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Mahony, David Edward (1972) Some political aspects of ritual and belief concerning death. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis considers ritual and belief pertaining to death, and locates these in a political or economic context. The contexts considered include those of alliance (chapter I), economic interest groups (Chapter II), authority (chapter III), and political interest groups (chapter IV). All involve a consideration of either the political or economic purposes of groups. For the most part, the orientation followed relates to two dimensions of human experience; the ritual dimension and the political dimension. These I see as having been variously described as 'Custon and Politics' (Cohen 1969b), 'Communitas and Structure' (Turner 1969), the ethical experience and the political experience (Baldelli 1972). I see these as not dissimilar ways of depicting the two dimensions. This thesis studies the relationship between these two dimensions with regard to death, and the various problems that death occasions. Diverse cultural materials are treated in this respect. Although from the work of some writers (Turner and Baldelli) it seems that these dimensions of human experience are fundamentally antagonistic one to another, almost compartmentalized one from the other in an ideal-typical sense, this thesis seeks to establish a very close correlation between the strength or vitality of custom (communitas, the ethical experience), and the political or economic factor. Conversely, and equally close correlation exists between the decline of custom and the political or economic factor. Although these dimensions of human experience are in a sense understood as being independent of one another, the dynamic involvement of custom in a political or economic process, the intensification of customary symbolic forms by a political or economic group, means that political or economic man in the pursuit of his interests is able to exploit the ideological resources of ritual man and his creations. Death is treated as the province of the ritual dimension, and it is the customary symbolic forms thereof, that man can manipulate for political or economic purposes.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

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