Medusa s Hair

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 022618921X
Format: PDF
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The great pilgrimage center of southeastern Sri Lanka, Kataragama, has become in recent years the spiritual home of a new class of Hindu-Buddhist religious devotees. These ecstatic priests and priestesses invariably display long locks of matted hair, and they express their devotion to the gods through fire walking, tongue-piercing, hanging on hooks, and trance-induced prophesying. The increasing popularity of these ecstatics poses a challenge not only to orthodox Sinhala Buddhism (the official religion of Sri Lanka) but also, as Gananath Obeyesekere shows, to the traditional anthropological and psychoanalytic theories of symbolism. Focusing initially on one symbol, matted hair, Obeyesekere demonstrates that the conventional distinction between personal and cultural symbols is inadequate and naive. His detailed case studies of ecstatics show that there is always a reciprocity between the personal-psychological dimension of the symbol and its public, culturally sanctioned role. Medusa's Hair thus makes an important theoretical contribution both to the anthropology of individual experience and to the psychoanalytic understanding of culture. In its analyses of the symbolism of guilt, the adaptational and integrative significance of belief in spirits, and a host of related issues concerning possession states and religiosity, this book marks a provocative advance in psychological anthropology.

The Medusa Reader

Author: Marjorie Garber
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 1136635416
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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Ranging from classical times to pop culture, this collection will appeal to art historians, feminists, classicists, cultural critics, and anyone interested in mythology.

Hair Matters

Author: Ingrid Banks
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9780814713365
Format: PDF, ePub
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One of the most resilient images of the Vietnam era is that of the anti-war protester -- often a woman -- spitting on the uniformed veteran just off the plane. The lingering potency of this icon was evident during the Gulf War, when war supporters invoked it to discredit their opposition. In this startling book, Jerry Lembcke demonstrates that not a single incident of this sort has been convincingly documented. Rather, the anti-war Left saw in veterans a natural ally, and the relationship between anti-war forces and most veterans was defined by mutual support. Indeed one soldier wrote angrily to Vice President Spiro Agnew that the only Americans who seemed concerned about the soldier's welfare were the anti-war activists. While the veterans were sometimes made to feel uncomfortable about their service, this sense of unease was, Lembcke argues, more often rooted in the political practices of the Right. Tracing a range of conflicts in the twentieth century, the book illustrates how regimes engaged in unpopular conflicts often vilify their domestic opponents for "stabbing the boys in the back." Concluding with an account of the powerful role played by Hollywood in cementing the myth of the betrayed veteran through such films as Coming Home, Taxi Driver, and Rambo, Jerry Lembcke's book stands as one of the most important, original, and controversial works of cultural history in recent years.

Indian Asceticism

Author: Carl Olson
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0190266406
Format: PDF, Mobi
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Throughout the history of Indian religions, the ascetic figure is most closely identified with power. A by-product of the ascetic path, power is displayed in the ability to fly, walk on water or through dense objects, read minds, discern the former lives of others, see into the future, harm others, or simply levitate one's body. These tales give rise to questions about how power and violence are related to the phenomenon of play. Indian Asceticism focuses on the powers exhibited by ascetics of India from ancient to modern time. Carl Olson discusses the erotic, the demonic, the comic, and the miraculous forms of play and their connections to power and violence. He focuses on Hinduism, but evidence is also presented from Buddhism and Jainism, suggesting that the subject matter of this book pervades India's major indigenous religious traditions. The book includes a look at the extent to which findings in cognitive science can add to our understanding of these various powers; Olson argues that violence is built into the practice of the ascetic. Indian Asceticism culminates with an attempt to rethink the nature of power in a way that does justice to the literary evidence from Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain sources.

The Awakened Ones

Author: Gananath Obeyesekere
Publisher: Columbia University Press
ISBN: 0231527306
Format: PDF, Mobi
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While a rational consciousness grasps many truths, Gananath Obeyesekere believes an even richer knowledge is possible through a bold confrontation with the stuff of visions and dreams. Spanning both Buddhist and European forms of visionary experience, he fearlessly pursues the symbolic, nonrational depths of such phenomena, reawakening the intuitive, creative impulses that power greater understanding. Throughout his career, Obeyesekere has combined psychoanalysis and anthropology to illuminate the relationship between personal symbolism and religious experience. In this book, he begins with Buddha's visionary trances wherein, over the course of four hours, he witnesses hundreds of thousands of his past births and eons of world evolution, renewal, and disappearance. He then connects this fracturing of empirical and visionary time to the realm of space, considering the experience of a female Christian penitent, who stares devotedly at a tiny crucifix only to see the space around it expand to mirror Christ's suffering. Obeyesekere follows the unconscious motivations underlying rapture, the fantastical consumption of Christ's body and blood, and body mutilation and levitation, bridging medieval Catholicism and the movements of early modern thought as reflected in William Blake's artistic visions and poetic dreams. He develops the term "dream-ego" through a discussion of visionary journeys, Carl Jung's and Sigmund Freud's scientific dreaming, and the cosmic and erotic dream-visions of New Age virtuosos, and he defines the parameters of a visionary mode of knowledge that provides a more elastic understanding of truth. A career-culminating work, this volume translates the epistemology of Hindu and Buddhist thinkers for western audiences while revitalizing western philosophical and scientific inquiry.

Immortal Wishes

Author: Ellen Schattschneider
Publisher: Duke University Press
ISBN: 9780822330622
Format: PDF
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Immortal Wishes is a powerful ethnographic rendering of religious rituals and ascetic practices at the Akakura Mountain Shrine in northern Japan. Inspired by a vision of a dragon arising out of Akakura Mountain, a peasant woman founded the Shinto sect in 1921. Since then, worshippers, predominantly women, have come to the shrine to participate in what can be years, or even decades, of a regimen of shugyo (disciplined practice), which often involves arduous physical tasks including treks up the mountainside. Ellen Schattschneider argues that the ascetic discipline and rituals at Akakura Mountain Shrine are generated by a complex set of social and historical tensions, some of which reflect the uneasy status of the surrounding area within the modern nation's industrial and postindustrial economies. Yet, Schattschneider explains, spiritual practice at the Akakura shrine is also motivated by the efforts of women and men to comprehend and manage contradictory obligations and desires related to personal health, family, and work. Schattschneider participated in shugyo herself, and Immortal Wishes is full of details drawn from conversations, events, climbs, interviews, and outings. She relates the histories of the practice and individual practitioners, annual rituals, various steps and elements involved in specific shugyo, the exchanges of offerings, legendary dreams, and the conflicted issues of succession raised by the founder's death. In describing how personal loss and travail are transposed onto the mountain landscape as spiritual transcendence is sought through worship and practical labor, Schattschneider reveals the deeply embodied nature of a religion physically labored at with a subtlety and intensity as sensual as it is spiritual.

Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing

Author: Alan Dundes
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
ISBN: 9780814323588
Format: PDF
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Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing documents the thriving folklore tradition that circulates in the workplace. Alan Dundes and Carl Pagter have collected more than two hundred and fifty "signs of the times"—the office memoranda, parodies, cartoons, and poems that daily make their way through copy machines, interoffice mail systems, and fax machines and are affixed to bulletin boards and water coolers. The rich vein of urban folklore tapped by this imaginative volume constitutes a great testament to one of the world's most prolific authors—anonymous. The popularity of the items featured in this timely book is apparent by their reproduction in mass or popular cultural form—as greeting cards, plaques, and bumper stickers—reminding us of the inevitable interplay between folklore and mass culture. Dundes and Pagter clearly demonstrate the existence of folklore in the modern urban technological world and refute the notion that folklore reflects only the past.

Winged Faith

Author: Tulasi Srinivas
Publisher: Columbia University Press
ISBN: 0231520522
Format: PDF, ePub
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The Sathya Sai global civil religious movement incorporates Hindu and Muslim practices, Buddhist, Christian, and Zoroastrian influences, and "New Age"-style rituals and beliefs. Shri Sathya Sai Baba, its charismatic and controversial leader, attracts several million adherents from various national, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. In a dynamic account of the Sathya Sai movement's explosive growth, Winged Faith argues for a rethinking of globalization and the politics of identity in a religiously plural world. This study considers a new kind of cosmopolitanism located in an alternate understanding of difference and contestation. It considers how acts of "sacred spectating" and illusion, "moral stakeholding" and the problems of community are debated and experienced. A thrilling study of a transcultural and transurban phenomenon that questions narratives of self and being, circuits of sacred mobility, and the politics of affect, Winged Faith suggests new methods for discussing religion in a globalizing world and introduces readers to an easily critiqued yet not fully understood community.