Imaginations of Death and the Beyond in India and Europe

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Günter Blamberger, Sudhir Kakar
  • New York, NY: 
    Springer Publishing
    , April
     202 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Philippe Bornet forthcoming.


This volume explores current images of afterlife/afterdeath and the presence of the dead in the imaginations of the living in Indian and European traditions. Specifically, it focuses on the deepest and most fundamental uncertainty of human existence---the awareness of human mortality, on which depends any assignment of meaning to earthly existence as also to notions of worldly and otherworldly salvation. This central idea is addressed in the literature, arts, audiovisual media and other cultural artefacts of the two traditions. The chapters are based on two main assumptions: First, that one cannot report on the direct experience of death; so it is only possible to speak allegorically of it. Second, in contemporary Western societies, marked by structural atheism, people look at literature, the arts and mass media to study their depiction and reading of traditionally religious questions of disease, death and the Beyond. This is in contrast to Asian civilizations whose preoccupation with death and Beyond is persistent and perhaps central to the civilizations’ highest thought. 

The chapters cover a wide spectrum of disciplinary approaches, from psychoanalysis to religious, anthropological, literary and film studies, from sociology and philosophy to art history, and address issues of unsettling power: comforting illusions of afterlife; the relations between afterlife and fertility; visions of technological immortalization of mankind; the problem of thinking about death after the “death of God”; socialist utopias of bodily immortality; fear of Hell and punishment; different concepts in relating the living and the dead; near-death experiences; and cultural practices of spiritualism, occultism and suicide.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Günter Blamberger holds a Chair in German Philology at the University of Cologne and is Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Internationales Kolleg Morphomata) in Cologne. Since 1996 he has been President of the International Kleist-Society, and editor of the Kleist-Yearbook. He was responsible for the Kleist-Bicentenary in 2011.

Sudhir Kakar has been Lecturer at Harvard University, Research Fellow at Harvard Business School, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and Head of Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.


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