Sociology Index


Myths consist of narratives or stories that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The characters in myths are gods, demigods or supernatural humans. Legends are not myths, they are stories of everyday human beings. Myths are endorsed by rulers and religious heads to perpetuate their brand of religion or spirituality. Myths existed in ancient history. Rival classes of the Greek myths by Euhemerus, Plato and Sallustius were developed by the Neoplatonists and later revived by Renaissance mythographers. The academic comparisons of bodies of myth is known as comparative mythology. Myth is very often used incorrectly to refer to a claim considered to be untrue.

Myth refers to a narrative account or story which contains the collective wisdom of a society and articulates belief concerning key aspects of individual identity or collective life. All societies, for example, have myths about the origin of human life, some have myths about their origin as a society, others have myths about the shaping of national identity or the evolution of love. Sociologists are interested in the role these myths play in society and what they might say about the nature of the human mind.

Fathers and daughters in a south Indian goddess myth: Cultural ambivalence and the dynamics of desire. Charles W. Nuckolls, Department of Anthropology, Emory University. Contributions to Indian Sociology, Vol. 31.
Desire in kinship creates ambivalences which the kinship system itself does not resolve, and while this has been understood, especially with reference to the mother-son relationship in South Asia, little attention has focused on the relationship between father and daughter. The Jalari (a Telugu fishing caste) myth of the seven goddesses turns on the relationship between Shiva and his daughters. The myth presents a solution by transforming daughters into goddesses, preserving the father, daughter bond, and making marriage contingent on cooperation among women, not men.

The Stuff that Myths Are Made of Myth Building as Social Action 
MARY P. SHERIDAN-RABIDEAU, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey Written Communication, Vol. 18, No. 4, 440-469.
This article modifies Donna Haraway's concept of (counter) myth building as a way to facilitate social action. Counter myth building, as both a resource and a process, recognizes limitations on individual agency but foregrounds the productive capacity to be more than a social and historical construct. Because myths are multiple and enactments are unpredictable, both building and enacting counter myths are at best complicated. GirlZone and RadioGirl provide two sites for investigating these complications. As grassroots projects, GirlZone and RadioGirl are explicitly devoted to building counter myths as part of an activist agenda for social change. These sites illustrate how the complex semiotic and material processes of myth building may provide potential resources for these and other activists.

War Myths - Exploration of the Dominant Collective Beliefs about Warfare 
Ofer Zur, Peace/War and Global Studies, California Institute of Integral Studies
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 3, 297-327 (1989).
This article critically explores three beliefs or myths about war. (1) There have always been wars because war is part of human nature. (2) Decent people are basically peaceful and seek to avoid war because it is evil. (3) War is a male institution that carries no appeal for women. Each myth is explored in the following ways: The existence of the myth is documented; the scientific and theoretical foundations of the myth are described; the foundations of the myth are critically challenged; and new knowledge about the belief is discussed in light of its importance and its relevance for our current nuclear reality. Because these myths reflect a belief system and are ultimately linked to attitudes and behavior, they can operate in the society to perpetuate warfare. By better understanding the myths about war we will be better able to secure a peaceful future.