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ANTHROP 1AA3 Lecture Notes - Taphophobia, Medicalization, Blunt Trauma

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Tracy Prowse

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Culture and Death 11/8/2012 10:12:00 AM
Culture and Death
Attitudes towards death are culturally constructed
Influenced by beliefs about life, death and the hereafter
What happens to us after death?
End of existence? Transition to another realm? Reincarnation?
Meanings given to death
Death is an enfeebled form of life
Death is a continuation of life
Death is perpetual development
Death is waiting
Death is cycling and recycling
Death is nothing
How do we define death?
Traditional medical view- lack of respiration, pulse, and heartbeat
If there is no pulse then the heart is no longer functioning
Failure to respond to stimuli
Lowered body temperature and stiffness
A rope placed in the hands of the coffin occupant could be pulled to ring
the bell above ground
Unnatural fear of being buried alive
The Harvard Criteria for Death
Came up with a criteria for doctors to make sure the patient was dead
1, unreceptive and unresponsive
2, no spontaneous movement or respiration
3, no reflexes: light in the eyes (stimuli)
4, a flat EEG (electrical activity in the brain)
5, no circulation to or within the brain
criteria because not knowing if someone is dead causes some issues with
organ donors

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comem transient vegetative state, locked-in syndrome, permanent
vegetative stat, persistent vegetative state
Modern Medicalization of Death
Death is to be avoided
In the past, the doctors presence at the deathbed was rare
Family/religious figure typically present
Eventualy became figure typically present
Eventually became a “status symbol” to die under medical care
Death may be prevented (or at least delayed) by medicine
Life expectancies have changed, average day is now 70-80‟s before it was
Rituals surrounding death
In many cultures death is „unclean‟
Rituals to transition the deceased from the world of the living to the world
of the dead (eg. „wake‟, burial, cremation)
Period of mourning
Rituals to reintegrate survivors back into the community (eg, cleansing)
Usually decreased are separated from the living
Most modern societies we see that the deceased are placed in special
locations, (ground, side of cliffs, toraja burial caves, Indonesia, crypt of
the capuchin monks, rome, representation of the deceased)
Ongoing relationships with the dead
Mexico day of the dead
Once someone is buried, that is not the end of the relationship with the
person (bring offerings the dead)
Turning of the Bones (Madagascar) south east coast of Africa
When a family member dies, he or she is put into a tomb, they unwrap
the body and rewrap them and have a party and celebrate the family
member as interval parts of society
Making an ongoing relationship with the dead

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Culture and death (textbook)
Suicide and death by violence
Infanticide: the deliberate killing of an offspring (active/direct: intentional
killing, indirect/passive: when the basic needs of life aren‟t able to be
provided enough for the child to survive, letting the child die)
Reasons for infanticide
Infant is ill or „deformed‟: considered them being angel babies thinking
they‟d be happier in heaven then alive deformed
Sex of the infant (females are killed)
Infant is the result of adultery
Birth of twins (females are killed if one twin is a boy)
Too many children
World Sex Ratio
<1- fewer males than females
>1- more males then females
higher male ratios, (cultural areas)
Case Study- India
Northern india- ratio of males to females is higher (ie more males)
There is a difference of males to female ratios
Northern india males to females ratio is higher
Economic modes of destruction
Northern india:
Wheat cultivation: heavy labor is done by males (division of
labor/agriculture activity)
Marriage requires a dowry (brides fam gives the males fam money during
marriage, putting economic pressure for the family with the girl)
Birth of daughters is a financial drain
Southern india
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