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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: The Anthropology of Death (PGSP11047)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) Credits20
Home subject areaPostgrad (School of Social and Political Studies) Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionIs death a universal of the human condition or a culturally bound habit of thought? Focusing on a variety of ethnographic contexts, the basic aim of this course is to explore some of the ways in which death has been (re)presented in order to be resisted or embraced. As this exploration revolves around the 'discourse' of anthropology, manifested in the changing theoretical attitudes towards the ethnography of mortuary rites, it also attempts to highlight a deeper affinity between the 'reality' of death and the anthropological quest for comparative knowledge.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Summary of Intended Learning Outcomes
Students are expected to gain an advanced understanding of the issues and debates that animate the anthropology of death. In addition, by recognizing that much of what we call 'culture' or 'society' is embodied in our response to death, they should be able to engage critically with some of the problems arising from the anthropological quest for cross-cultural comparison and to appreciate the differences/similarities between the various theoretical approaches.
Assessment Information
The course will be assessed by a single essay (word-limit: 4,000).
Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus Course Outline: Indicative Topics
Universals and 'Cultural' Diversity
Death and the Self
Dying Persons, Grieving Selves
(In)dividual Bodies, (In)dividual Deaths
Modern Lives, 'Post-modern' Deaths
Is Death a 'Fiction'?
Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list Aries, P. 1983 The Hour of Our Death. Middlesex: Penguin
Bloch, M. and J. Parry 1982 'Introduction'. In M. Bloch and J. Parry (eds), Death and the
regeneration of life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Baudrillard J. 1993 Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage Publications
Bauman, Z. 1993 'The sweet scent of decomposition'. In C. Rojek and B. Turner (eds), Forget
Baudrillard?. London and New York: Routledge
Conklin, B. 1995 '"Thus Are Our Bodies Thus was Our Custom": Mortuary Cannibalism in an
Amazonian Society'. American Ethnologist 22(1): 75-101
Course, M. 2007 'Death, Biography, and the Mapuche Person'. Ethnos 72(1): 77-101
Danforth, L. 2004 'Metaphors of mediation in Greek funeral laments'. In A.G.M. Robben (ed.), Death,
Mourning, and Burial: a cross-cultural Reader. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Foltyn, J. 2008 'Dead famous and dead sexy: popular culture, forensics, and the rise of the corpse'.
Mortality 13(2): 153-173
Hertz, R. 1960 'A contribution to the collective representation of death'. In Death and the Right
Hand. London: Cohen and West
Huntington, R. and P. Metcalf 1991 Celebrations of Death (2nd Edition). New York: Cambridge
University Press (Preliminaries, Chapters 4 and 5)
Kaufman, S.R. and L.M. Morgan 2005 'The Anthropology of Beginnings and Ends of life'. Annual
Review of Anthropology 34: 317-41
Plant, B. 2009 'The Banality of Death'. Philosophy 84: 571-596
Seremetakis, C.N. 1991 The last word: women, death, and divination in inner Mani. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press
Strathern, A. 1982 'Witchcraft, greed, cannibalism and death'. In M. Bloch and J. Parry (eds), Death
and the regeneration of life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Taussig, M. 2001 'Dying Is an Art, like Everything Else'. Critical Inquiry 28(1): 305-16
Tsintjilonis, D. 2007 'The Death-Bearing senses in Tana Toraja'. Ethnos 72(2): 173-194
Walter, T. 2004 'Plastination for display: a new way to dispose of the dead'. J. Roy. Anthrop. Inst.
(N.S.) 10: 603-627
Willerslev, R. 2009 'The optimal sacrifice: A study of voluntary death among the Siberian Chukchi'
American Ethnologist 36(4): 693-704
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern The course consists of one two-hour session a week, supported by small-group teaching (tutorial) in separate one-hour sessions. There will be one tutorial every two weeks. The two- hour sessions involve a mixture of lectures (including, hopefully, some 'guest-lectures'), discussions, and videos. The small group teaching is organized around a list of presentations (available at the beginning of the semester). Students should note that attendance and participation in the small group teaching sessions is compulsory.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Dimitri Tsintjilonis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3934
Course secretaryMrs Gillian Macdonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 3244
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