Medusa s Hair

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226189215
Release Date: 2014-02-08
Genre: Social Science

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

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 0226616010
Release Date: 1984-09-15
Genre: Social Science

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

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere
Publisher: Columbia University Press
ISBN: 9780231527309
Release Date: 2012-02-07
Genre: Religion

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

Author: I. M. Lewis
Publisher: Psychology Press
ISBN: 0415301246
Release Date: 2003-01
Genre: Body, Mind & Spirit

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

Possession Ecstasy and Law in Ewe Voodoo

Author: Judy Rosenthal
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
ISBN: 0813918057
Release Date: 1998-01-01
Genre: Social Science

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.

Tuhami

Author: Vincent Crapanzano
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226191461
Release Date: 2013-03-15
Genre: Social Science

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

Author: Michele Stephen
Publisher: Univ of California Press
ISBN: 0520915275
Release Date: 1995-03-01
Genre: Social Science

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.

The Art and Politics of Wana Shamanship

Author: Jane Monnig Atkinson
Publisher: Univ of California Press
ISBN: 9780520078772
Release Date: 1992-03-10
Genre: History

"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

Fluid Signs

Author: E. Valentine Daniel
Publisher: Univ of California Press
ISBN: 0520061675
Release Date: 1987
Genre: Social Science

"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

Webs of Power

Author: Evelyn Blackwood
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN: 0847699110
Release Date: 2000
Genre: Social Science

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.

Peyote Hunt

Author: Barbara G. Myerhoff
Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 0801491371
Release Date: 1976
Genre: Religion

"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

Shamans Mystics and Doctors

Author: Sudhir Kakar
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 9780307831798
Release Date: 2013-04-03
Genre: Body, Mind & Spirit

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.

Inbreeding Incest and the Incest Taboo

Author: Arthur P. Wolf
Publisher: Stanford University Press
ISBN: 9780804751414
Release Date: 2005
Genre: Family & Relationships

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.

The Work of Culture

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 0226615995
Release Date: 1990-10-15
Genre: Social Science

"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

Psychological Anthropology Reconsidered

Author: John M. Ingham
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0521559189
Release Date: 1996-05-23
Genre: Psychology

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