Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India

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9780520252189: Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India

For centuries, the Aghori have been known as the most radical ascetics in India: living naked on the cremation grounds, meditating on corpses, engaging in cannibalism and coprophagy, and consuming intoxicants out of human skulls. In recent years, however, they have shifted their practices from the embrace of ritually polluted substances to the healing of stigmatized diseases. In the process, they have become a large, socially mainstream, and politically powerful organization. Based on extensive fieldwork, this lucidly written book explores the dynamics of pollution, death, and healing in Aghor medicine. Ron Barrett examines a range of Aghor therapies from ritual bathing to modified Ayurveda and biomedicines and clarifies many misconceptions about this little-studied group and its highly unorthodox, powerful ideas about illness and healing.

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From the Inside Flap:

"Aghor Medicine moves seamlessly between an ethnography of religion and medical anthropology. The stories of suffering and renunciation, of collective experience that turn Indian hierarchy and discrimination upside down are quite marvelous. The writing is clear and direct and the interpretations balanced and scrupulously documented. Barrett has written one of the best accounts on local traditions "modernizing" in ways that combine indigenous significance with globally crucial changes that react against health and social inequalities."—Arthur Kleinman, Harvard University

"Ronald Barrett's fine account of aghor medicine reveals essential characteristics of India's popular culture, and, since an ashram in California has an important role in the story, of American popular culture as well."—Charles Leslie, author of Death Row Letters (forthcoming)

About the Author:

Ron Barrett is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropological Sciences at Stanford University.

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Ronald L. Barrett
ISBN 10: 0520252187 ISBN 13: 9780520252189
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