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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
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIs 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.
Course description 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'?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  10
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed by a single essay (word-limit: 4,000).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will gain a sophisticated understanding of the issues and debates that animate the anthropology of death.
  2. They will be able to appreciate the fashion in which much of what we call ┐culture┐ or ┐society┐ is embodied in our response to death.
  3. They will be capable of engaging critically with a number of important death ethnographies and utilize them to reflect on the problems arising from the anthropological quest for cross-cultural comparison.
  4. They will recognize and be able to appraise the differences and similarities between the various theoretical approaches to the comparative study of death.
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
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Dimitri Tsintjilonis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3934
Course secretaryMs Jessica Barton
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
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