Kristina Wirtz Home | C.V. | RESEARCH | Teaching
One current research interest concerns how ritual performances and the discourses surrounding them shape religious experiences of ritual participants. That is, I want to understand how participants' phenomenological experience of rituals is semiotically mediated by the interaction between ritual forms and surrounding discourse about those forms. In my research, I observe and record rituals and naturally-occurring talk about rituals, interview participants and elicit their commentary on my recordings and observations, and analyze recorded ritual speech and other activity using techniques of micro-discourse analysis. I ask questions such as: How are rituals organized to set up particular frameworks of participation that include divine interlocutors? How are unfolding ritual events understood by differently positioned ritual participants? What sorts of cues do participants use to interpret events as they occur and later, after-the-fact? How does circulating discourse about ritual events shape participant expectations during rituals and later interpretations of what happened?
Santería has some very dramatic rituals, including festive ceremonies called tambores or bembés in which santeros sometimes are possessed by their orichas (deities). The sequence of video stills below captures some of the key moments of the onset of possession trance at a tambor ceremony in Santiago de Cuba.
|Ritual participants dance the Aro de Yemaya around the subidor to induce possession trance.|
|The act of arullando, or losing bodily control as one falls into possession trance.|
|The singer directs his song to Yemayá, who is taking possession of the man’s body.|
|Yemayá, now dressed, greets ritual participants. The ceremony sponsor also tucked money into her cap, which she will dispense as she wishes.|
Kristina Wirtz, Department of Anthropology, Western Michigan University. Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Updated July 5, 2007