A Plains Indian Myth: When Women Lost Their Power

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Chris Knight

A Plains Indian Myth: When Women Lost Their Power

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 18:45

'The Wives of the Sun and Moon' is one of the key myths of Claude Levi-Strauss' monumental study, Mythologiques. This evening will begin with a story-telling followed by a workshop and class discussion to decode the message of the myth. Originally, according to the Arapaho Indians of North American Plains, marriage was not a fixed state but a periodic alternation between one kind of relationship and another, a once-a-month honeymoon followed each month by divorce and re-union with kin. Everything started going badly wrong when hunting and gathering gave way to gardening, the lunar calendar gave way to a seasonal/solar rhythm - and womankind became subject to wedlock as a permanent state.

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Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.

Next evening class

Alice Rudge

Dangerous Laughter: Egalitarianism And The Batek Of Peninsular Malaysia
Tuesday, May 28, 2019 - 19:00
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

In the Batek’s forest, laughter and mockery are often subject to taboo, and inappropriate laughter or mockery can cause storms, madness, ill-health, or even death. However, although these taboos are viewed and described with utmost seriousness, people also find great pleasure in laughing together and making jokes. In fact, this pleasure is often intensified when the laughter or joke is forbidden and risks catastrophe. This sets up a dynamic whereby it is largely up to individuals whether they choose to follow the taboos, or to ignore them and succumb to the pleasure of sharing in subversive laughter. Speaking to debates on power and ethics, this paper therefore both outlines the Batek’s laughter taboos, and asks how managing the conflicting demands of laughter shapes people’s ethical values, particularly in relation to power, authority, and egalitarianism.