1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Edith Turner

Lecturer Emerita

M.A. University of Virginia 1980
Honorary Doctor of Humanities, College of Wooster, Ohio, 2000


I am an anthropologist engaged in the study of ritual, religion and consciousness. I have been researching the field of symbol and ritual for 58 years, formerly in collaboration with Victor Turner. My theoretical interests have developed from Turner's "anthropology of experience," a field that has been spreading in anthropology to narratology, humanistic anthropology, and the anthropology of consciousness. Good anthropology rests on humanism - that is, respect for the ideas and religions of other cultures and, where possible, the willingness to experience through the eyes of others. Analysis therefore seriously has to take into consideration local exegesis (interpretation), and local statements of experience. For ourselves, we may look upon these experiential moments as crossing points into a culture's familiar world of the spirits. Human life is not limited to the mundane and, conversely, the body itself is often the medium through which people experience the spirit.

My main fieldwork areas have been in Zambia, among the Iñupiat people of Northern Alaska, and in rural counties of the Republic of Ireland, where I have followed the life path of women in their spiritual experiences. I have researched traditional healing and its ritual implications, initiations in Africa, celebrations and festivals in the Americas, Europe, and the far north, and pilgrimage in Central America, Europe, and Asia.

I am editor of the journal Anthropology and Humanism.


Humanistic anthropology, experiential roots of ritual, healing, shamanism, spirits and power, rites of passage, festivals. Ndembu African ritual, Iñupiat healing, shrines and healing in Ireland.

Selected Publications

2006 - Heart of Lightness: The Life of an Anthropologist. Autobiography. New York: Berghahn.

2005 - Among the Healers: Stories of Spiritual and Ritual Healing Around the World. New York: Praeger.

2004 - The Anthropology of Experience: The Way to Teach Religion and Healing. In Teaching a Course on Religion and Healing. Linda Barnes and Ines Talamantez, eds. Pp. 387-404. New York: Oxford University Press.

2004 - Taking Seriously the Nature of Religious Healing in America. In Religious Healing in Urban America. Susan Sered and Linda Barnes, eds. Pp. 387-404. New York: Oxford University Press.

2004 - Drumming, Divination, and Healing: The Community at Work. In Divination and Healing: Yearbook of Cross-Cultural Medicine and Psychotherapy. Philip Peek and Michael Winkelman, eds.

2003 - The Reality of Spirits. In Shamanism: A Reader. Graham Harvey, ed. Pp. 145-152. London: Routledge.

2003 - Fear of Religious Emotion, Versus the Need for Research that Encompasses the Fullest Experience. In Selected Readings in the Anthropology of Religion: Theoretical and Methodological Essays. Stephen Glazier and Charles Flowerday, eds. Pp. 109-118. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

1999 - Relating Consciousness, Culture, and the Social. Anthropology Newsletter 40 (1):46 and 40 (2):50-51.

1997 - There are No Peripheries to Humanity: Northern Alaska Nuclear Dumping and the Iñupiat's Search for Redress. Anthropology and Humanism 22 (1):95-109. (Special Issue on Globalization and Fieldwork, eds. Sandra Bamford and Joel Robbins).

1996 - The Hands Feel It: Healing and Spirit Presence Among a Northern Alaskan People. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.

1993 - Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai: The Creative Persona and his Pilgrimage. In Creativity/Anthropology. Smadar Lavie, Kirin Narayan, and Renato Rosaldo, eds. Pp. 225-252. Ithaca: Cornell University Press .

1992 - Poetics and Experience in Anthropological Writing. In Anthropology and Literature. Paul Benson, ed. Pp. 27-47. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

1992 - Experiencing Ritual: A New Interpretation of African Healing. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

1990 - The Whale Decides: Eskimos' and Ethnographer's Shared Consciousness on the Ice. Études/Inuit/Studies 14 (1-2):39-54.

1987 - The Spirit and the Drum Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Department Faculty

Sonia Alconini
David A. Harrison III Professor of American Archaeology
Ira Bashkow
Goldsmith Family NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor, 2018-2021: Associate Professor
Frederick H. Damon
Eve Danziger
Professor and Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics
Lise Dobrin
Associate Professor
Gertrude Fraser
Associate Professor
Richard Handler
Professor & Director of Global Development Studies Program
James Igoe
Professor & Chair
Kasey Jernigan
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and American Studies
Adria LaViolette
Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Daniel Lefkowitz
Associate Professor
George Mentore
Associate Professor
Rachel Most
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs & Professor
Fraser D. Neiman
China Scherz
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Mark Sicoli
Assistant Professor, Director of Graduate Admissions
Margaret Smith
Director & Curator, The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
Sylvia Tidey
Assistant Professor
Patricia Wattenmaker
Associate Professor
Kath Weston
Jarrett Zigon
William & Linda Porterfield Chair in Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Anthropology