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Ghost and Spirits

Published in Asian Anthropology

Enjoy FREE ACCESS to the below articles via this page until 31 January 2021

Almost every culture believes there is some nonphysical essence of life. This “spirit” of life often takes the form of a ghost or spirit. Different cultures have different ways of defining and describing ghosts and spirits. One useful way to think about these terms is to think of spirit as the broad, general term and to think of a ghost as a spirit that is not where it is supposed to be (and is thus often potentially dangerous). Many people ask whether ghosts and spirits are “real,” but most anthropologists put that question aside. For anthropologists, the reality of ghosts and spirits is in the cultural realm; if people grow up hearing tales of malevolent ghosts, they are likely to “see” and feel the presence of ghosts around them. These spirits are real because they affect people’s thought and behavior.

The ghosts and spirits of different societies have little in common. Some are frightening, others are reassuring in supporting the idea that life continues after earthly death. And even people who are skeptical (as it seems some are in every society) feel social pressure to act as though they believe in ghosts.

In this virtual special issue, selected articles show how ghosts and spirits help humans manage their relationships with the living as well as the dead, explaining what spirits mean in their cultural context.

Asian Anthropology

Asian Anthropology seeks to bring interesting and exciting new anthropological research on Asia to a global audience.

Language: en-US

Publisher: Routledge

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