Documenting Ceremonial Dialogues in East Nepal: An In Vitro Performance and the Problem of Textualisation

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Gaenszle, Martin 

Among the Rai of eastern Nepal, ritual speech is generally an important part of most ritual behaviour. Even simple formal interactions, like requests for a loan or parting after a gathering, are accompanied by little speeches and ceremonial dialogue. The most elaborate of such ceremonial dialogues are held as part of marriage transactions: these are not only a reciprocal give-and-take of gifts but also of words. However, recording such rituals as live events, i.e. in situ, is not an easy task. There is usually a noisy crowd of people around the main actors, their speeches are frequently interrupted, followed by long breaks and non-ritual activities. The paper deals with an in vitro recording documenting a staged wedding dialogue among the Mewahang Rai. Comparing it with live recordings, I discuss issues such as authenticity, structures of action and the difficulties and implications of textualisation.

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