From village to bush in four Watchi rites: A transformational analysis of ritual space and perspective

Klaus Hamberger


Understanding ritual performances in terms of changes of perspective is increasingly common in anthropological analyses. However, less attention has been paid to the fact that perspectival transformations not only make up the internal dynamics of a given ritual but also connect it to other rituals. Drawing on a series of related Watchi-Ewe rituals (divinatory, initiatory, funerary, and hunting), this article proposes to analyze ritual space as a system of perspectival transformations operating both within and between rituals. By conceiving of each ritual as constructing the same relational architecture from a different point of view, it becomes possible to understand the relationship between female diviners and male hunters within the context of a larger set of interconnected relations (between men and women, humans and animals, masters and slaves, the living and the dead), realized in the virtual space of ritual performance. Understood as a controlled variation of perspective, the transformational analysis of ritual thus becomes a valuable methodological device, both to elucidate the model through which a society conceives its relational universe and to render intelligible seemingly contradictory and otherwise unexplainable ethnographic facts.


Space, ritual, transformation, Ewe, Watchi, Togo

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau4.1.005