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Social Memory, Identity, and Death: Anthropological Perspectives on Mortuary Rituals

ISBN: 978-1-931303-02-6
140 pages
April 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Social Memory, Identity, and Death: Anthropological Perspectives on Mortuary Rituals (1931303029) cover image

This current volume is a response to those who envision the four fields of anthropology as mutually exclusive entities, and all the papers demonstrate the efficacy of a cross-field or cross-disciplinary approach to analyzing rituals associated with death. The authors engage both ethnographic and archaeological perspectives on mortuary practices, and to describe the interdependence of crafting social memories and identities in mortuary practices, a subject that has received considerable attention from both archaeologists and ethnographers. The powerful combination of ethnographic and archaeological research into mortuary practices in the same volume highlights the interconnections between the archaeology and ethnography and illustrates an exciting dialogue between archaeologists and ethnographers. This rich collection of archaeological and ethnographic case studies of death, identity, and social memory illustrates how much archaeologists can learn from ethnographers, and ethnographers from archaeologists.

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Social Memory, Identity, and Death: An Introduction
Meredith S. Chesson

Section One. Death and Collective Social Memories

Burying the Dead at Tlatilco: Social Memory and Social Identities
Rosemary A. Joyce

The Egyptian Ways of Death
Lynn Meskell

Death, Gender, and the Chumash Peoples: Mourning Ceremonialism as an Integrative Mechanism
Sandra E. Hollimon

Matters of Life and Death: Mortuary Rituals as Part of a Larger Whole among the Betsileo of Madagascar
Victor Raharijaona and Susan Kus

Section Two. Mortuary Rituals and Social Identities

Mortuary Monuments and Social Change among the Ngaju
Anne Schiller

Place, Death, and the Transmission of Social Memory in Early Agricultural Communities of the Near Eastern Pre-Pottery Neolithic
Ian Kuijt

Embodied Memories of Place and People: Death and Society in an Early Urban Community
Meredith S. Chesson

"To Dare to Wear the Cloak of Another Before Their Very Eyes": State Co-optation and Local Re-appropriation in Mortuary Rituals of Central Madagascar
Susan Kus and Victor Raharijaona

List of Contributors


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Meredish Chesson is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Her area of specialization is anthropological archaeology. My research focuses on the integration of anthropological theory, ethnographic research, and archaeological practice in exploring the process of urbanization (or perhaps more accurately proto-urbanism) in the southern Levant (encompassing modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan) during the Early Bronze Age (c.3,600-2,000 BCE). In order to explore the articulation of social, political and economic structures, and the negotiation and assertion of group and individual social identities in the early walled communities of this region, I have directed excavations at Tell el-Handaquq South, el-Lejjun, and Khirbet el-Minsahlat, all located in Jordan. I am also actively working with R. Thomas Schaub to edit the final publications for excavations at Bab edh-Dhra, Numeira, Feifa, and Khirbet Khanazir conducted by the Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain.
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