Death and the Regeneration of Life
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Description: It is a classical anthropological paradox that symbols of rebirth and fertility are frequently found in funerary rituals throughout the world. The original essays collected here re-examine this phenomenon in the light of new information from China, India, New Guinea, Latin America, and Africa. The contributors, each a specialist in one of these areas, have worked in close collaboration to produce a genuinely innovative theoretical approach to the study of the symbolism surrounding death, an outline of which is provided in an important introduction by the editors. The major concern of the volume is the way in which funerary rituals dramatically transform the image of life as a dialectic flux involving exchange and transaction, marriage and procreation, into an image of a still, transcendental order in which oppositions such as those between self and other, wife-giver and wife-taker, Brahmin and untouchable, birth and therefore death have been abolished. This transformation often involves a general devaluation of biology, and, particularly, of sexuality, which is contrasted with a more spiritual and controlled source of life. The role of women, who are frequently associated with biological processes, mourning and death pollution, is often predominant in funerary rituals, and in examining this the book makes a further contribution to the understanding of the symbolism of gender. The death rituals and the symbolism of rebirth are also analysed in the context of the political processes of the different societies considered, and it is argued that social order and political organisation may be legitimated through an exploitation of the emotions and biology.
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List price: $67.00
Copyright year: 1982
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 12/30/1982
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 1.00" tall
Maurice Bloch is Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His work is unique in that he is both an active field-working anthropologist and a general theoretician. Bloch has been a leading figure among those anthropologists who seek to reintegrate social and anthropological theory with the work of cognitive scientists and prehistorians.
|Introduction: death and the regeneration of life|
|The dead and the devils among the|
|Sacrificial death and the necrophagous ascetic|
|Witchcraft, greed, cannibalism and death: some related themes from the New Guinea Highlands|
|Of flesh and bones: the management of death pollution in Cantoese society|
|Social dimensions of death in four African hunting and gathering societies|
|Death, women and power|