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Aghor Medicine

Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India

Ronald L. Barrett

For centuries, the Aghori have been known as the most radical ascetics in India: living naked on the cremation grounds, meditating on corpses, engaging in cannibalism and coprophagy, and consuming intoxicants out of human skulls. In recent years, however, they have shifted their practices from the embrace of ritually polluted substances to the healing of stigmatized diseases. In the process, they have become a large, socially mainstream, and politically powerful organization. Based on extensive fieldwork, this lucidly written book explores the dynamics of pollution, death, and healing in Aghor medicine. Ron Barrett examines a range of Aghor therapies from ritual bathing to modified Ayurveda and biomedicines and clarifies many misconceptions about this little-studied group and its highly unorthodox, powerful ideas about illness and healing.

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Aging and Loss

Mourning and Maturity in Contemporary Japan

Jason Danely

By 2030, over 30% of the Japanese population will be 65 or older, foreshadowing the demographic changes occurring elsewhere in Asia and around the world.  What can we learn from a study of the aging population of Japan and how can these findings inform a path forward for the elderly, their families, and for policy makers?


Based on nearly a decade of research, Aging and Loss examines how the landscape of aging is felt, understood, and embodied by older adults themselves. In detailed portraits, anthropologist Jason Danely delves into the everyday lives of older Japanese adults as they construct narratives through acts of reminiscence, social engagement and ritual practice, and reveals the pervasive cultural aesthetic of loss and of being a burden.
Through first-hand accounts of rituals in homes, cemeteries, and religious centers, Danely argues that what he calls the self-in-suspense can lead to the emergence of creative participation in an economy of care. In everyday rituals for the spirits, older adults exercise agency and reinterpret concerns of social abandonment within a meaningful cultural narrative and, by reimagining themselves and their place in the family through these rituals, older adults in Japan challenge popular attitudes about eldercare. Danely’s discussion of health and long-term care policy, and community welfare organizations, reveal a complex picture of Japan’s aging society. 

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Agitating Images

Photography against History in Indigenous Siberia

Craig Campbell

Following the socialist revolution, a colossal shift in everyday realities began in the 1920s and ’30s in the former Russian empire. Faced with the Siberian North, a vast territory considered culturally and technologically backward by the revolutionary government, the Soviets confidently undertook the project of reshaping the ordinary lives of the indigenous peoples in order to fold them into the Soviet state. In Agitating Images, Craig Campbell draws a rich and unsettling cultural portrait of the encounter between indigenous Siberians and Russian communists and reveals how photographs from this period complicate our understanding of this history.

Agitating Images provides a glimpse into the first moments of cultural engineering in remote areas of Soviet Siberia. The territories were perceived by outsiders to be on the margins of civilization, replete with shamanic rituals and inhabited by exiles, criminals, and “primitive” indigenous peoples. The Soviets hoped to permanently transform the mythologized landscape by establishing socialist utopian developments designed to incorporate minority cultures into the communist state. This book delves deep into photographic archives from these Soviet programs, but rather than using the photographs to complement an official history, Campbell presents them as anti-illustrations, or intrusions, that confound simple narratives of Soviet bureaucracy and power. Meant to agitate, these images offer critiques that cannot be explained in text alone and, in turn, put into question the nature of photographs as historical artifacts.

An innovative approach to challenging historical interpretation, Agitating Images demonstrates how photographs go against accepted premises of Soviet Siberia. All photographs, Campbell argues, communicate in unique ways that present new and even contrary possibilities to the text they illustrate. Ultimately, Agitating Images dissects our very understanding of the production of historical knowledge.

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AIDS, Culture, and Africa

Edited by Douglas A. Feldman

Too often, approaches to dealing with the problems posed by the spread of HIV have been one dimensional, with the assumption that what works in one place will work in another. Douglas Feldman has collected a group of essays representing a wide range of original ideas, methodologies, and suggestions that make a significant contribution to the field of AIDS research, both in Africa and beyond.

AIDS, Culture, and Africa examines such key issues as HIV transmission, condom use, sexual patterns, male circumcision, political factors, gender, poverty, and behavioral change. It features the research of those working in different countries in Africa, with different communities within those countries, and with different age, class, religious, and ethnic groups within those communities.

These original, previously unpublished essays also address the need for a greater anthropological perspective in the increasingly medicalized and politicized study of HIV and AIDS. As a whole, they pave the way for a deeper cultural understanding necessary to effectively reverse the catastrophic growth of HIV/AIDS on the continent.

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AIDS, Culture, and Gay Men

Edited by Douglas A. Feldman

There are approximately seven million adult gay and bisexual men in the United States and 120 million adult gay and bisexual men globally. This highly readable volume of original essays explores the cultural dimensions of AIDS among men who have sex with men (MSM).

The traditional emphasis in HIV/AIDS research within gay communities has focused on sexual behavior and psychological issues. Yet to better understand the social and cultural dimensions of the disease, and to halt the spread of HIV, it is essential to recognize and understand the culture of MSM. Cultural anthropologists, unquestionably, are in a unique position to achieve this understanding. Douglas Feldman has gathered a diverse group of experts to contribute to this collection, and the volume features a wealth of scholarly data unavailable elsewhere.

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Alex and the Hobo

A Chicano Life and Story

By José Inez Taylor and James M. Taggart

When a ten-year-old boy befriends a mysterious hobo in his southern Colorado hometown in the early 1940s, he learns about evil in his community and takes his first steps toward manhood by attempting to protect his new friend from corrupt officials. Though a fictional story, Alex and the Hobo is written out of the life experiences of its author, José Inez (Joe) Taylor, and it realistically portrays a boy’s coming-of-age as a Spanish-speaking man who must carve out an honorable place for himself in a class-stratified and Anglo-dominated society. In this innovative ethnography, anthropologist James Taggart collaborates with Joe Taylor to explore how Alex and the Hobo sprang from Taylor’s life experiences and how it presents an insider’s view of Mexicano culture and its constructions of manhood. They frame the story (included in its entirety) with chapters that discuss how it encapsulates notions that Taylor learned from the Chicano movement, the farmworkers’ union, his community, his father, his mother, and his religion. Taggart gives the ethnography a solid theoretical underpinning by discussing how the story and Taylor’s account of how he created it represent an act of resistance to the class system that Taylor perceives as destroying his native culture.

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Algeria in France

Transpolitics, Race, and Nation

Paul A. Silverstein

Algerian migration to France began at the end of the 19th century, but in recent years France's Algerian community has been the focus of a shifting public debate encompassing issues of unemployment, multiculturalism, Islam, and terrorism. In this finely crafted historical and anthropological study, Paul A. Silverstein examines a wide range of social and cultural forms -- from immigration policy, colonial governance, and urban planning to corporate advertising, sports, literary narratives, and songs -- for what they reveal about postcolonial Algerian subjectivities. Investigating the connection between anti-immigrant racism and the rise of Islamist and Berberist ideologies among the "second generation" ("Beurs"), he argues that the appropriation of these cultural-political projects by Algerians in France represents a critique of notions of European or Mediterranean unity and elucidates the mechanisms by which the Algerian civil war has been transferred onto French soil.

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All in Your Head

Making Sense of Pediatric Pain

Mara Buchbinder

Although pain is a universal human experience, many view the pain of others as private, resistant to language, and, therefore, essentially unknowable. And, yet, despite the obvious limits to comprehending another’s internal state, language is all that we have to translate pain from the solitary and unknowable to a phenomenon richly described in literature, medicine, and everyday life. Without denying the private dimensions of pain, All in Your Head offers an entirely fresh perspective that considers how pain may be configured, managed, explained, and even experienced in deeply relational ways.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in a pediatric pain clinic in California, Mara Buchbinder explores how clinicians, adolescent patients, and their families make sense of puzzling symptoms and work to alleviate pain. Through careful attention to the language of pain—including narratives, conversations, models, and metaphors—and detailed analysis of how young pain sufferers make meaning through interactions with others, her book reveals that however private pain may be, making sense of it is profoundly social.

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All-Out for Victory!

Magazine Advertising and the World War II Home Front

John Bush Jones

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II, many commercial advertisers and their Madison Avenue ad agencies instantly switched from selling products and services to selling the home front on ways to support the war. Ads by major manufacturers showcased how their factories had turned to war production, demonstrating their participation in the war and helping people understand, for instance, that they couldn't buy a new washing machine because the company was making munitions. Other ads helped civilians cope with wartime rationing and shortages by offering advice on how to make leftovers tasty, make shoes last, and keep a car in good working order. Ads also encouraged Victory Gardens, scrap collecting, giving blood, and (most important) buying War Bonds.
In this book, Jones examines hundreds of ads from ten large-circulation news and general-interest magazines of the period. He discusses motivational war ads, ads about industrial and agricultural support of the war, ads directed at uplifting the morale of civilians and GIs, and ads promoting home front efficiency, conservation, and volunteerism. Jones also includes ads praising women in war work and the armed forces and ads aimed at recruiting more women. Taken together, war ads in national magazines did their part to create the most efficient home front possible in order to support the war effort.

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All Religions Are Good in Tzintzuntzan

Evangelicals in Catholic Mexico

By Peter S. Cahn

Since the 1960s, evangelical Christian denominations have made converts throughout much of Roman Catholic Latin America, causing clashes of faith that sometimes escalate to violence. Yet in one Mexican town, Tzintzuntzan, the appearance of new churches has provoked only harmony. Catholics and evangelicals alike profess that “all religions are good,” a sentiment not far removed from “here we are all equal,” which was commonly spoken in the community before evangelicals arrived. In this paradigm-challenging study, Peter Cahn investigates why the coming of evangelical churches to Tzintzuntzan has produced neither the interfaith clashes nor the economic prosperity that evangelical conversion has brought to other communities in Mexico and Latin America. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, he demonstrates that the evangelicals’ energetic brand of faith has not erupted into violence because converts continue to participate in communal life, while Catholics, in turn, participate in evangelical practices. He also underscores how Tzintzuntzan’s integration into global economic networks strongly motivates the preservation of community identity and encourages this mutual borrowing. At the same time, however, Cahn concludes that the suppression of religious difference undermines the revolutionary potential of religion.

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