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Parasites, Worms, and the Human Body in Religion and Culture

Edited By Brenda Gardenour and Misha Tadd

The fear of parasites – with their power to invade, infest, and transform the self – writhes and wriggles through cultures and religions across the globe, reflecting a very human revulsion of being invaded and consumed by both internal and external forces. However, in ancient China, the parasitic wasp and the worm illuminate the relationship between the sage and his pupil. On the Indian sub-continent, Hindu cultures worship Nagas, entities who protect sources of drinking water from parasitic contamination, and the reciprocal relationship between parasite and host is a recurring theme in Vedic literature and ayurvedic texts. In medieval Europe, worms are symbols of both corruption through sin and redemption through Christ. In traditional African American culture, disease is attributed to infestation by supernatural spiders, bugs, and worms, while in the rainforests of southern Argentina, parasitologists fight against very real parasitic invaders. The worm represents our Jungian shadow, and we fear their bodies for they are our own – soft and vulnerable, powerfully destructive, mindlessly living off the corpses of others, and feeding on the corpse of the world.
This book gathers together scholarly research from diverse disciplines, including anthropology, the health sciences, history, literature, the medical humanities, parasitology, sociology, and religious studies.

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LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS Charlotte Baker is Lecturer in French in the Department of European Languages and Cultures at Lancaster University. She completed a PhD in Twentieth Century French and Francophone Literatures at the University of Nottingham in 2007, and her current research focuses on marginalised and stigmatised groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Charlotte is particularly interested in the fictional work of Guinean writer Williams Sassine and recently published her first monograph, Enduring Negativity: Representations of Albinism in the Fictional Work of Didier Destremau, Patrick Grainville and Williams Sassine (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011). Yvonne Chireau is Professor of Religious Studies at Swarthmore College, where she teaches courses in American religion, African American religion, and comparative religion. She is the author of Black Magic: African American Religion and the Conjuring Tradition (2003). Her research interests include the intersections of religion and healing, religion and race, and religion and magic. Marta Crivos, Maria Rosa Martinez, Carolina Remorini, and Anahi Sy are members of the Equipo de Investigación en Etnografía Aplicada (EDINEA) affiliated with the Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata as well as the Consejo de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas at La Plata, Argentina. Their team develops ethnographic and trans-disciplinary research about subsistence activities that transect the domestic scope in rural populations representative of the high bio and ethnic diversity of Argentina. The team has extensive research experience in ethonography, ethnobiology, and ethnomedicine in native populations from different regions of Argentina. Julien R. Fielding teaches...

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