Social Science Baha

Being in the Shadow of Death – Existential reflections on mortality as a modality of being-in-the-world in the Sinja Valley of Western Nepal

Starting from a concrete episode of my fieldwork, in this paper I try to reflect on how consciousness of death may help us to shed light upon the ways in which people in the Sinja Valley of Jumla District (Western Nepal) include death in life in the attempt to make sense of existence, and in what ways this concretises in everyday life. However, borrowing from Heidegger and the existential anthropology proposed by Jackson, my argument is that worldviews are intrinsically embedded into the domain of lived experience, in which they are generated and upon which in turn they produce concrete effects, and cannot be extrapolated from it as abstract entities. Therefore, showing how it is not about “knowledge” of the world but of “engagement” in it, I move away from the, perhaps, overemphasised reflexive domain of the cogitum, in an attempt to dissolve the Cartesian dichotomy between “action” and “thought” within the flow of lived experience. Along these lines, I present death as a modality of being-in-the-world, and the “Other” as the only way in which our consciousness can expand beyond itself, contemplating other modalities of existence that challenge the assertive and universalist answers given by philosophy.