Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2004—2005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams
PHF Undergraduate Coordinating Research Fellow
Anthropology, Health and Sciences
Embodied Dreaming: Utilizing Cognitive Anthropology and Bodylore Theory to Explore Dreaming among Australian Aborigines
Within many Aboriginal communities in Australia, there exists a cultural model surrounding sleep and dreams. Most common within this cultural model is the belief that ancestors guide aborigines through struggles and decisions during their dreams. Thus, through dreaming, aborigines’ embodied souls interact with their ancestors in order to create a new reality. In order to examine dreaming among Australian aborigines in traditional communities, I will analyze accounts of dreams from anthropological research using the theories found in bodylore study. This process will allow me to understand the divisions inherent between the physical body and the traveling dreamer. In addition, I will apply cognitive anthropology to understand significance of dreaming within aboriginal communities. According to cognitive anthropological theory, knowledge is organized into meaningful structures that allow individuals to process information in a culturally appropriate manner. These structures, known as cultural schemas influence decisions and perceptions of the world and affect the way we learn about the world around us, the way we categorize memories, and the way we think and react. Thus, schemas influence beliefs and actions and therefore, understanding schemas of dreams allows us to understand the cultural relevance of dreaming within the present social system of aboriginal communities.