Write an essay based on your research proposal and your own research. There will be no set questions.
• This essay must draw on some written material from the course: the required readings; the supplementary readings or materials from my lectures.
• Feel free to go beyond the course readings to find material which relates to your topics. Broader reading will be rewarded! The use of ethnographic material will gain bonus marks.
Life and death are the core universals for human beings, yet are the context for key contemporary debates, and a wide variety of practices and beliefs historically and culturally. Debates on such key topics as reproductive technologies, organ transplantation, and the ‘good death’ often encapsulate central social and cultural assumptions. This course explores such debates and assumptions through an examination of the cross-cultural nature of life and death in both western and non-western societies. Both birth and death have been core concerns of anthropology throughout its history, and continue to be the focus of research. Dominant themes of this course are the practices and beliefs at the start of life (conception, and birth), as well as at the end of life, including how connections are forged or severed between the living and the dead (aging, the process of death, grief, funerals and memorials, and the afterlife)
The Course is organised broadly into two parts: Life and Death. This course will cover material that at times will be confronting or even disturbing. It is often difficult to think about the death of ourselves or those whom we love. For some people this course may thus evoke uncomfortable feelings or memories. Yet the processes of coming into life and leaving life are core parts of human social experience, and hence worthy of anthropological attention.
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