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Bringing the Sacred Down to EarthAdventures in Comparative Religion$
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Corinne G. Dempsey

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199860333

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860333.001.0001

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Unanticipated Adventures in Ritualized Ethnography

(p.142) (p.143) Postscript
Bringing the Sacred Down to Earth

Corinne G. Dempsey

Oxford University Press

The postscript completes this book's adventures in comparison by juxtaposing academic and religious processes, bringing into conversation the practices of ethnography and ritual. The point of departure is an event in which the head priest at a North American Hindu temple asks the author to read her entire book manuscript to the temple goddess and a group of temple regulars. This ritualized reading of ethnography not only blurs genres but also reverses customary roles between observer and participant—between those who traditionally analyze and those who perform rituals. This chapter highlights how ethnography and ritual, conventionally understood to hover above earthbound contingencies as objective and timeless practices, respectively, are more meaningfully viewed as enlivened by human subjectivities and risky indeterminacies. By framing and comparing ethnography and ritual as such, this postscript invites the reader, once again, to consider the importance of bringing otherwise lofty conceptions and efficacies down to earth—to recognize the potential benefits the human condition has to offer ritual participants and scholars alike.

Keywords:   ethnography, ritual, performance, body, indeterminacy, reflexivity

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