Table Topics: “How to Display Rituals”

Our table hosts Dr. Mathias Alubafi (Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria) and Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels (Universität Heidelberg) will discuss with their guests how Ritual and Performance can be displayed.

Drawing from the literature and local knowledge of the Cameroon Grassfields, Mathias Alubafi will discuss the materiality of rituals, with special focus on the drinking horn. In particular, the discussion highlights the ritual of the initiation of the drinking horn into an ancestral object – and its eventual use in ancestral propitiation across the region. It presents two examples of ancestral rituals for which the horn is used, showing how the horn affects the living and how it is in turn affected by the dead ancestors. The ritual of the initiation of the drinking horn is indispensable to any form of ancestral propitiation. Within the discussion, participants will also look at the motivations or significance of rituals and the ancestral cup in present day Grassfields.

Rituals belong to the intangible heritage and are therefore difficult to represent in museums, Axel Michaels argues. Even if it is possible to perform them in museums, something is lost. They get staged rather than performed. However, due to the work of theatre studies and performance theory, the distinction between performed or staged and “real” rituals is not very clear in ritual studies anyways. At the table such questions will be discussed and also the role of material objects in rituals which — as rituals in general — represent another world that can never be “there” but only be referred to.

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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