Press releases


May 23 2024

Andrew Apter to speak at Ad. E. Jensen Memorial Lecture

Historical ethnography and the ritual archive

xxxFRANKFURT. The connection between anthropology and history is the focus of this year's Ad. E. Jensen Memorial Lecture, hosted by the Frobenius Institute at Goethe University Frankfurt. The interdisciplinary relationship between the two disciplines has its own significant history, which has been the subject of research since the 1950s. US-American anthropologist and historian Prof. Andrew Apter will be giving lectures during four upcoming evening events in June, the first of which will take place 

on Monday, June 3, 16:15-17:45 
in Room 1.801 in the Casino Building on Westend Campus 

and is titled “My life in the forest of spirits". Apter will recount his own experiences in applying anthropological methods to the historical ethnography of the Afro-Atlantic region, exploring the possibilities of using rituals as archives to uncover repressed historical memories and the pasts they resurrect. After all, while “fetishized" forms of ritual invocations and representations of the past are standard material for anthropological reflection, few studies take up the far greater challenge of determining the actual pasts that manifest themselves in these rituals.

How are “actual" pasts ritually archived and made accessible? How can we explain their transmission from generation to generation through ritual sacrifice, surrogation and substitution? And how can we transform them into historical narratives without violating their culturally specific epistemological frameworks? In the second lecture, Apter, who directed the African Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, traces the outlines and methodology of the “ritual archive" and shows how to recognize the relevant categories and practices of ritual assemblages encountered in the field. The third lecture will focus on Yoruba ideas about history and historicity in different ritual contexts on the basis of Apter's own ethnographic research, while in the last lecture, he will take a fresh look at Frobenius' fourth Inner Africa research expedition (1910-12) by examining the ritual foundations of his Yoruba archive.

All lectures will be held in English. 


Monday, June 3: 
My Life in the Forest of Spirits 

Monday, June 10: 
An Operating Manual for the Ritual Archive 

Monday, June 17: 
The Ritual Archive in Yoruba Culture 

Monday, June 2: 
“Yoruba Culture" in the Frobenius Archive 

The Ad. E. Jensen Memorial Lecture
Each year, the Frobenius Institute invites renowned scholars from abroad to give one-semester guest lectures. The lecture series is dedicated to the memory of Adolf Ellegard Jensen (1899-1965), who was appointed director of the Frobenius Institute, director of the Ethnological Museum and as first chair of cultural and ethnological studies at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in 1946. While the emphasis of the lectures should be on Jensen's research on myth and cult, the visiting scholars are free to choose their own topics. The lecture series is funded by the Hahn-Hissink'sche Frobenius Foundation and the Frobenius Society.

A portrait of Prof. Apter is available for download at: Link einsetzen. 
© Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften 2023 (Photo: Stefanie Wetzel)

Further Information:
PD Dr. Susanne Fehlings
Public Relations
Frobenius Institute for Research in Cultural Anthropology 

Redaktion: Dr. Anke Sauter, Referentin für Wissenschaftskommunikation, Büro für PR & Kommunikation, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Telefon 069 798-13066, E-Mail