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Funerals As Feasts: Why Are They So Important?

  • Brian Hayden (a1)

Abstract

Extremely lavish funeral feasts are common and expensive in many village and chiefdom societies. Anthropologists and politicians often explain such apparently economically irrational expenditures in terms of culture values or traditions. However, viewed from the broader perspective of other types of promotional feasts in transegalitarian or more complex societies (including marriages and house feasts), overtly competitive funeral feasts are used to advertise the success of the surviving family and kin groups. This socioeconomic promotion is important for attracting powerful/successful/wealthy families as affines and allies. Such allies are critical for defending family and individual self-interests in village political and economic struggles that are endemic. Funerals are especially apt contexts for these displays and political manoeuvres.

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Cambridge Archaeological Journal
  • ISSN: 0959-7743
  • EISSN: 1474-0540
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-archaeological-journal
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