Klaus-Peter Köpping

Klaus-Peter Koepping

Doctorate in Social Anthropology (Ethnology) on millenarian and nativistic religious movements in modern Japan based on field research between 1966-1969. From 1969-1972, appointment to Associate Professorship in Fullerton, California; in 1972, Senior Lecturer and Reader at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; from 1984-1991, Foundation Chair (Baldwin Spencer Chair of Anthropology) at the University of Melbourne, Australia. In 1991, appointed professor at the Institute of Ethnology, University of Heidelberg, Germany (emeritus since 2005). Guest-Professorships in Japan at Sophia and Nagoya City Universities, ANU Research School of Pacific Studies, Canberra, Australia, and in the Philippines. Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths College, London, in charge of Post-Colonial Studies and Postgraduate Advisor at the Centre of Cultural Studies (2005-2007).

Research Project

“Face” and “Belly” as Metaphoric Models of and for the Japanese Fractured Semiosphere: Transformations of Collective Identity through Performative Transgressions in Peripheral Dance Rituals

This project tries to connect research data (including film material) gathered on a particular genre of dance rituals from the folk-religious festivals of the Japanese Southern Alpine region through participant observation over a period of six years to the discourse on the re-authentication of a traditional cultural repertoire in light of the continuing impact of foreign cultural elements. The revitalized dance rituals have attained the status of intangible cultural assets and are activating a body cosmology (“the praxis of the belly instead of the performance of face”) which has become the major point of attraction in light of anxieties about the loss of cultural roots through foreign influences. As they are also understood by the participants as a counter-practice to officially and publicly sanctioned behavioral codes, they will be used here to point to the ambiguities in the attitudes toward indigenous and foreign cultural repertoires, leading to paradoxes between discourses and practices. The dance rituals, which are closely related to other theatrical traditions in Japan, will serve as the empirical starting point for a critical appraisal of theoretical frameworks of cultural change as developed in cultural anthropology and semiotics through a variety of frameworks proposed by Bakhtin, Lotman, and Maruyma, among others, with particular emphasis on the “in-between” spaces of processes of cultures-in-contact.