Reflecting the mirror images of mimetic acts: filming and theorizing as refractions of Ritual Practice
(Wichita State University)
Paper short abstract:
The mimetic acts of filming and theorizing rituals are conceived as those forms of visual and discursive representations that refracts ritual practice by way of transforming and transgressing agency, reflexivity and indexicality in ritual practice.
Paper long abstract:
Since the invention of film as a technology of visual reproduction, the study of mimetic acts, bodily movements, and ritual performances became of major interest in anthropological research. The spread of this technology revolutionized the forms of visual perception and enhanced the very possibilities in anthropological research. Besides the shift towards an ethnographic study of ritual, one can observe a conceptual shift in the term 'ritual' itself that took place at the same time. The modern concept of ritual that emerged in the late 19th century as the bodily means of religious practice (Asad 1997) can be correlated to the enhancement of film technology and the related interest in the study of bodily movements. Beyond some of these incidents, this paper discusses various systemic features involved in filming and theorizing ritual practice as different attempts to reflect upon its formative features. In discussing the ethnographic and theoretical accounts of Jean Rouch, Alfred Gell and Howard Murphy, the argument will be made how filming and theorizing itself have to be conceived as different forms of semiotic practices and mimetic acts that get an agency on their own in the very process of imitation and representation. By further tackling the theoretical issues involved in mimetic acts as proposed by James Frazer, Theodor Adorno and Michael Taussig, the attempt will be made to conceive filming and theorizing rituals as mirror images, those forms of visual and discursive representations that refracts ritual practice by way of transforming and transgressing the very conditions of agency, reflexivity and indexicality in ritual practice.
Ritual and reflection: tropes In transformation and transgression (Wenner-Gren workshop)