The Changing Image of Sinhalese Healing Rituals: Performing Identity in the Context of Transculturality

  • Eva AmbosEmail author
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


Anthropologists are increasingly confronted with images when doing research on performance and ritual. This is not to say that images did not play a role earlier in anthropology, but rather that images have in recent years developed new quantitative and qualitative dimensions through the support of mass media and new technologies. With this, we are witnessing a ‘new visuality of culture’ (Mirzoeff 1998: 3). However, images do not illustrate or visualize the empirical material or reality on a one-to-one basis; to claim this is to refer them to the realm of unidimensionality, that is, reducing them to mere ‘presentations’ of reality, with fixed and objective meaning. But, as Hans Belting noted, images ‘happen’ (Belting 2005: 302, 303), and are thus interactive: their transmission and perception, and I would add their interpretation, are dependent on the body and a medium. If ‘image’ is considered in a twofold sense, as a physical artefact and as a mental representation (Belting 2005: 303, 304) then their power can be grasped; the actual visualization thereby interacts with the representation. However, the image itself is constantly changing as it is also interacting with the exterior reality (Mirzoeff 1998: 7). I will use, then, the term ‘image’ in two senses, first as a concrete visualization, be it in texts, photographs or other media, and second as representation, i.e., a framework for interpretations of the performance traditions this essay focuses on.


Asymmetrical Relationship Performance Tradition National Heritage Hegemonic Discourse Modern Nation State 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Anthropology, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”Heidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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