themselves. This 'Church-State alliance' seems significant in contributing to the decline in toleration by the Church. By gaining State influence, Kamen argues the Church would effectively extend its 'secular arm' in order to carry out 'just persecution' of the ungodly. This implies the Church in fact used its rising power to increasingly denounce heretics and ensure a large degree of religious conformity. Therefore, Kamen presents an erratic progression of Christian ideological beliefs in contradiction to the reality of the Church's actions against heretics with the introduction of secular power. Itms that although 'it is against the nature of religion to force religion' as Tertullian wrote, the initiation of the Church-State alliance at the end of the medieval period and the subsequent accession to power of the Church incited an intensified acceptance of religious persecution. This suggests that by the early C16th, the objective law of God as laid down by the Church, in conjunction with secular power, provided the chief condition for justification of action against heresy. Conversely, humanist advances in the C15th and C16th as a result of the Italian cultural Renaissance would seem to question the notion that the will of the Church was all consuming: the rise in libertarian intellectual thought, particularly through the spread of Machiavelli's works in Italy, provides an interesting social and cultural basis for the for the Early Modern period regarding deviance.
     
  3. Thanks for getting this started Joe - an excellent summary. You've done well to make reference to Kamen's argument, rather than simply describing the evidence presented in the chapter.
     
  4. R.I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe, 950-1250 (Oxford, 1987; 2nd edn, 2007), Chapter 5 'A persecuting scoiety': This chapter within R. I. Moore's second edition begins by responding to criticism he received after the first edition of the book in 1987. This response reveals that much has changed in the approach to persecution and deviance in the twenty years spanning the two editions. His first book was criticised by David Nirenberg as suggesting that 'the persecuting mentality seems to transcend particularities of time and place'. In response to this Moore argues that persecution 'itself constantly expands' but qualifies this by suggesting that the persecuting mentality comes down to environmental, social, cultural and temporal particularities. The main issue Moore tries to portray is that persecution never stops in this period and that when the persecution of one group has run its course, persecution of another group begins. This highlights the way that society c.1250 acted suspiciuosly to any outsiders and people that didn't conform to the norm. Another point that Moore makes is that negative conotations of character, beliefs and behaviour were invented to aid the persecution of different groups such as Jews, heretics, lepers and sodomites. Moore uses the term a 'constructed persona' to suggest that although these groups may have had very little in common, society at the time attempted to portray them as one in a way to create a stronger sense of hostility and suspicion towards these groups. The period covered within this book is pre-Early Modern, suggesting that persecution was not a new phenomenon c.1500, but Moore goes further than that to suggest that persecution can be seen throughout all of history. Examples given include the treatment and expulsion of Jews from Constantinople during the Byzantine Empire, the treatment of Chrsitians and Pagans in the Middle East and the creation of slaves throughout Europe during earlier periods such as the Romans. These go to show that in any culutre at any time there are always those that don't conform to society and these are often persecuted for this reason. The final point Moore makes within this chapter is that often with the punishment of people seen as deviants there was a focus of redemption and forgiveness from the church. This idea of redemption was often aimed towards the majority of 'normal' people involved in nonconformity, with Moore citing heresy as an example. Moore gives the example of the Cathars within Europe and although he recognises that the leaders of this heretical group are often dealt with more severly, he highlights that the majority of people seen as being involved are let off for their deviance with a recognition that the Catholic faith is the supreme religion in Europe and with a promise to conform to this they escape any major punishment. This chapter within the book seems to help an Early Modern historian by showing the subtitles within persecution and the history of persecution in the period preceding c.1450. Moore's common theme throughout the chapter is the repitition of persecution throughout his 300 year period and Moore suggests that this persecution seen in the late Middle Ages lasts until the beginning of the 20th century with many of the same themes and beliefs.
     
  5. I have read Mary's Douglas' article on 'Witchcraft and Leprosy: two strategies of exclusion', in which she compares anthropological approaches to two types of exclusion, that of leprosy in C12th and witchcraft accusations in C16th. They are both classed as an insidious form of damage, and are two strategies of rejection through accusations of causing injury to others. While the two strategies of exclusion are not often seem as comparable, Douglas shows that by combining witchcraft accusations with diagnoses of infectious disease, both qualify as real dangers within their respective time periods. Both witches and carriers of infection such as leprosy have the possibility of going unsuspected within a society, which therefore allows them to cause occult harm and justifies, even necessitates, their exclusion from society. The key similarity that Douglas uses to draw the two strands of social exclusion together is the way that the 'arrow of accusation' changed direction in both cases. The accusations began by pointing up to the powerful members of the society, then down to people in small towns and villages, then finally outward to accuse the already marginalised and sinful members of society. These accusations were used as a form of power play, and in one study by Clyde Mitchell, he found it possible to predict the next accusation as well as its political outcome when looking at accusations of witchcraft in African villages. These accusations, as with accusations of leprosy, worked with the political balance and were a form of exclusion and control. These accusations were able to be so effective and comparable, even four centuries apart, because fears of witchcraft and infection, which were both seen as a form of sin, were easily mobilised within their respective societies to accuse those seen as deviant. The three cultural patterns of response, the 'arrows of accusations' directly correspond to the three types of witchcraft accusations in Africa and in this Douglas puts forward the continued strategies of exclusion when dealing with people with the potential to harm the society.
     
  6. The chapter, ‘The Medieval Context’, in Jeffrey Richard’s /Sex, Dissidence and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages/, provides a general overview of the ideas associated with his chosen deviant groups in society that he analyses individually, in greater depth, for the remainder of his book. With a focus particularly on the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Richards uses this chapter to begin to explore the common strands that thread through all his chosen deviant groups: lepers, heretics, prostitutes, witches, Jews and homosexuals. The chapter begins by briefly explaining the persecution of deviant groups during his chosen period. Richards argues that with men and women’s greater access to God and control of their own bodies, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw a demand for religious and sexual conformity. He argues, that in order to do so, the Church increasingly enforced policies of persecution, execution, segregation and isolation to try and prevent religious and sexual deviancy. The belief in society that an apocalypse was around the corner and the need for a scapegoat are also used as explanations for the treatment of deviance by Jeffrey Richards. He then goes on to address key ideas associated with deviance in the middle ages. The concept of contagion, that one could catch deviance, was a key idea associated with the deviant in the middle ages. The separation and labeling with the ‘badge of infamy’ of Jews, lepers and prostitutes, accentuates his idea that these people were a believed threat at this time, and were to be avoided at all costs. Stereotyping too is acknowledged. Used as a method of social control, he argues they were produced by society to constitute what threatened order and control. These marginal, believed to be deviant, groups in society, he emphasises, are all linked by one stereotype - sex; leprosy was believed to be sexually transmitted (a punishment from God for sexual sin), homosexuals and prostitutes were regulated, heretics were quite often accused of orgies, and Jews were accused of being lustful for Christian maidens. Even though we now know these are not accurate accusations, for example lepresy is not sexually transmitted, it was then thought so. This perceived sexual deviancy is then used by Jeffrey Richards to link together and underpin the five chosen groups, helping to provide an explanation as to why they were described as 'deviants' in pre-modern society.
     
  7. Mary Douglas’s “Witchcraft and Leprosy: Two Strategies of Exclusion” is an insightful comparison between two key themes of the Early Modern period, and how they were both used as a means of exclusion to remove individuals from society. Ultimately, Douglas identifies three cultural patterns between accusations of leprosy in the twelfth century and witchcraft in the sixteenth century; to remove office holders’ abusing their powers, against the disenfranchised majority and to remove marginalised individuals from the community. Douglas states that all accusations can be related to the “libel”, and that food libel, the belief that outsiders can be identified by the abnormal food they consume, and the sex libel, the promiscuous, effeminate and incestuous, will eventually escalate to accusation of violence and murder – the blood libel. Witches were accused of having an “insatiable sexual appetite”, and this charge was combined with spite, heresy and having hidden dangerous powers. Their occult knowledge was used to charge them with incredible crimes, along with character attributes that made women more likely to be a witch. Similarly, diseased individuals had the “hidden ability to hurt”, which was perceived as a weapon of attack. An outrageous accusation could be credible if it was supported by the political system, which it typically was if the accused was already hated by the populace. The cause of harm needed to be vague, unspecific and difficult to prove, while the crime needed to be impossible to refute or deny. Using the libels, and most importantly the blood libel, individuals could be removed from society easily, in keeping with Foucault’s work on the disciplines of society. All sections of society could be accused of leprosy and witchcraft, but the twelfth century saw the lower classes particularly suffer. Vagabonds, beggars and heretics were charged with leprosy in order to segregate them from the community as a means to create order, which resulted in a highly structured society in the thirteenth century. This appeared to solve the problems caused by individualism eroding the feudal system by removing the landless from the community. They could now control lepers even further, tightening marriage laws, overseeing the celibacy of the clergy and the sexual control over lay persons. Pegg discusses how the diseased body became a metaphor for social disorder, and that this needed to be controlled. The rich and powerful were also charged with leprosy, and later witchcraft, in order to defame a candidate for office, to hasten the exit of an office holder or, where political legitimacy was already weak, to remove the accused from office holding. Douglas therefore dispels the myth that only the lower classes were accused to maintain order in society by highlighting how it was also used as a strategy to remove the rich and powerful from office holding positions. Douglas’ article therefore provides a thoughtful insight into how accusations of leprosy and witchcraft were used as strategies to remove the poor from a tight community and by political rivals to remove the powerful from office.
     
  8. Oldridge, D; ‘Werewolves and Flying Witches’ in /Strange Histories: the trial of the pig, the walking dead, and other matters of fact from the medieval and Renaissance worlds/ Oldridge examines the intellectual approaches to two popular beliefs in the late medieval and renaissance periods: lycanthropy (werewolves) and flying witches. The author notes that while the majority of philosophers and theologians rejected the idea that a person could physically transform into a werewolf, they tended to agree that witches could indeed fly. He examines how these seemingly opposing views came to be the predominant intellectual feeling of the 15th and 16th centuries, and how scholars attempted to navigate the paradoxes and contradictions of established thought on black magic and metamorphosis to reach such conclusions. Oldridge opens with a nod to the stark difference in modern and renaissance views on werewolves and witches. He reminds us that, while such ideas are held to be ‘self-evidently absurd’ today, they were taken very seriously in the 15th and 16th centuries and stimulated thoughtful legal and philosophical debate. While it may seem obvious, this is an important fact to acknowledge and it reminds us to see the arguments that follow in a context out of which they would seem completely bizarre. With regards to werewolves, Oldridge observes that while the conclusion that physically transfiguration is impossible seems reasonable to modern observers, the way in which most renaissance intellectuals approached the issue is quite foreign to us. The arguments that he summarises, from judges like Boguet or philosophers like Henry More, rely heavily on a dogmatic interpretation of scripture and a very literal, material interpretation of the soul. Indeed, the basis of the rejection of literal lycanthropy is that the soul cannot exist outside of the human body, except upon death, and that in matters of the soul only God has any power. It is a similar idea that is used to justify the fact that witches can literally fly. The alternative argument was that witches travelled to their ‘sabbats’ (a kind of secret, ritualistic rendezvous) by detaching their souls from their sleeping bodies. This was impossible, argued most thinkers, without the intervention of God, and so it was concluded that they must be able to fly physically. This is only a brief summary and I have skipped over the case studies Oldridge refers to, as well as many of the idiosyncrasies of individual arguments. However, the overwhelming message of this chapter is that the dominant intellectual thought on these subjects, while ostensibly logical, was so embroiled in scripture, superstition, and rigid theology that it appears completely absurd to a modern observer. Oldridge concludes, however, that such arguments should not be ‘plucked from their historical and intellectual context’ and were simply the logical extension of the widely held beliefs of the time. Moreover, he observes that in comparison with the sort of common superstition which led to witch-hunts and werewolf scares, these attempts to rationalise such phenomena and contextualise them in scripture are actually fairly refreshing.