Matthew Engelke

Nov 17, 2022

On Victor and Edith Turner's "The Forest of Symbols"

A Discussion with Matthew Engelke

New Books Network 2022

In the mid-20th century, British anthropologists Victor and Edith Turner studied the Ndembu people of present-day Zambia. They wrote about their findings in their 1967 book The Forest of Symbols. The Turners were interested in rituals and focused their studies on Ndembu rites of passage because they wanted to understand the role of symbols in societies. And through the study of one culture, the Turners helped change the way anthropologists and other scholars understand humans everywhere. Matthew Engelke is a professor of religion at Columbia University. He is the author of A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church, God’s Agents: Biblical Publicity in Contemporary England, and Think Like an Anthropologist. See more information on our website,

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