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Good-death Beliefs and Cognition in Himalayan Pilgrimage

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This article discusses the notions of a good death associated with Hindu pilgrimages in the Nepalese and Tibetan Himalayas. Using theories and concepts from the cognitive anthropology of religion and from the cognitive science of religion—particularly the cultural epidemiological method—my objective is to explain why certain systems of thought and behaviour are favoured over others in cultural transmission. My thesis is that the apprehension of contagion and/or contamination, combined with prevailing cultural representations, exerts selective pressure on the formation of beliefs about good death. Pilgrimage sites are associated with intuitions about contagious and contaminating contact, avert the pollution of death, and provide links to supernatural agents.

Affiliations: 1: School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Email: andreasnordin@globalstudies.gu.se

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