Barbara Tedlock (1942–), an anthropologist and the editor of a groundbreaking anthology on the anthropology of dreams (Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations, 1987) is a key figure in anthropological dream research. Anthropologists have long been interested in cross-cultural experiences of dreaming and, especially, dream interpretation.
In her survey, which examines the history of Western views of dreaming, Tedlock asserts that Westerners have tended to draw a sharp distinction between dreaming and objective reality. Simultaneously, there is a long tradition in the West of naive veneration of dreams. Dreaming combines anthropologically informed psychoanalytic and psycho-dynamic approaches to dreaming with sociolinguistic and interpretive approaches to the study of the meaning of dreams. The book expands the concept of dreams including cross-cultural expressions and focuses on the activities of dreaming and dream communication in various cultures.
Each essay is based on material gathered by the authors while conducting fieldwork in various cultures, including those of the Sambia of Papua New Guinea, the Rastafarians of Jamaica, and the Andeans and Amazonians of South America. The semiotic analysis of Andean dreams, for instance, treats dreaming and dream interpretation as a cultural organized system of signs, whereas the essay on Rastafarian visions seeks to identify symbols of political and ideological resistance. Systems of dream classification from ancient Mesopotamia, second-century Greece, and modern Morocco are also analyzed. A chapter by Tedlock compares the dream theories of dreaming and dreamsharing among the Zuni and the Quiche.
Among other works by Tedlock are various anthropological articles on the Zuni and Maya and on religious change in Highland Guatemala, as well as the book Time and the Highland Maya (1982).