Animals and Ancestors: An Ethnography

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Bloomsbury Academic, Oct 1, 2000 - Social Science - 287 pages
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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.

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About the author (2000)

Brian Morris is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, at University of London.

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