In his classic Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession, I. M. Lewis (1971) contends that ritual, belief, and spiritual experience are the three cornerstones of religion, with the third certainly being the most important. Although disputed, this thesis strongly resonates with trends and themes currently taken up by gallerists and exhibition curators. Last year saw the launch of two major exhibitions on the topic of ecstasy: one at the Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (MEG) in Switzerland entitled Afrique: Les religions de l’extase (Africa: The ecstatic religions) and the other one simply called EKSTASE (Ecstasy) at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart in Germany.
Raju and His Friends was released almost exactly a quarter of a century ago, and revisiting it now at the invitation of the FocaalBlog editor is something of a trip in a time machine for me. As I discuss below, ethnographic film and anthropological theory have moved on considerably since then. The question, therefore, is whether the film still has relevance to students and fellow academics today.