North Holmes Road, Canterbury, Kent
Saturday 7 June 2014 | 6.15pm-7.45pm
Open Lectures of the MA in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred
Anthropologists have often dismissed widespread beliefs in spirits and ancestors, communication with the dead, and descriptions of the afterlife realms, as ‘primitive’, fanciful or simply mistaken. Whether we look at small-scale societies, Western or Eastern cultures, however, we see many similarities in afterlife beliefs, suggesting that they may in fact have their origins in personal experience. Culture shapes the ways in which experiences are interpreted but cannot necessarily account for their existence in the first place. I will give some examples from different cultures of esoteric phenomena that may have an experiential source, including reincarnation, after death communication, near death experiences, and out of body travel. I then explore some of the ways in which we can study the afterlife using ethnographic methodologies, using information from a wide variety of cultures, sources and periods. The findings lend weight to the so-called ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology, with a move away from both a Western post-Enlightenment optic and a post-modern cultural relativism. The starting point of such a study is to take the views of informants seriously. It demands an open-minded approach that values human experience and accepts that there is much that we can’t explain and don’t yet know about the world in which we live.
Info and booking: http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/community-arts-education/open-lectures.asp