Accepted paper:

Cosmology and the virtual


Bruce Kapferer (UCL / University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

The discussion will focus on the creative and projective dimensions of ritual. The argument will pursue an approach to rite that stresses practice rather than the reflexive potencies within practice. The argument is one that attempts to radically move away from representational perspectives.

Paper long abstract:

The issue of reflexivity in ritual is a complex phenomenon. In general perspectives have been of a high intellectual kind and often extensive from approaches to theatrical drama. More recently notions of "embodiment" have started to prevail, many of the more successful orientations following in the steps of Merleau-Ponty and others similarly influenced such as Bourdieu. These approaches do not depend so much on intellection as those before, although key works in ritual (e.g. Geertz and Turner) demonstrate lines of thought that are consistent with recent "embodiment" conceptions. The paper will pursue some of the dominant perspectives in the anthropological history of ritual that underline a concentration on reflexivity. Ultimately, however, the direction of the argument will turn away from dramaturgical perspectives and reorient towards what might be termed a more "cinematic" perspective. Here the issue will turn on the nature of the subject in rite. I will develop on notions of de-centered subjectivity and the idea that the subject is distributed across a complex series of potential subjective standpoints in rites that opens towards a new understanding of the potency of ritual and shifts away from the strongly intellectualist notions that have prevailed hitherto. In this context both the technology of rite and its virtual properties will be explored that do not depend, necessarily, upon the concept of reflexivity or upon ritual as a kind of reflective apparatus.

panel W118
Ritual and reflection: tropes In transformation and transgression (Wenner-Gren workshop)