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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien



German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ), Tokyo, Japan in collaboration with Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Historische Anthropologie, Freie Universität Berlin

International Workshop

Well-being in Ritual Practice: Social Interaction, Communication, Self-Improvement?

October 13 - October 15, 2011

The aim of the workshop is to discuss a wide range of ritual practices including seasonal festivities, ancestor veneration activities, praying for good luck and similar events as dynamic arenas where collective emotions are staged and subjective well-being emerges. We define well-being as broadly containing the three aspects of enjoyment, accomplishment and satisfaction. Ritual practices and processes are more often associated with strict etiquette, social order and hierarchy than with the expression of personal emotion or self-improvement. We will examine what role the staging and venting of emotions plays on ritualized occasions and what eudaimonic features can be observed. The underlying assumption is that emotional states such as well-being and happiness are constituted to a significant extent by the individual’s engagement with its social environment, drawing on Kitayama’s and Markus’ notion of well-being as a ‘collaborative project’ (2000). We will focus on repetitive practices as a communication site that serves as the starting point for the negotiation of subjective well-being. Special attention will be directed to the issue of individual agency, how it is framed in the larger social context in which the ritual takes place and aspects of self-enhancement that emerge in the process.

Well-being in Ritual Practices asks two main questions: 1) What insights does the combined study of ritual and well-being provide? To what degree and in what ways are the concepts of “ritual as well-being” and “well-being as ritual” useful in the fields of area studies, Japanese studies and anthropology? 2) What results does the combined examination of well-being and ritual yield with regard to the negotiation of selfhood in its wider social framework?

We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.


Day 1         October 13th (Thursday)

DIJ Forum: What is a Happy Family? German and Japanese Case Studies

Day 2         October 14th (Friday)

Opening remarks

Florian Coulmas

German Institute for Japanese Studies

Day 3         October 15th (Saturday)

Session 3 - Ritual Practices as Self-Enhancement and Development

Fast Food and Fun: Well-being in modern Eating Rituals

Jörg Zirfas

Shinjo Matsuri: Youth Rehabilitation and Community construction by the circulation of decorated floats

Izumi Kuroishi

Bullfighting, Self-Enhancement and Well-being in Rural Japan

Susanne Klien

German Institute for Japanese Studies

Day 2         October 14th (Friday)

Introduction to the workshop

Susanne Klien

German Institute for Japanese Studies

Christoph Wulf

Session 1 - Ethnographic Studies of German and Japanese Festive Rituals, Part 1

Folk Performing Arts, Community Life and Well-being: Why Shishi-mai Matters in Toyama

Yoko Nagao

The Meanings of Happiness/Good Fortune in Japanese Folk-Religion: The Hana-Matsuri of the Southern Alpine Region

Klaus-Peter Köpping

Coffee Break

Session 1 - Ethnographic Studies of German and Japanese Festive Rituals, Part 2

New Year in Japan as a source of staged family happiness

Christoph Wulf

Christmas in Germany as a source of staged family happiness

Shoko Suzuki

Lunch Break

Session 2 - Communication, interaction, well-being, Part 1

Can Happiness be Created in Rituals?

Ingrid Kellermann

The Price of Ritual

Peter Ackermann

Coffee Break

Session 2 - Communication, interaction, well-being, Part 2

Ancestor Ritual and Family Well-Being in Japan

John Traphagan

Competing for Local Souls: Christian Pastoral Care vs. Local Buddhist Power in Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture

Bruce White

Whose Festival is it? Changing Patterns of Participation in Japanese Festivals

William Lee

Day 3         October 15th (Saturday)

Coffee Break

Session 4 - Round-table discussion of three topics (20 minutes each)

- Ageing, well-being and rituals - Methods - Body, well-being and rituals
Discussing publishing options
Wrap up of workshop

Lunchbox (DIJ)

End of workshop


List of Speakers

(alphabetical order)

Peter Ackermann, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Ingrid Kellermann, Freie Universität Berlin

Susanne Klien, DIJ Tokyo

Klaus-Peter Köpping, Freie Universität Berlin

Izumi Kuroishi, Aoyama Gakuin University

William Lee, University of Manitoba

Yoko Nagao, Wako University

Shoko Suzuki, Kyoto University

John W. Traphagan, University of Texas at Austin

Bruce White, Doshisha University

Christoph Wulf, Freie Universität Berlin

Jörg Zirfas, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg