Animals and Ancestors : An Ethnography book cover
1st Edition

Animals and Ancestors
An Ethnography

ISBN 9781859734919
Published October 1, 2000 by Routledge
300 Pages

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Book Description

Ever since the emergence of human culture, people and animals have co-existed in close proximity. Humans have always recognized both their kinship with animals and their fundamental differences, as animals have always been a threat to humans' well-being. The relationship, therefore, has been complex, intimate, reciprocal, personal, and -- crucially -- ambivalent. It is hardly surprising that animals evoke strong emotions in humans, both positive and negative. This companion volume to Morris' important earlier work, The Power of Animals, is a sustained investigation of the Malawi people's sacramental attitude to animals, particularly the role that animals play in life-cycle rituals, their relationship to the divinity and to spirits of the dead. How people relate to and use animals speaks volumes about their culture and beliefs. This book overturns the ingrained prejudice within much ethnographic work, which has often dismissed the pivotal role animals play in culture, and shows that personhood, religion, and a wide range of rituals are informed by, and even dependent upon, human-animal relations.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 2 Animals, Humans and Personhood 3 Rituals of Childbirth and Womanhood 4 Boys' Initiation and the Nyau Fraternities 5 God and the Rain Deities 6 The Ancestral Spirits

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Brian Morris Emeritus Professor of Anthropology,Goldsmiths College, University of London


"Morris defends with great wit and intelligence his ''philosophical'' background and the methodology he uses ... well researched, well edited, offers a valuable bibliography, and is written in a language that attracts attention, avoiding academic jargon ... might become a classic, not only on Malawi but as an example of ethnography at its best. - Zeitschrift für Ethnologie The book gives a new insight into Malawian culture, bringing together the fruits of the long-term field research work of the author, and the published documents of many specialists of Malawian culture. Morris examines carefully their material, shows lacks and misleadings, and proposes interpretations that seem to better express the cultural reality. He maintains proper distance to the empirical material, therefore, his book is very instructive for the researchers in African studies. - Anthropos"