Being in the Field: Reflections on a Mi’kmaq Kekunit Ceremony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article has a threefold purpose. First, it seeks to show how modern rituals among Mi'kmaq traditionalists in eastern Canada are anchored in and derive their rationale from modern reserve existence. Two rituals are described, a kekunit godparent ceremony for a 14-year-old girl and a sweat lodge ceremony later the same evening. Second, the article also provides an example of the paradoxes of "participant observation" by showing how engagement in fieldwork may turn the fieldworker's preconceived beliefs and attitudes on their head. The effect of some words from a young girl illustrates how being-in-the-field in an instant can shatter the most comfortable distinctions between a rational Self and a superstitious Other. Being-in-the-field entails a continuous oscillation between close engagement in people's lifeworlds and distanced observations of human behavior. In the third part of the article, I reinterpret the ritual—a painful process for me, albeit necessary. As for the participants themselves, their pain is as diffuse and enduring as their lives.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Religions


  • rituals, reflexive anthropology, fieldwork, participant observation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalAnthropology and Humanism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (015017000)