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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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Soul Work

Soul Work

(p.228) 7 Soul Work
Songs for Dead Parents

Erik Mueggler

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 7 analyzes the second of three parts of a speech to the dead. The songs of this part fashion immaterial bodies for the dead, their intensive bodies. The songs are parallel to each other in in series along two axes, which intersect in rows (or tə̠) and columns (or je). The simple progression of series examined in Chapter 6 evolves here into a structure of many folds or planes along three dimensions, traversed by orthogonal lines of force. This is the shape of the dead couple’s intensive bodies: assembled along several planes at once, each plane correlated with the others through the device of parallel verses, this matrix distorted by swooping lines of flight that disorganize and recombine the planes. Three forms of power are involved: the negative freedom of souls abandoned in the forest, the despotic power of the underworld to force the return of life for life, and the aleatory power of a shaman in alliance with death. Since these forces come to bear on the dead soul, directing the details of its assembly, we can understand these intensive bodies as dead subjects—subjected to powers of mutually contradictory origins.

Keywords:   shamanism, parallelism, bodies, souls, underworld, dead subjects

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