Navigation Links
Deathways open doors to unexpected cultural practices
Date:10/8/2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. Cremation, "air burial," grave cairns, funeral mounds, mummification, belief in life after death death practices sacred to one culture are often considered "odd" or even terrifying by another.

The Greeks, for example, were fascinated with the historian Herodotus' description of the ancient Issedonians chopping up their dead into a mixed grill and devouring them in a communal barbeque, something entirely contrary to the Greeks' treatment of their own dead.

In every social group throughout history, the disposal of the dead has special significance, and ways of death always fascinate those on the outside looking in, says Erik Seeman, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University at Buffalo, where he teaches "Death in American History." "Beyond that," he says, "deathways illuminate religious meaning and the social life of cultures about which we may know little else."

Seeman's work, which, unlike much in this field, focuses on the deathways of non-European peoples, primarily those of the eastern third of North America and the Caribbean, is being prepared for publication in a book with the working title "Death in the New World."

"Much of my research looks at how deathways marked cultural self-definition and the definition of 'other' in the New World," he says.

"Placing death at the center of an analysis of cross-cultural encounters among Africans, Europeans and Native Americans allows us, perhaps better than through the use of any other conceptual category, to see the world as the participants themselves viewed it."

In fact, Seeman says the examination of deathways is virtually unmatched for understanding cross-cultural encounters that took place centuries ago in the New World.

"For one thing," he says, "death was ubiquitous. Virgin soil epidemics devastated Indian populations; the mortality of slaves on New World plantations was appalling; unfamiliar disease environments decimated Europeans in the Chesapeake and West Indies; and war raged in every corner of the region.

"Second, Christianity, Judaism and the many polytheistic religions of American Indians and Sub-Saharan Africans focused on explaining to believers the meaning of death and the afterlife," he says.

"Because of this," Seeman says, "when individuals met strangers they were interested in the others' deathways. What remains are far more descriptions of mortuary rituals than of such cultural practices as food preparation or music.

"Finally," says Seeman, "how corpses were prepared, what was included in burials and how death was commemorated leave traces in the material record that other cultural forms do not, offering researchers a rich trove of evidence with which to explore cultural and social attitudes and practices outside of deathways."

Seeman's research also looks at how, in the exploitive context of colonial encounters, understanding of deathways was put to manipulative ends by both sides. He demonstrates how missionaries used it to gain native converts, for instance, while some Indians used European fear of post-mortem mutilation to incite horror through scalping.

The book also takes a particular interest in how deathways document the cultural syncretism that, over time, reconciled a vast number of disparate or contradictory beliefs, often by melding practices of cultures ranging from the French and Portuguese to the Iroquois and Congolese who came into contact with one another in the New World from the 15th century on.


'/>"/>

Contact: Patricia Donovan
pdonovan@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1414
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Pet Doors Opening at Assisted Living Centers
2. Army Corps of Engineers Will Host National Get Outdoors Day Activities at Six Corps Project Sites
3. Making the Outdoors Safer for Communities: the American Academy of Dermatology Announces 2008 AAD Shade Structure Program Grant Recipients
4. Health Clubs Open Doors Free for 5th Annual Get Active America! Campaign, Taking a Stand on Prevention and Becoming Gateway to Healthy Living
5. Siemens New Clinical Education Training Facility Opens Doors and Expands Offerings for Imaging Professionals
6. Teenage girls arent the only ones who tan indoors -- older adults do so as well
7. Sleep Medicine Associates Opens New Doors at Swedish - Cherry Hill Campus
8. American Cancer Society to Open Doors to Its New Free Lodging and Support Center in NYC for Cancer Patients and Caregivers
9. Health Clubs Open Doors Free for 5th Annual Get Active America! Month and Become Gateway to Healthy Living
10. OhioHealth Opens Doors to Next Generation Hospital
11. NBA Legend Dikembe Mutombo Joins Opportunity International Board of Advisors; Opens Doors in Democratic Republic of Congo
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/24/2017)... ... 2017 , ... With millions of Americans and people worldwide ... all are aware of our options and are empowered with strength and information ... of its newest edition of "Vision and Hearing" in USA Today, that will ...
(Date:2/24/2017)... ... ... The narrative in “ Signal 8: An Australian Paramedic’s Story ” (published ... experiences. Schanssema describes the tragedies he saw, as well as his struggles with grief ... initially unsure of the career path he wanted to take, found fulfillment in a ...
(Date:2/24/2017)... , ... February 24, 2017 , ... The California ... conference convening academic faculty engaged in or interested in palliative care education and research. ... will be held in North County San Diego on Sept. 28 and 29, 2017, ...
(Date:2/24/2017)... , ... February 24, 2017 , ... The International Association ... annual “Imagine Me Beyond What You See” body image mannequin art competition. Selected from ... be showcased and the winner revealed at the 31st annual iaedp Symposium, March 22 ...
(Date:2/24/2017)... , ... February 24, 2017 , ... The Radiology ... excellence in radiology marketing programs at the annual Building Better Radiology Marketing Programs ... Fort Worth Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas. Nine awards are given out in five ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/24/2017)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition of ... report to their offering. ... The latest research Urinary Incontinence Drugs Price Analysis ... the global Urinary Incontinence market. The research answers the following ... marketed for Urinary Incontinence and their clinical attributes? How are they ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... 23, 2017  Cogentix Medical, Inc. (NASDAQ: CGNT), a ... proprietary products for the urology market, will release financial ... December 31, 2016 before the market open on Thursday, ... host a conference call and webcast to discuss its ... 2017 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time (10:00 a.m. Central ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of the ... to their offering. ... The latest research Oesophageal Cancer Drugs Price Analysis and Strategies ... Oesophageal Cancer market. The research answers the following questions: ... for Oesophageal Cancer and their clinical attributes? How are they positioned ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: