Gift exchanges between the living and the dead: notes from fieldwork in Tribal Middle India
Eva Reichel (Free University, Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
Fieldwork based instances of gift giving in the course of the Ho’s first and secondary burials will illustrate the social character of death and “the collective making of meaning” in a holistic society.
Paper long abstract:
EASA 2014 invites us to "explore new collaborative practices" and approach "collaboration as relations of intimacy" and "basic terms of our contemporary world" (quotes from the position paper of the conference). The present paper takes a look at the Ho, a tribal community in Central India, who pride themselves of continuing time-tested intimate practices relating the living and the dead. In the classical Maussian understanding gift cycles engage persons in permanent commitments and compel them to make a return thus construing relations of interdependence and solidarity. The dead are transformed into ancestor-persons who are furnished with remarkable agency and acquire added responsibilities as intermediaries between the world of the living and the spirit world. Ho death rituals contribute to creating and reproducing a dynamic web of collaboration among the living and between the living and the dead. Fieldwork based instances of gift giving in the course of the Ho's first and secondary burials will illustrate the social character of death and "the collective making of meaning" in a holistic society.
Give and take: gift exchange in South Asia