AP/ANTH 1130 6.00
ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
How do the living relate to the dead? Covering topics from ancient burial rites to contemporary zombie lore, this course examines how people in cultures around the world – past and present – create, maintain, and renegotiate complex relationships between the living and the dead. The course introduces key concepts in anthropology, particularly in archaeology and medical anthropology, through which we explore how culture shapes the meaning of life, death, and states in between.
A wide range of topics will be covered, including: past and present funerary and commemorative rites; our engagement with people from the archaeological past (e.g. mummies, bog bodies, and ancient skeletons); cross-cultural ideas about supernatural beings in liminal zones (e.g. ghosts and vampires); the dead on display (in museums, science centers, religious shrines); the political lives of dead bodies; debates about living personhood (fetal personhood, brain death); immortal cells in biomedicine; organ transplantation; notions of the afterlife; theories of reincarnation; the search for immortality (cryonics, cloning, uploading); justice for the dead (forensic anthropology); extinction and post-extinction (e.g. dinosaurs in culture); and, of course, zombies and their revenant friends.
Throughout the course, we introduce and employ anthropological thinking which emphasizes cross-cultural comparisons, holistic views of culture, ethnographic and archaeological observations, deep time, embodied experience, and emic perspectives. The course also encourages reflection about our own culture/s and the dead among us, through readings and films, connections with popular culture, and field excursions to places like heritage sites, war memorials, cemeteries, museums, zombie runs, Hallowe’en events, and science centers.