Rethinking Anthropological Studies of the Body: Manas and Bdham in Kerala.

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Rethinking Anthropological Studies of the Body: Manas and Bdham in Kerala.

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American Anthropologist


Halliburton, Murphy

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Anthropological research that focuses on the body has been prolific in the last two decades. This trend has provided an important reorientation away from a tendency to focus on mental representations of experience and has allowed for a more holistic understanding of the human condition. However, this article argues that much research on the body has created a false dichotomy: Westerners are seen as living in a world of mentalistic bias and mind–body dualism while all others are understood as more grounded in their bodies. Ethnographic research conducted among people suffering psychopathology and possession in Kerala, India, challenges these assumptions about the embodied Other by showing that these patients experience a continuum of states of being that includes the body, mind, consciousness, and self/soul. This approach demonstrates how an examination of a local culturally and historically formed phenomenological orientation can provide a useful alternative to the tendency to discover embodied peoples.


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