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Mirrors of Passing: Unlocking the Mysteries of Death, Materiality, and Time

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Mirrors of Passing

Unlocking the Mysteries of Death, Materiality, and Time

Edited by Sophie Seebach and Rane Willerslev

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326 pages, 102 color illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-908-0 25% OFF! $200.00/£142.00 $150.00/£106.50 Hb Published (August 2018)

ISBN  978-1-78533-894-6 25% OFF! $50.00/£36.00 $37.50/£27.00 Pb Published (August 2018)

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“This volume is especially relevant for scholars and students concerned with the ethical role of museums as caretakers of our religious material and physical (human) remains as well as for those interested in broader questions of how death, time, and materiality impact human conceptions of spirit and place. Its value for scholars of religious studies lies in its non-Western focus, as it provides—in one volume—a significant contribution to the scholarship on death and conceptions of the afterlife from contemporary indigenous cultures around the world.” • Reading Religion

“Ambitious and engaging, the essays in this volume demonstrate how diverse conceptions of time, in relation to death, are present across history, geography, and media. Beginning with the first chapter’s enchanting examination of a James Joyce story, and continuing through the various ethnographies, the contributors have provided us with new ways of engaging with some familiar themes.” • Barbara Graham, author of Death, Materiality, and Mediation: An Ethnography of Remembrance in Ireland


Without exception, all people are faced with the inevitability of death, a stark fact that has immeasurably shaped societies and individual consciousness for the whole of human history. Mirrors of Passing offers a powerful window into this oldest of human preoccupations by investigating the interrelationships of death, materiality, and temporality across far-flung times and places. Stretching as far back as Ancient Egypt and Greece and moving through present-day locales as diverse as Western Europe, Central Asia, and the Arctic, each of the richly illustrated essays collected here draw on a range of disciplinary insights to explore some of the most fundamental, universal questions that confront us.

Sophie Seebach holds a doctorate from Aarhus University. Her recent publications include pieces in the edited collection Mortuary Rites, Memory, and Authority/Agency: The Anthropology of Death in the Early Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and, with Lotte Meinert and Rane Willerslev, in the journal Africa.

Rane Willerslev holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge. His numerous books and publications include On the Run in Siberia (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Taming Time, Timing Death: Social Technologies and Ritual (edited with Dorthe R. Christensen, Ashgate, 2013), and Transcultural Montage (edited with Christian Suhr, Berghahn, 2013).

Subject: General Anthropology General Cultural Studies Religion


List of Illustrations

Introduction: Mirrors of Passing
Sophie Seebach and Rane Willerslev


Chapter 1. The Time of the Dead: Anthropology, Literature, and the Virtual Past
Stuart McLean

Chapter 2. Orpheus in Love, Death, and Time
Marina Prusac-Lindhagen

Chapter 3. Death before Time: Mythical Time in Ancient Egyptian Mortuary Religion
Rune Nyord

Chapter 4. When Bad Places Turn Worse: The Necropolitics of Death Sites in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Per Detlef Frederiksen

Chapter 5. Narratives of Ebola: Temporal and Material Changes of Social Riverscapes
Theresa Amman


Chapter 6. "Saving the Dead": Fighting for Life in the Siberian North
Rane Willerslev and Jeanette Lykkegård

Chapter 7. Death, Rebirth, Objects, and Time in North American Traditional Inuit Societies: an Overview
Matthew J. Walsh and Sean O’Neill

Chapter 8. Transforming and Creating Multiple Worlds: Strange Attractors in the Mongolian landscape
Malthe Lehrmann

Chapter 9. The Dead among the Living: Materiality and Time in Rethinking Death and Otherness in Lowland South America
Clarissa Martins Lima and Felipe Vander Velden


Chapter 10. Making Presence: Time Work and Narratives in Bereaved Parents' Online Grief Work
Dorthe Refslund Christensen and Kjetil Sandvik

Chapter 11. The Multiple Identities of Aslak Hætta and Mons Somby: The Case of the Sámi Skulls
Susan Matland

Chapter 12. Media, Ritual, and Immortality: The Case of a Masculine Hero
Johanna Sumiala

Chapter 13. The Temporality and Materiality of Life and Death in a Sepik Village
Christiane Falck


Chapter 14. The Wonderful Exhibition That Almost Was
Alexandra Schuessler


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