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Songs for Dead ParentsCorpse, Text, and World in Southwest China$
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Erik Mueggler

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226483382

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226483412.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Songs for Dead Parents

Erik Mueggler

University of Chicago Press

From the early twentieth century through the present, people in a Lòlop’ò (or Yi) community in Yunnan Province used sacrifice, exchange, performance, inscription and poetic vocalization to fashion bodies for the dead, in an exuberant variety of practices. In these contexts, to assemble dead bodies was to formalize, actualize, and make visible social relations. The introduction prepares to discuss these efforts to make dead bodies by investigating the history of death in this community, from the transition from cremation to burial in the late 19th century, through the suppression of death ritual in the mid twentieth century and its revival in the late twentieth century. The introduction also describes the two parts of this book. Part I investigates the techniques and poetics of the revived death rituals of the reform era; Part II looks back to the early twentieth century to describe a speech at the center of two major rituals abandoned in the socialist period. The songs of this speech construct a world for the dead, assemble dead souls, and theorize dead bodies. They are a sustained, detailed, consequential engagement with the dead, an attempt to make their world and create their material and immaterial bodies.

Keywords:   exchange, sacrifice, performance, inscription, social relations, cremation, burial, material, socialism

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