From Blessing to Violence History and Ideology in the Circumcision Ritual of the Merina

ISBN-10: 0521314046

ISBN-13: 9780521314046

Edition: 1986

Authors: Maurice Bloch, Meyer Fortes, Jack Goody, Edmund Leach, Stanley Tambiah

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Description:

The circumcision ritual of the Merina of Madagascar is seen by them primarily as a blessing, involving the transfer of the love and concern of the ancestors of their descendants. Yet the ritual ends in an act of ciolent wounding of the child. Similarily, while the ritual involves a symbolic assault on women, it is nonetheless welcomed by them as a mark of receiving the blessing of the ancestors. In this book, Maurice Bloch provides a detailed description and analysis of the Merina circumcision ritual today, offers an account of its history, and discusses the significance of his analysis for anthropological theories of ritual in general. Pursuing the theme of the combination of religious joy and illumination with violence, Professor Bloch explains how, at various times, the circumcision ceremony can be a familial ritual as well as glorification of a militarist and expansionist state, or associated with anti-colonial nationalism. Describing changes that have occurred in the form of the ritual over two centuries, Professor Bloch argues that in order to understand the properties of ritual in general, it is necessary to view it over a longer time scale than anthropologists have tended to do previously. Adopting such an historical perspective enables him to identify the stability of the Merina ritual's symbolic content, despite changes in its organisation, and dramatically changing politico-economic contexts. As well as presenting an original historical approach to the anthropological study of ritua;, Professor Bloch discusses a range of general theoretical issues, including the nature of ideology, and the relationship between images created in ritual and other types of knowledge. The book will appeal widely to scholars and students of anthropology, history, African studies, and comparative religion.
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Book details

List price: $54.00
Copyright year: 1986
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 4/30/1986
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 228
Size: 5.75" wide x 9.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.682

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.

Preface
The social determination of ritual
Background politico-religious history of the Merina, 1770-1970
Background to Merina Social organisation and religion
Description and preliminary analysis of a circumcision ritual
The symbolism of circumcision
The myth of the origin of circumcision
The history of the circumcision
The circumcision ritual in history: towards a theory of the transformation of ideology
Notes
References
Index
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