HISTORY 231 - Social Science Topics in History
Fall 2018, Section 001 - Death, Immortality, and Afterlife
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May be elected five times for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Most cultures known to historians and anthropologists have varied beliefs about the meaning of death and the afterlife. These are expressed and reflected in rituals, texts and material “things” that range from pyramids and tombs, to funerary rituals and ancestor worship, to epic and mythological stories. Such conceptions do not stop there, but strikingly, most cultures also believe that the death of the physical body is not the end of human life. This course will explore how past and present communities imagine, negotiate, and ritualize the deaths of the living and the lives of the dead. It will seek to understand the different cultural meanings of death, the predominance of believing in an afterlife, and the cultural manifestations of immortality in everyday practices.

How do history and anthropology understand, define, and study life and death? Are we the only hominid with the linguistic capacity to conceive and speak about the unseen and the intangible? And, how does one study—an almost—universal cultural phenomena such as conceiving of immortality and believing in an afterlife? The class proposes a multifaceted perspective approach to telling a story about humanity, about each of the disciplines, and ultimately about the universal abilities of humans to tell stories about their pasts, the meaning of their lives, their notions of the afterlife, and their search for immortality.

This course is co-developed and co-taught simultaneously with Dr. Ramy Aly at the American University in Cairo (AUC). It is a pilot-project that is part of the Michigan-AUC partnership on the Andrew Mellon Foundation project ‘Global Humanities in Egypt and the Global South’.

Course Requirements:

Two short essays, museum visit report and a final essay.


HISTORY 231 - Social Science Topics in History
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM

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