Portrait

Bruce Kapferer

in Religion and Society

The idea of writing a personal statement regarding my approach to ritual and to present a self-portrait of my own movement into this field is difficult, to say the least. This is particularly so as the idea has too much of an overriding finality to it—an epitaph, after which there is no more. There is the implication that somehow over the 40 or so years that I have been working in the anthropological field of ritual and religion that I have been building a distinct coherent approach. It is tempting to say so, but it would be wrong. I would say that my orientation has taken many different paths. I have always, like most anthropologists, been directed by the problem-at-hand, given the empirical realities in which I found myself and the issue in the subject of anthropology that appeared to me to be particularly problematic at the time. This has sometimes resulted in a critical look at prevailing orientations and has led me in unexpected directions. The ethnographic materials with which I have been recently working, primarily in North Malabar of the Indian state of Kerala, is setting me off on new routes of analytical possibility, at least new for me. This is also the case with my (see Kapferer 2013a, 2013b, 2014) current interest in film and its relevance for the anthropological study of myth and ritual. Such changes in direction are far from unusual in the ethnographically driven circumstance of anthropology in which ethnography is the ground for analytical and theoretical construction (and not the other way around as in other social sciences where theory governs research, see Kapferer 2007).

Religion and Society

Advances in Research