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Edith Turner

Edith Turner (1921-2016) was an anthropologist particularly known for her work on ritual, religion and consciousness. She investigated symbol and ritual for nearly 60 years, formerly in collaboration with her husband, Victor Turner (1920-1983). Her theoretical interests developed from Victor’s “anthropology of experience,” a field that has been spreading in anthropology to narratology, humanistic anthropology, and the anthropology of consciousness. Edie (as she was known to her colleagues and students) believed that good anthropology rests on humanism — that is, respect for the ideas and religions of other cultures and, where possible, the willingness to experience through the eyes of others. Analysis therefore seriously has to take into consideration local exegesis (interpretation), and local statements of experience. For ourselves, we may look upon these experiential moments as crossing points into a culture’s familiar world of the spirits. Human life is not limited to the mundane and, conversely, the body itself is often the medium through which people experience the spirit. Edie’s specializations included humanistic anthropology, experiential roots of ritual, healing, shamanism, spirits and power, rites of passage, festivals, Ndembu African ritual, Iñupiat healing, and shrines and healing in Ireland. Edie was editor-in-chief of the journal Anthropology and Humanism and author of Heart of Lightness: The Life of an Anthropologist (2006), Among the Healers: Stories of Spritual and Ritual Healing Around the World (2005), and a contributor to Shamanism: A Reader (2003).

Research Interests: Edie’s main fieldwork areas were in Zambia, among the Iñupiat people of Northern Alaska, and in rural counties of the Republic of Ireland, where she followed the life path of women in their spiritual experiences. She also researched traditional healing and its ritual implications, initiations in Africa, celebrations and festivals in the Americas, Europe, and the far north, and pilgrimage in Central America, Europe, and Asia.

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