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Subproject A1

Dynamics and Efficacy of Ritual Performance and the Constitution of Socio-Cultural Identity in Japan, Taiwan and Morocco

Department and Research Field: General and Comparative Anthropology 


Subproject A1 has been concluded June 30, 2007.

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter Köpping

Department of Anthropology
Sandgasse 7
69117 Heidelberg

Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 22 27
Fax: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 35 56  


Dr. Michael Rudolph

Dr. Bernhard Leistle

Project Program

The anthropological subproject A1 centers on the processes of constitution of individual, social and cultural identity that occur within the media of ritual performance. Regarding theory and method, we assumed that the ritual practices possess their own efficiency, which they unfold in the concrete moment of the current performance by embodying cultural topics.


Concerning the performativity, subproject A1 explicitly acknowledges the ritual's potential to not only confirm and thus sustain the experience of social reality, but also to transform or even generate it. Therefore, one of subproject A1's focuses is the research on the rituals' performative efficacy and impetus for change. We will examine media-related staging techniques such as choreography, iconography, music, artifacts and conduct the related analysis of the iconic significance and the indexical effect of ritual practices borne by action and body-centered momentums that can be kinetic, visual, auditory, or tactile. 


Thematically, subproject A1 realizes this long-term theoretical goal through a comparison between ritual performances in post-colonial societies of different world religions. In the nation states that formed after the liberation from the respective colonial force, we can observe a recent tendency to legitimize authority and power through an instrumentalization of rituals defined as "traditional" and "authentic" on the part of the political and social elites.


The actual authors of those practices are often formerly marginalized social groups or cults. Sometimes their status has changed dramatically through the awakened national interest. However, in this situation, they find themselves subjected to fundamental ambivalences in their social practices and cultural existence.


Based on the above-mentioned theoretical and methodical orientation and by researching concrete ritual performances, subproject A1 empirically investigates the dynamics of the relations

  • between political actors on a local and national level,
  • between the collective identities of social majorities and minority groups, and
  • between the individual experience of a ritual participant and the cultural contexts of his or her actions.

Main Topics

A1.0 Competing ritual practices in Japan as political strategies (Researcher: Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter Köpping)


A1.1 Retraditionalization or syncretization? The rituals of the Taiwanese indigenous people in the tension-filled field between nativism, Christianity, and competition of elites (Researcher: Dr. Michael Rudolph)


A1.2 Striving for authenticity - the performative instrumentalization of the popular Islam in Morocco (Researcher: Bernhard Leistle, M. A.)