"How Long Will I Stay in Heaven? The Sliding Soteriological Scale for the Shraddha" Matthew R. Sayers, Lebanon Valley College
"Color, Complexion, and Prognosis in an Early Sanskrit Medical Manual" Martha Ann Selby, The University of Texas at Austin
"Cremation as Healing in Aghor Medicine" Ron Barrett, Emory University
This two-day symposium will be devoted to the roles of prediction and prognosis in various South Asian cultural settings, particularly within the social contexts of death, dying, and grave illness. The invited participants represent a number of humanities and social science disciplines, including philology, text criticism, literature, anthropology, medical history, and the history of religions. Prognosis as a practical medical discipline is first delineated in an elaborate way in the earliest medical compendium in Sanskrit, composed during the early centuries of the common era, in which we encounter detailed lists of what physicians should look for when they suspect their patients to be very near death, including corporeal signs (such as changes in complexion or sensory function), but also in dream narratives, in perceived symbolic equivalents between "person" and "event," in the reading of the distortion of images reflected in the pupil of a patient's eye, or in his own distorted shadow. But medical and cultural practices associated with what we might call "prognosis" are also a part of daily existence in contemporary South Asia. The goal of the symposium will be to arrive at multiple understanding of the ways in which prediction and prognosis give death and dying a "voice" in South Asian cultures.