1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Communitas and the Anthropology of Experience

To frame the anthropology of collective joy in the pages of a book I propose to show the methodology necessary for the understanding of this concept of collective joy: this is the anthropology of experience. The fieldworker is audience to events. These are personal experiences. They refer to an active self, to a human being who not only engages in but shapes action. The field people’s own experiences are conveyed to the field worker either literally embodied or conveyed in stories of a variety of kinds, which arouse our recognition, so that we and they reach “intersubjectivity.” We understand and feel for the other, and feel empathy, which the philosopher Tchiamalunga Ntumba simply calls We-ness: the sense of unity. Victor Turner termed this communitas. Where anthropology finally conveys its material to the public the result cannot possibly avoid the character, flavor of the visitor and of the people in the work--its nature, and its very soul--which is not merely what psychology finds at its depth, but what is commonly recognized as the very breath of the life of the people.

This delicacy and depth is what has delayed any full handling of Victor Turner’s communitas. In the book appear a series of stories that build to a point where it is impossible not to recognize the existence of communitas, even in its most “fuzzy” character, full of inversions, a strong tone of rebelliousness, and an irresistible force of its own. 

  • Reception follows in Brooks Commons, 1st Floor
    Sponsored by Department of Anthropology


Event Date: 
Friday, 27 April 2012 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Edith Turner
Speaker Title: 
Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia