Death and the Regeneration of Life
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 through insights 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 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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Introduction death and the regeneration of life
The dead and the devils among the Bolivian Laymi
Sacrificial death and the necrophagous ascetic
Witchcraft greed cannibalism and death some related themes from the New Guinea Highlands
affines Aghori ancestors ascetic aspect associated authority Aymara bad death Baka beliefs Benares Bhagvan biological birth blessing Bloch body bones burial buried bushland camp cannibalism Cantonese ceremony chief mourner Chinese coffin consumption context continuity contrast corpse handlers cremation cremation ground culture dance dangerous Daribi daughters dead person death pollution deceased deceased's decomposition deme Divinity endogamy epeme eternal Etoro example exchange famadihana feast female fertility flesh funeral funerary rituals ghost Gimi grave graveyard Hadza Hertz Highlands Hindu household human hunting ideological IKung individual inheritance killing Laymi lineage living London Lugbara male marriage MAURICE BLOCH Mbuti Melpa Merina mortuary mortuary rites mortuary rituals mourning necrophagy notion particular pigs pollution of death practices priest pyre regeneration represented reproduction role sacrifice San Tin sexuality Siva skull social order society soul spirit Strathern symbolic Tacna theme tomb Tsuen University Press village witchcraft witches woman women