Symbolic Heat

Symbolic Heat

Product ID: 17455

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Author: Dennis B McGilvray
Publisher: Mapin
Year: 1998
Language: English
Pages: 72
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8185822525


For the Tamils, an ethnic community in modern-day South India and Sri Lanka, a concept of physical and spiritual heat as female energy (sakti) influences their diet, their traditional medical practices, their view of men and women, and their worship of Hindu deities. An anthropologist who has conducted firsthand field research in both locations interprets this cultural viewpoint here photographically. Some of the striking interconnections between "cooling" and "heating" foods, Ayurvedic humoral medical treatments, male and female gender relations, popular beliefs about sexuality and the life cycle, and "cooling" rituals of worship for "hot" Hindu goddesses are illustrated in this volume, which accompanies the "Symbolic Heat" photographic exhibit mounted by the University of Colorado Museum.

From the Author


This 72 page, 8.5"x 11" soft-cover photobook incorporates all of the images and interpretive text in my traveling SYMBOLIC HEAT photo exhibit currently available for bookings from the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder, reproduced beautifully and with strong graphic design on high-quality paper. I took half of the 72 photos in the minority Tamil-speaking regions of northeast Sri Lanka, and the balance in the state of Tamilnadu in South India, over a period of two decades. The book aims to formulate a visual argument for the embedded cultural logic behind Tamil ideas of gender, diet, health, and ritual, with an emphasis upon the Hindu concept of sakti (female energy) in the worship of local deities and the popular implementation of Ayurvedic ideas of heating and cooling foods and substances in the domains of diet and health. It also surveys the life-cycle and some rites of passage, including the auspicious rituals of a Tamil girl's first menstruation. The interpretive text and captions are intended to provide a key to the Tamil meanings conveyed in the images. In this sense, it is a deliberately hybrid volume which seeks to bridge the categories of cultural anthropology and photo art. It also preserves a vision of Tamil life prior to the eruption of the Eelam War, making the current inter-ethnic warfare and violence in Sri Lanka even more poignant. 38 of the photos are printed in full-color, the remainder in B&W, with additional maps, duotones, and a suggested bibliography. Conceived as a companion volume to the traveling SYMBOLIC HEAT exhibit, this book could also be used in introductory college courses dealing with South Asian cultures and religions, as well as in courses on the cross-cultural dimensions of gender, health, and ritual. It will be of interest to Sri Lankans and South Indians living abroad who wish to have a glimpse of their cultural roots, as well as to travelers and anyone interested in the popular cultures of South Asia.