Sharing in ritual effervescence: emotions and empathy in fieldwork


  • Géraldine Mossière University of Montreal



In this paper I explore how the anthropologist's mobilisation of emotions during fieldwork might position her in relation or in opposition to her informants, leading her to share or to resist the ritual experience. I will argue that a circumstantial empathic stance (Einfühlung) may be the only way to grasp the experiential and embodied dimensions of religious behaviours. By constantly monitoring oneself in order to maintain some distance from the field, this methodological approach involves an ongoing dialectic of relative involvement between the mere observation of an unfamiliar object on the one hand, and participation of the inner self in the field on the other hand. Getting access to the congregation's religious emotions through those non-verbal components to ritual leads to other ways of producing knowledge through informal and unintentional communication, which replaces spoken communication.