Medusa's Hair

An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022618921X

Category: Social Science

Page: 232

View: 516

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The great pilgrimage center of southeastern Sri Lanka, Kataragama, has become in recent years the spiritual home of a new class of Hindu-Buddhist religious devotees. These ecstatic priests and priestesses invariably display long locks of matted hair, and they express their devotion to the gods through fire walking, tongue-piercing, hanging on hooks, and trance-induced prophesying. The increasing popularity of these ecstatics poses a challenge not only to orthodox Sinhala Buddhism (the official religion of Sri Lanka) but also, as Gananath Obeyesekere shows, to the traditional anthropological and psychoanalytic theories of symbolism. Focusing initially on one symbol, matted hair, Obeyesekere demonstrates that the conventional distinction between personal and cultural symbols is inadequate and naive. His detailed case studies of ecstatics show that there is always a reciprocity between the personal-psychological dimension of the symbol and its public, culturally sanctioned role. Medusa's Hair thus makes an important theoretical contribution both to the anthropology of individual experience and to the psychoanalytic understanding of culture. In its analyses of the symbolism of guilt, the adaptational and integrative significance of belief in spirits, and a host of related issues concerning possession states and religiosity, this book marks a provocative advance in psychological anthropology.

Medusa's Hair

An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 9780226616018

Category: Social Science

Page: 217

View: 5575

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The great pilgrimage center of southeastern Sri Lanka, Kataragama, has become in recent years the spiritual home of a new class of Hindu-Buddhist religious devotees. These ecstatic priests and priestesses invariably display long locks of matted hair, and they express their devotion to the gods through fire walking, tongue-piercing, hanging on hooks, and trance-induced prophesying. The increasing popularity of these ecstatics poses a challenge not only to orthodox Sinhala Buddhism (the official religion of Sri Lanka) but also, as Gananath Obeyesekere shows, to the traditional anthropological and psychoanalytic theories of symbolism. Focusing initially on one symbol, matted hair, Obeyesekere demonstrates that the conventional distinction between personal and cultural symbols is inadequate and naive. His detailed case studies of ecstatics show that there is always a reciprocity between the personal-psychological dimension of the symbol and its public, culturally sanctioned role. Medusa's Hair thus makes an important theoretical contribution both to the anthropology of individual experience and to the psychoanalytic understanding of culture. In its analyses of the symbolism of guilt, the adaptational and integrative significance of belief in spirits, and a host of related issues concerning possession states and religiosity, this book marks a provocative advance in psychological anthropology.

The Awakened Ones

Phenomenology of Visionary Experience

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere

Publisher: Columbia University Press

ISBN: 0231527306

Category: Religion

Page: 672

View: 2412

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While a rational consciousness grasps many truths, Gananath Obeyesekere believes an even richer knowledge is possible through a bold confrontation with the stuff of visions and dreams. Spanning both Buddhist and European forms of visionary experience, he fearlessly pursues the symbolic, nonrational depths of such phenomena, reawakening the intuitive, creative impulses that power greater understanding. Throughout his career, Obeyesekere has combined psychoanalysis and anthropology to illuminate the relationship between personal symbolism and religious experience. In this book, he begins with Buddha's visionary trances wherein, over the course of four hours, he witnesses hundreds of thousands of his past births and eons of world evolution, renewal, and disappearance. He then connects this fracturing of empirical and visionary time to the realm of space, considering the experience of a female Christian penitent, who stares devotedly at a tiny crucifix only to see the space around it expand to mirror Christ's suffering. Obeyesekere follows the unconscious motivations underlying rapture, the fantastical consumption of Christ's body and blood, and body mutilation and levitation, bridging medieval Catholicism and the movements of early modern thought as reflected in William Blake's artistic visions and poetic dreams. He develops the term "dream-ego" through a discussion of visionary journeys, Carl Jung's and Sigmund Freud's scientific dreaming, and the cosmic and erotic dream-visions of New Age virtuosos, and he defines the parameters of a visionary mode of knowledge that provides a more elastic understanding of truth. A career-culminating work, this volume translates the epistemology of Hindu and Buddhist thinkers for western audiences while revitalizing western philosophical and scientific inquiry.

Ecstatic Religion

A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession

Author: I. M. Lewis

Publisher: Psychology Press

ISBN: 9780415301244

Category: Body, Mind & Spirit

Page: 200

View: 4239

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First Published in 2004. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

Tuhami

Portrait of a Moroccan

Author: Vincent Crapanzano

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022619146X

Category: Social Science

Page: 204

View: 3429

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Tuhami is an illiterate Moroccan tilemaker who believes himself married to a camel-footed she-demon. A master of magic and a superb story-teller, Tuhami lives in a dank, windowless hovel near the kiln where he works. Nightly he suffers visitations from the demons and saints who haunt his life, and he seeks, with crippling ambivalence, liberation from 'A'isha Qandisha, the she-demon. In a sensitive and bold experiment in interpretive ethnography, Crapanzano presents Tuhami's bizarre account of himself and his world. In so doing, Crapanzano draws on phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and symbolism to reflect upon the nature of reality and truth and to probe the limits of anthropology itself. Tuhami has become one of the most important and widely cited representatives of a new understanding of the whole discipline of anthropology.

A'aisa's Gifts

A Study of Magic and the Self

Author: Michele Stephen

Publisher: Univ of California Press

ISBN: 9780520915275

Category: Social Science

Page: 404

View: 2436

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Filled with insight, provocative in its conclusions, A'aisa's Gifts is a groundbreaking ethnography of the Mekeo of Papua New Guinea and a valuable contribution to anthropological theory. Based on twenty years' fieldwork, this richly detailed study of Mekeo esoteric knowledge, cosmology, and self-conceptualizations recasts accepted notions about magic and selfhood. Drawing on accounts by Mekeo ritual experts and laypersons, this is the first book to demonstrate magic's profound role in creating the self. It also argues convincingly that dream reporting provides a natural context for self-reflection. In presenting its data, the book develops the concept of "autonomous imagination" into a new theoretical framework for exploring subjective imagery processes across cultures.

Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo

Author: Judy Rosenthal

Publisher: University of Virginia Press

ISBN: 9780813918051

Category: Social Science

Page: 282

View: 1937

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As a new resident of Togo in 1985, Judy Rosenthal witnessed her first Gorovodu trance ritual. Over the next eleven years, she studied this voodoo in West Africa's Ewe populations of coastal Ghana, Togo, and Benin, an area once called the Slave Coast. The result is Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo, an ethnography of spirit possession that focuses on law and morality in "medecine Vodu" orders. Gorovodu is not a doctrinal set, but rather a lingusitic, moral, and spiritual community, with both real and imagined aspects. In medecine Vodu possession, the deities evoked are spirits of "bought people" from the savanna regions, slaves who worked for southern coastal lineages, often marrying into Ewe families. Drumming and dancing rituals, replete with voluptuous trances and gender reversals, bring these "foreign" spirits back into Ewe communities to protect worshippers, heal the sick and troubled, arbitrate disputes, and enjoy themselves as they did before they died. (Rosenthal employs Bakhtin's theory of carnival to interpret the openly festive element of Gorovodu.) The changeable nature of the religion echoes the lack of boundaries of the Gorovodu family and the residents' belief that communal and individual identity are fluid rather than fixed. Numerous name changes early in this century indicated a strategy for resisting colonial control. Writing from a background of anthropology, Rosenthal carefully monitors her own role as narrator in the book, aware of the cultural distance between her and the Africans she is writing about. She intends this ethnography to mirror the "texts" of voodoo itself, a body of signifiers and meanings with which the reader must interact in order to make sense of it.

The Art and Politics of Wana Shamanship

Author: Jane Monnig Atkinson

Publisher: Univ of California Press

ISBN: 0520078772

Category: History

Page: 365

View: 4235

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"This book is a marvelous counterpoint to the rich scholarship that has developed on the 'center' in Southeast Asian societies, providing for the first time an in-depth study of the play of personhood and power—and their historical transformations—on the Indonesian 'periphery.'"—Toby Alice Volkman, Social Science Research Council "A very important work, not only for the specialists of island Southeast Asia, but also for the general anthropologist. Atkinson accomplishes a number of tasks in fresh and innovative ways."—George E. Marcus, Rice University "Impressively informed by major theoretical issues, Atkinson's work at the same time brings her readers into the everyday world of the Wana in Sulawesi, Indonesia."—Renato Rosaldo, Stanford University

Peyote Hunt

The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians

Author: Barbara G. Myerhoff

Publisher: Cornell University Press

ISBN: 9780801491375

Category: Religion

Page: 285

View: 4085

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"Ramón Medina Silva, a Huichol Indian shaman priest or mara'akame, instructed me in many of his culture's myths, rituals, and symbols, particularly those pertaining to the sacred untiy of deer, maize, and peyote. The significance of this constellation of symbols was revealed to me most vividly when I accompanied Ramón on the Huichol's annual ritual return to hunt the peyote in the sacred land of Wirikuta, in myth and probably in history the place from which the Ancient Ones (ancestors and deities of the present-day Indians) came before settling in their present home in the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental in north-central Mexico. My work with Ramón preceded and followed our journey, but it was this peyote hunt that held the key to, and constituted the climax of, his teachings."—from the Preface

Inbreeding, Incest, and the Incest Taboo

The State of Knowledge at the Turn of the Century

Author: Arthur P. Wolf

Publisher: Stanford University Press

ISBN: 0804751412

Category: Family & Relationships

Page: 228

View: 6381

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Why is incest widely prohibited? Why does the scope of the prohibition vary from society to society? Why does incest occur despite the prohibition? What are the consequences? To reexamine these questions, this book brings together contributions from the fields of genetics, behavioral biology, primatology, biological and social anthropology, philosophy, and psychiatry.

Webs of Power

Women, Kin, and Community in a Sumatran Village

Author: Evelyn Blackwood

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

ISBN: 9780847699117

Category: Social Science

Page: 219

View: 3704

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Webs of Power offers a fresh perspective on women in Southeast Asia. Although the book focuses on one village, it provides vital insights into the gendered processes of post-coloniality. By exploring the contestations and accommodations being made in rural villages by both men and women, Webs of Power reveals the processes at the heart of globalization as well as the complexities of power that circulate between women and men in a rural peasant society.

Fluid Signs

Being a Person the Tamil Way

Author: E. Valentine Daniel

Publisher: Univ of California Press

ISBN: 9780520061675

Category: Social Science

Page: 320

View: 4216

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"Daniel is brilliant, and this work is the product of all his powers of imagination and expression. He is also a flawless scholar: bilingual, so that his translations are accurate; gifted, so that they are charming; well-read, so that his discussions are set in the full context of previous scholarship; and very, very funny, so that his depictions of the quandaries of his informants, as well as himself, are a joy to read."--Wendy O'Flaherty

Psychological Anthropology Reconsidered

Author: John M. Ingham

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 9780521559188

Category: Psychology

Page: 308

View: 7243

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Reviews developments in pyschological anthropology and examines psychoanalytic, dialogical and social perspectives on personality and culture.

The Work of Culture

Symbolic Transformation in Psychoanalysis and Anthropology

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 9780226615998

Category: Social Science

Page: 354

View: 965

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"The Work of Culture is the product of two decades of field research by Sri Lanka's most distinguished anthropological interpreter, and its combination of textual analysis, ethnographic sensitivity, and methodological catholicity makes it something of a blockbuster."—Arjun Appadurai, Journal of Asian Studies

Cannibal Talk

The Man-Eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere

Publisher: Univ of California Press

ISBN: 9780520938311

Category: Social Science

Page: 340

View: 3687

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In this radical reexamination of the notion of cannibalism, Gananath Obeyesekere offers a fascinating and convincing argument that cannibalism is mostly "cannibal talk," a discourse on the Other engaged in by both indigenous peoples and colonial intruders that results in sometimes funny and sometimes deadly cultural misunderstandings. Turning his keen intelligence to Polynesian societies in the early periods of European contact and colonization, Obeyesekere deconstructs Western eyewitness accounts, carefully examining their origins and treating them as a species of fiction writing and seamen's yarns. Cannibalism is less a social or cultural fact than a mythic representation of European writing that reflects much more the realities of European societies and their fascination with the practice of cannibalism, he argues. And while very limited forms of cannibalism might have occurred in Polynesian societies, they were largely in connection with human sacrifice and carried out by a select community in well-defined sacramental rituals. Cannibal Talk considers how the colonial intrusion produced a complex self-fulfilling prophecy whereby the fantasy of cannibalism became a reality as natives on occasion began to eat both Europeans and their own enemies in acts of "conspicuous anthropophagy."

Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors

Author: Sudhir Kakar

Publisher: Knopf

ISBN: 0307831795

Category: Body, Mind & Spirit

Page: 304

View: 7060

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Shamans, Mystics and Doctors is a detailed and thoroughly fascinating account of the many ways in which the ancient healing traditions of India—embodied in the rituals of shamans, the teachings of gurus and the precepts of the school of medicine known as Ayurveda—diagnose and treat emotional disorder. Drawing on three years of intensive fieldwork and his own psychoanalytic training and experience, Sudhir Kakar takes us into a world of Islamic mosques and Hindu temples, of assembled multitudes, and dingy, out-of-the-way consultation rooms… a world where patients and healers blame evil spirits for emotional disturbances… where dreams and symptoms that would be familiar to Freud are interpreted in terms of a myriad of deities and legends… where trance-like “dissociation states” are induced to bring out and resolve the conflicts of repressed anger, lust and envy… where proper grooming, diet, exercise and conduct are (and have been for centuries) seen as essential to the preservation of a healthy mind and body. As he witnesses the practitioners and their patients, as he elucidates the therapeutic systems on which their encounters are based, as he contrasts his own Western training and biases with evidence of his eyes (and the sympathies of his heart), Kakar reveals the universal concerns of these individuals and their admittedly foreign cultures—people we can recognize and feel for, people (like their Western counterparts) trying to find some balance between the pressures and rewards of the external world and the fantasies and desires of the internal. This is a major work of cultural interpretation, a book that challenges (and should enhance) our understanding of therapy, mental health and individual freedom.

A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France

Author: Ronald Schechter

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022649960X

Category: History

Page: 304

View: 9513

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In contemporary political discourse, it is common to denounce violent acts as “terroristic.” But this reflexive denunciation is a surprisingly recent development. In A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France, Ronald Schechter tells the story of the term’s evolution in Western thought, examining a neglected yet crucial chapter of our complicated romance with terror. For centuries prior to the French Revolution, the word “terror” had largely positive connotations. Subjects flattered monarchs with the label “terror of his enemies.” Lawyers invoked the “terror of the laws.” Theater critics praised tragedies that imparted terror and pity. By August 1794, however, terror had lost its positive valence. As revolutionaries sought to rid France of its enemies, terror became associated with surveillance committees, tribunals, and the guillotine. By unearthing the tradition that associated terror with justice, magnificence, and health, Schechter helps us understand how the revolutionary call to make terror the order of the day could inspire such fervent loyalty in the first place—even as the gratuitous violence of the revolution eventually transformed it into the dreadful term we would recognize today. Most important, perhaps, Schechter proposes that terror is not an import to Western civilization—as contemporary discourse often suggests—but rather a domestic product with a long and consequential tradition.

Freud and Freudians on Religion

A Reader

Author: Donald Capps

Publisher: Yale University Press

ISBN: 9780300082012

Category: Psychology

Page: 357

View: 9719

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This book presents selections from Freud's writings on religion and from the work of five more recent contributors to the psychoanalytic study of religion: David Bakan, Erik H. Erikson, Heinz Kohut, Julia Kristeva, and D.W. Winnicott. It is the first collection of texts in the psychology of religion that is oriented more toward religious studies than toward the study of psychology.In his introduction, Donald Capps points out that psychoanalysis resembles religions in the way in which its founding documents (Freud's own writings) have been closely read, have evoked interpretive battles, and have been reassessed and reapplied in response to changing social and cultural circumstances. He notes that just as Freud's writings on religion focus on the biblical text, the majority of the authors included here do likewise, showing how the Bible may be read psychoanalytically. Both Freud and his successors, says Capps, also reflect the high value that the Christian culture of the West has placed on painting and sculpture, revealing the importance of perception and imagination to the psychoanalytic study of religion. Capps highlights the ways in which all the Freudians work intertextually with Freud's writings, with the writings of other authors included in the book, and with other writings of their own.