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At South Indian village funerals, women cry and lament, men drink and laugh, and untouchables sing and joke to the beat of their drums. No One Cries for the Dead offers an original interpretation of these behaviors, which seem almost unrelated to the dead and to the funeral event. Isabelle Clark-Decès demonstrates that rather than mourn the dead, these Tamil funeral songs first and foremost give meaning to the caste, gender, and personal experiences of the performers.
1. A Different Grief
2. Songs of Experience
3. Why Should We Cry?
4. Life as a Record of Failure
5. Between Performance and Experience
Appendix A: Four Abridged Versions of the Virajampuhan Story
Appendix B: The Story of Virajampuhan in Tamil
Isabelle Clark-Decès is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University and the author of Religion against the Self: An Ethnography of Tamil Rituals (2000).
“A welcome and long needed analysis of death in Tamil culture. . . . Energetically raises new questions . . . engaging and personable . . . it is a thinking person’s book.”—Anthropological Quarterly
"A vivid, well-written, and deeply insightful ethnography."—Kirin Narayan, author of Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels
"This is a book of true creative insight, originality, and extraordinarily rich materials. Clark-Deces shows a gift for finding and articulating very central, evocative cultural issues in her study of Tamil laments. She writes with sensitivity and care, and with a certain daring and boldness that repay close attention."—David Shulman, author of Classical Telugu Poetry
"A stunning ethnographic essay."—Alan Dundes, author of Two Tales of Crow and Sparrow
"In this book, Isabelle Clark-Deces gives us a clear-eyed view of the bond between the state of untouchability in India, and the pain of death and irretrievable loss. This is not a distanced work: the reader is always right there with the people Clark-Deces writes about; one can see them and hear their voices as one reads. The author also achieves some powerful theoretical insights that go beyond the words and other communicative acts of her informants."—Margaret Trawick, Professor of Social Anthropology, Massey University, New Zealand, and author of Notes on Love in a Tamil Family