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The relations of mind and body, and the perceptions of those relations, are important for the definition of humanity at the broadest level in all cultures. Questions of the body have been a major theme not only in the history of European culture, but in many other cultures described in the ethnographic record. This book aims to cover a part of this cross-cultural record using an approach developed in the 1980s within medical anthropology, the "mindful body" approach.
Through a continuous and deliberate juxtaposition of materials from Europe and Melanesia, Andrew J. Strathern shows that, from one viewpoint, the ways in which the life-worlds of other cultures have been portrayed have inevitably been influenced by European categories of understanding; while, from another viewpoint, there are indeed similarities between, e.g., the humoral medical theories of ancient Greece and humoral notions in New Guinea cultures today. Other topics taken up for discussion are ideas about the body, health, and sickness; trance and healing; the concept of embodiment and its uses in contemporary theorizing in anthropology; and the understanding of spirit possession as a form of historical consciousness.
Grounded firmly in cross-cultural ethnography, this book makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning literature on the body in anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.