• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Totemism

Totemism refers to a specific set of practices within mainly indigenous religions and spiritualities where an object, animal, or plant is idolized as the protector and watcher of a clan or individual. Whereas some earlier theorists, such as Émile Durkheim, claim that totems served as the foundations for religion, others, such as psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, contend that totems are social instruments that govern moral boundaries based on the Oedipus complex. Claude Lévi-Strauss offers a different interpretation, suggesting that totems of clans or tribes are actually outward signs or symbols of the group's uniqueness to others. Within contemporary consumer culture, these theoretical insights, grounded in anthropological research, are significant in understanding the consumption and use of material objects.

The word totem is derived from the Ojibway, or ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles