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Accepted Paper:

Mizo Deathways from Past to Present: The Cultural and Economic Significance of Death and the Dead  
Florence Laldinpuii (Indian Institute of Technology Delhi)

Paper short abstract:

By focusing on Mizo categorizations of death, this paper analyzes the cultural, material, and economic significance of funerary and commemoration rituals, and the preservation of ancestral 'bones' that reveal social hierarchy and 'restage' a continued bond with the dead.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the traditional "deathways" of the Mizos, an indigenous tribe of Northeast India. It critically analyzes the different categorizations of death and the associated burial rituals and commemorative practices as factors that reveal and influence social structures. Emphasis is laid on "kuangur", the Mizo practice of putrefying and decomposing the dead's body for extracting the bones. The cultural and economic significance attributed to the ancestor's bones is revealed by the instrumentality of the bones in reasserting lineage or kinship, claiming a certain status quo, and in the transfer of property. The celebrative "restaging" of the bones during the Mizo festival for the dead further argues for the "continued bonds" between the living and the dead. The afterlife myths and eschatological beliefs that find manifestations in customs associated with this festival reveal the complex relationship between the dead and the living. While death is elaborated as a "liminal" phase of rites of passage (Van Gennepin 1909), death in pre-Christian Mizo society is understood as a "socially and culturally defined process" (Zama 2016). This paper argues for the simultaneous reconstruction of death while analyzing death's embodied and cultural materiality, funerary and burial practices, and overall contributes to arguments on indigenous identity and epistemology in relation to mortuary culture.

Panel P179a
Afterlife counts: the economics and materiality of funerals and dealing with death [AGENET]
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -