About OpenKnowledge@NAU | For NAU Authors

Magical laments and anthropological reflections

Wilce, James M. (2006) Magical laments and anthropological reflections. Current Anthropology, 47 (6). pp. 891-914. ISSN 1537-5382


Download (408kB) | Preview
Publisher’s or external URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/507195


Anthropological writing becomes ritual when its unfolding argument structure parallels and thus its voice resonates with lament or even prayer. Structural features of lament are apparent in some ethnographies of lament, and anthropologists with no interest in traditional lament have nonetheless joined ineffectual modern elegies over modernity's destructiveness. Magical laments achieve their effects by thematically progressing from death to the afterlife by means of heteroglossia or a shift in verb mood from indicative to optative. Some anthropological accounts of lament dwell on their "death" and use metaphors also found in ritual lament. The conclusions of several relevant anthropological writings are marked by shifts in verb forms, though subtler than in laments, evincing perduring contradictions of modernity. Anthropology cannot avoid playing a role in cultural production— but what role? We can and should explore appropriate ways to mourn modernity's destructiveness&x2014; bringing the argument about the anthropology of lament full circle and enabling a shift of focus in modernist discourse from past to future.

Item Type: Article
Publisher’s Statement: © 2006 Current Anthropology. Published by The University of Chicago Press.
ID number or DOI: 10.1086/507195
Keywords: anthropologists; Anthropology; culture; death; ethnology; laments; Language; magic; Memory; modernity; rites; ritual
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Faculty/Staff
Department/Unit: College of Social and Behavioral Science > Anthropology
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2015 22:10
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/499

Actions (login required)

IR Staff Record View IR Staff Record View


Downloads per month over past year