A. B. Lord Fellow Lecture, 2016

Jangariin Oboo

What the Returning Dead Want: Afterlife Narratives and Belief Worlds in West Khasi Hills

Thursday, November 3, 2016
4:00 p.m.
Strickland Hall
Room 115
University of Missouri

The Center for Studies in Oral Tradition will sponsor a public lecture by A. B. Lord Fellow, Dr. Margaret Lyngdoh, “What the Returning Dead Want: Afterlife Narratives and Belief Worlds in West Khasi Hills,” Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 4:00 P.M. in Strickland Hall Room 115.

Among the Lyngngam and Nongtrai communities of the Khasi Hills, special funerary rituals associated with spirit propitiation, corpse reanimation, and endo-mortuary anthropophagy exist, and narratives about these practices have a special social function. This talk analyzes the storyworld of the Khasis, and it’s intersections with their social and religious reality. It presents a case study seen from the context of marginalization, the indigenous heritage, and conflicted intentions where belief becomes suggestive of a community’s need to come to terms with its own place alongside other ethnic identities. What comes out strongly, is the divisive function of folklore, as opposed to the romantic, unifying discourse of folklore studies as stressed in Western scholarship.

Dr. Margaret Lyngdoh is a Junior Researcher at the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu, Estonia. She has undertaken fieldwork to document and analyze the supernatural traditions and “dark folklore” practices within her own Khasi community. She examines how marginalized genres of folklore express themselves in, and are related to, socio-psychological tensions in the Khasi community. Through her research she has learned that it is possible to deconstruct and unravel stereotypes through research and documentation.