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Record Type: Review   ID: 412

Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations

Tedlock, Barbara. (Ed.)

 This is a paperback edition of a seminal work that is the result of a seminar convened by the editor in 1982 on anthropological approaches to dreaming. In a new Preface to this edition, she notes how the interest of cultural and other anthropologists in dreams has expanded and developed considerably. The book begins with a very valuable cross-cultural review of dreaming and dreaming research by Tedlock, which goes back to the Upanishads, and the seminar papers themselves. A paradigm shift in the view of dreams was occurring at the time the conference was held and at the conference itself, with dreaming being seen as an activity rather than dreams as objects (Price-Williams) and applying the language of semiotics, sociolinguistics, psychoanalysis, hermeneutics, and natural-language philosophy to the interpretation and meaning of dreams. Dreaming emerged as "a psychodynamic communicative process" (p. 30). The second chapter, Myths in Dreams, Thought in Images, by Waud Kracke is about "an Amazonian contribution to the psychoanalytic theory of primary process" (p. 31). Kracke's comparison of dreams and myths is interesting and useful. He concludes that "dream thinking, or primary process, is not merely a degenerate, regressive form of adult logical thought, but is rather a distinct form of thinking. ... as valid as logical, categorical thought, but appropriate for different kinds of problems" (p. 52). Gilbert Herdt examines "selfhood and discourse in Sambia dream sharing," and suggests that what the West has taken to be the "childish" dream theories of tribal peoples should be taken seriously as presenting "alternative metapsychologies of human existence" (p. 82). He adds that until we look at them from "the native's point of view ... we will not take seriously the pro positions that culture may actually change experience inside of dreams, or that the productions of dreaming do actually become absorbed and transformed into culture" (p. 82). Ellen Basso, in The Implications of a Progressive Theory of Dreaming, reports on her study of dreaming among the Kalapalo Indians of Brazil, whose dreams are "progressive" in that they are "interpreted quite clearly with reference to the future" (p. 88), although they can contain past images. Moreover, they view dreaming as not so much "about what will happen to a person" as "about the self becoming" (p. 101). Tedlock contributes a chapter on Zuni and Quiche Dream Sharing and Interpreting and discusses cultural differences in dream interpretation reflecting differing worldviews. Thus, differing worldviews determine how a dream is classified and coded before it is even told. She notes: "We need ... a way to move not from surface to surface, but from depth to depth" (p. 129). Bruce Mannheim presents A Semiotic of Andean Dreams and concludes that the dreamer is "a historically and culturally situated interpretive subject," so that cultural influence is dependent on the ways in which cultured practices are understood by the subject. Michael F. Brown contributed Ropes of Sand: Order and Imagery in Aguaruna Dreams, observing that "the Aguaruna use dreams and altered states of consciousness as bridges between self and other, as sources of imagery that can be consciously appropriated to alter the dreamer's world" (p. 168). Throughout the book I have observed that the findings reported about dreams, which themselves are often exceptional human experiences, might well apply also to other forms of exceptional experience. This last statement seems particularly relevant to the potential use of EHEs in Western culture today. Benjamin Kilborne contributed a chapter on dream classification and argues that the degree to which a culture develops an elaborate classification of dreams and principles of interpreting dreams is an indication of how that culture invests its psychic energy and resources. William Merrill reports on dreaming among the Raramuii Indians of northern Mexico, who believe that "it is primarily through dreams that they communicate with their deities, diagnose illness, and acquire information about the future" (p. 194). John Homiak discusses mystic revelation in the Jamaican prophetic movement known as the Rastafarian Movement using a participative approach and emphasizing the researcher's "role in the production of ethnographic knowledge" (p. 243). Douglas Price-Williams contributed The Waking Dream in Ethnographic Perspective, which is about the mythopoetic functions involved in active imagination and guided imagery in Western psychiatry, and he points to parallels in other cultures and sets forth the implications for anthropology. His valuable reference list alone takes up 25 pages!
Publisher Information:Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1992. 300p. Bibl: 263-288; Chap. notes; 3 figs; 3 illus; Index: 289-297; 2 tables (Original work published in 1987)
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