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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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A Life, a Soul, a Body

A Life, a Soul, a Body

(p.70) 2 A Life, a Soul, a Body
Songs for Dead Parents

Erik Mueggler

University of Chicago Press

Work on the dead in this Lòlop’ò (or Yi) community takes the form of making them material and immaterial. Social personhood is mutual entanglement through shared substance; dead persons are subjected to a long labor of disentanglement. Through work on the dead, people assess social relations and envision the cosmological foundations of the social world. This chapter focuses on the processes of assembling a fully social body for the dead in the reform era, when death rituals were re-established after a hiatus of two decades. To attend to the active fashioning of dead bodies is to build on the focus that the tradition of the anthropology of death has maintained on the corpse and its transformations, while running counter to that tradition’s tendency to take dead bodies as given entities left over after death. Dead bodies are fashioned out of idealized, formal images of the relations in which the dead were once suspended in life. An impersonal but singular soul is captured; the soul is fleshed out with images of the elements of immanent experience, revealing its relations with the earth, the waters, and the sky; this bodily core is clothed in images of social relations.

Keywords:   social personhood, social relations, cosmology, anthropology of death, dead bodies, souls

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