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In My Time of DyingA History of Death and the Dead in West Africa$
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John Parker

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691193151

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691193151.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 24 January 2022

Making Modern Deathways

Making Modern Deathways

Chapter:
(p.308) 19 Making Modern Deathways
Source:
In My Time of Dying
Author(s):

John Parker

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691193151.003.0020

This chapter turns to the most emblematic aspect of the African encounter with death: the funeral. It argues that, as historians of death in many cultures have observed, the weight of tradition borne by funeral rites means that they are often stubbornly resistant to innovation. Contemporary sub-Saharan Africa's anthropological research has shown funerary cultures to be undergoing rapid and often dramatic elaboration. In postcolonial Ghana, this transformation has been characterized above all by the increasing ostentation of funerals, which are seen by many observers as more about the status of the living than the honouring of the dead. The chapter also looks into recent transformations in Ghanaian funerary culture and how biomedicine, Christianity, the cash nexus and the modern state conspired to reshape death and burial in Africa. Ultimately, the chapter considers the ways in which colonial biopower sought to regulate and to secularize death. It then shifts to focus on the ongoing debates over the funeral, that key moment when normal time seems suspended and the world of the living and the dominion of the dead enter into an intense and intimate dialogue.

Keywords:   death, funeral, funerary cultures, sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana, ostentation, colonial biopower, Ghanaian funerary culture, biomedicine, Christianity

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