Imagery pp 33-44 | Cite as

Social Dimensions of Mental Imagery: An Anthropological Approach

  • John L. Caughey


In this chapter I want to consider several potential contributions which cultural anthropology might make to the study of mental imagery associated with daydreams, fantasies, memories and anticipations. I say “potential contributions” because, as yet, anthropology has devoted little attention to this pervasive and significant aspect of human experience. To be sure, there has been some work on culture and dreaming, and on altered states of consciousness, such as trance (Kennedy and Langness, 1981). Otherwise, it seems hardly to have occurred to most anthropologists that it might be worthwhile investigating the role of mental imagery in the cultures they have studied. However, standard anthropological approaches can be readily adapted to the study of imagery in a way which could contribute significantly to our understanding of the subject. I would like to illustrate some of these possibilities by describing my own fieldwork with three exotic groups: with Sufi Mystics in Pakistan, with Trukese Islanders in the Western Pacific, and with middle class Americans in Washington and Baltimore.


Mental Imagery Social Drama Media Figure Evil Spirit Love Affair 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • John L. Caughey
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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