Thanks to Catherine for giving a lecture on the Hauka on Tuesday!  Your readings from Week 4 should have provided good background for her discussion.  Her powerpoint slides are below, followed by some of the readings she mentioned.

Further readings

Frantz Fanon Black Skin, White Mask

Bhabha, Homi 1994 Of Mimicry and Men: the ambivalence of  colonial discourse. In The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge Pp. 85-92

Ferguson, James 2002 Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the “New world society” Cultural Anthropology 17(4):551-69

Taussig, Michael 1993 Mimesis and Alterity: a particular history of the senses. New York: Routledge

Stoller, Paul 1994 Embodying Colonial Memories. American Anthropologist 96(3): 634-48

Stoller, Paul 1995 Embodying Colonial Memories: Spirit possession, power & the Hauka of West Africa. New York: Routledge

Just in case you missed it Jean Rouch’s Les Mtres Fous (The Mad Masters) is available on youtube in three parts.


With a few exceptions, this course has predominantly focused on public aspects of ritual.  This week we were trying to build a bridge between the public, highly visible side of rituals and rites of passage and the more personal, private aspects of rituals.

Brigitte’s presentation on Renato Rosaldo’s Culture & Truth: The remaking of social analysis aimed to highlight a shift in ritual studies. Using Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage as a specific example, she highlighted the role emotions can play in ritual life – the emotions of the Ilongots as well as the emotions of the anthropologist.  Many ritual studies focus on a bounded event – it is easy to observe and it has a noticeable structure.  Rosaldo says that ritual studies should also follow the accompanying emotions – the experience of death is a much larger event than the ritualised funeral.  The argument was made that one shouldn’t just read rituals as a text; one needs to read between the lines as well in order to glimpse what it feels like to be someone who has to confront the emotional side of a ritual event such as death.  This would begin the process of thinking about rituals in terms of open ended human processes rather than bounded events.

The presentation also provided some insight into the confusing process that is fieldwork and ethnographic writing – I bet more than one of you have felt a little of this in the past two weeks while going through your fieldnotes and writing up your essays!

Baptism, another life crisis ritual, was used as an accompanying example to the discussion of Rosaldo and the ritual of death in Friday’s lecture.  You discussed what some key elements of life crisis rituals are, ie, acceptance into group, providing context and meaning for unavoidable biological change.

You also discussed the somewhat paradoxical role rituals can play in times of life crises.  For example, in the instances where the ritual itself is dangerous or life threatening (you specifically mentioned female circumcision and the exorcism story currently in the media), generally additional ritual precautions are taken to ensure safety.  Although, as Nixxta points out regarding Morini’s article in this week’s reading, perhaps it is the pain involved in these rites that is the key factor rather than the danger/safety relationship??

We watched a clip from Lehel Laszlo’s 1996 film, Baptising Ceremony in Bánhorvat. Thinking about the film ethnographically will be good practice for the upcoming test.  Specifically consider that you should be able to describe what happened in the clip: what did you see & what didn’t you see, which people are featured prominently, what do you think the filmmaker was trying to achieve?

Following up the film we watched in class last week, the latest edition of Visual Anthropology Review has a film review of Koriam’s Law and the Dead Who Govern.

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This week’s lectures centred on inventing tradition.  Hopefully you encountered some ideas that will be useful in your essays!

On Tuesday Brigitte discussed Hobsbawm & Ranger’s edited book, The Invention of Tradition.  Her powerpoint slides are here.

In class, we discussed how traditions are not timeless even though they seem that way.  There is this sort of romanticism surrounding traditions that helps generate the sense that they are ancient. The point of this is that if traditions are old, then they are unquestionable and can be exploited for political gain

After a few technical blips in Friday’s lecture, you saw a short clip from Koriam’s Law and the Dead Who Govern by Gary Kildea (2005).

While you were watching the clip you were supposed to consider issues such as colonial administration, indiginous ways of life and the roles cargo cults can play in inventing tradition.  CFHowland follows this up with a post on ritual participation and ties her disucussion into ANZAC Day.  Ethnographically, the film should have brought your attention to issues of reflexivity in film making and the role of the anthropologist, filmmaker and informants in the process of representation.  If you want to follow this up, there is an interview with Gary Kildea here regarding the role of anthropologists in his filmmaking.

Here are the powerpoint slides from Tuesday’s class on The Invention of Tradition.

You may want to further peruse Hobsbawn & Ranger’s book on google books – the library’s copies are already on loan.   There were also two other sources mentioned in class that you should follow up:  Maurice Halbwach’s On Collective Memory and an article on ANZAC Day from the NZ History website.

If you want to explore more media on ANZAC Day, Colin James’ article takes a look at the changing meaning surrounding ANZAC Day and the relationship it has with Waitangi Day.

The Telegraph has a photo feature entitled The World’s Weirdest Festivals, including the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea and the Wife Carrying World Championships in Finland. 

The world's weirdest festivals

The world's weirdest festivals

Keep in mind that these festivals will be as unexotic to these participants as ANZAC Day is to us.

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Poofters Taking the Piss out of Anzacs: The (Un-)Australian Wit of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.  Morton, John 2008 Anthropological Forum vol 18(3).

Find the article here.


As an annual event, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has a key place in the Australian national calendar. Following leads from Gabrielle Carey (1995) and Fiona Nicoll (2001), this paper explores the meaning of Mardi Gras in relation to Australia’s premier ritual event, Anzac Day. It is argued that Mardi Gras and Anzac Day are formally related to an older pairing of Carnival and Easter, and are related to each other as sin is to redemption. However, I show that, because of certain (homophobic) flaws in the configuration of the Anzac legend, the comedic counterpoint of Mardi Gras can itself be elevated to the status of the sacred, giving rise to inherent instability in the symbolic economy of the Australian nation state. After considering a number of examples of Mardi Gras’s transgressive (‘Un-Australian’) humour, I conclude with a general reflection on jokes in Australian ritual politics, particularly in regard to the ‘subject positions’ of those who might inappropriately analyse these politics from a perspective that privileges essentialist notions of opposition and resistance.

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