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The Archaeology of AncestorsDeath, Memory, and Veneration$
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Erica Hill and Jon B. Hageman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062518

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062518.001.0001

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Leveraging the Dead

Leveraging the Dead

The Ethnography of Ancestors

Chapter:
(p.3) 1 Leveraging the Dead
Source:
The Archaeology of Ancestors
Author(s):

Jon B. Hageman

Erica Hill

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813062518.003.0001

This chapter details the history of the anthropology of ancestors, beginning with the late nineteenth-century work of classical historians and sociologists. The development of the concept of “ancestors” is tracked through the influential ethnographic debates of the 1960s in which African ancestors became the prototypes for those in other world regions. Forays into China and Madagascar show how research from these regions simultaneously expanded the breadth of material on ancestors and contributed to the establishment of two primary and distinct traditions of ancestor studies—African and East Asian. The chapter identifies ten key points derived from the comparative study of ancestors, including the common roles ancestors fill and the cultural domains in which they operate and sometimes dominate. Ancestors do many things around the world, but they are consistently associated with agency, power, authority, descent, inheritance, resources, memory, and identity. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of the chapters in the volume.

Keywords:   ancestors, China, history of anthropology, Africa, agency, power, memory, identity

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