Encountering Nuer ritual
Chapter 7 examines Evans-Pritchard’s photographic record of the Nuer rite of gorot, witnessed in 1936, and raises questions about the relationship between photography and participant-observation as a core research method in early twentieth-century anthropology. The chapter explores the question of why Evans-Pritchard’s record of this ritual is characterized by a sustained visual engagement with two distinct stages of the rite, and why other aspects of the ceremony are not recorded. In order to explore this question, the chapter proposes the model of Evans-Pritchard as ‘participant-photographer’—a model that understands his involvement with the ritual as being composed of periods of photographic engagement interposed with observation and note-taking. Placing Evans-Pritchard back into the field through a careful examination of his fieldwork records of a particular event enables us to gain a new insight into not just his fieldwork methods, but his proximity, involvement, and perspective on key elements of the ritual as they unfolded.
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