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Filosofia Theoretica

Volume 11, Issue 1, January/April 2022

Naomi ThurstonOrcid-ID
Pages 159-171

Relating to the Whole Community in Akan and East Asian Ancestral Traditions

Ancestors play crucial roles in the cultural consciousness of diverse traditions, many maintaining ritualistic practices related to commemorating the dead. Ancestor commemoration reinforces cohesion within traditional as well as modern societies, directing a group’s focus to past accomplishments of its cultural heritage whilst providing a unifying narrative of the values that bring and hold a community together. The West African Akan tradition values those who honor their ancestors and, by leading a moral life, seek to become ancestors themselves: persons whose lives enjoy standing in the community beyond their own death. This short paper explores ideas about the role of ancestors as (symbolic) constituents of enduring moral communities by comparing traditional Akan belief to traditional East Asian conceptions of ancestors. The aim is to consider the metaphysical, social, and moral dimensions related to ancestors, highlighting continuity and communal concerns.