4 Field Colloquium: "The Pragmatics of what is shown: Indexicality and iconography in ritual discourse"
Pragmatics is the study of what is said. It aims to understand how the elaboration of the indexical part of language (the Zeigfeld in Bühlerian terms) influences the production of meaning. However, ethnography shows a number of situations (for instance, ritual discourse) where images, or gestures, or actions, play a crucial role in the definition of the Zeigfeld. In these situations, a study of what is shown in non-linguistic terms becomes necessary for the analysis of the production of meaning. In the last century, whenever scholars have tried to apply the perspective of Social Anthropology to the study of images, many have chosen to work on an analogy established between images and language. The history of these attempts; though, shows that images are not so easily amenable to language. I will argue that a better analogy for the way images work for producing meaning (in particular in ritual discourse) is interactive communication. Using ethnography coming from my study of the Kuna shamanistic tradition, I’ll take a relational approach to ritual discourse and look to how images relate to language use.