What is it about?

We combine Hofstadter’s description of mutual interior access between persons with theories of interiority presented in ethnographic contexts and in anthropological literature on Sufi rituals. The intersection of these theories with Hofstadter’s concepts is applied to three Sufi rituals: an annual village festival presided over by a Maulana (descendant of the Prophet); the devotional dhikr circles that meet weekly at the mosque; and a major Sufi festival held in a remote, mountainous area of Sri Lanka where living Sufi virtuosi come as well as thousands of pilgrims. Each ritual is posited to represent increasingly substantial degrees of interior alignment between participants. By intentionally expanding their senses of self through engagement in ritual practice and appreciation of religious dogma, participants approximate an overlapping of their separate interiorities.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

The article contributes to discussions of theory of mind by using ethnographic case studies to explain different levels of accessing the mind of others. depending on the type of relationship. Its link to religion, particularly Sufism provides an avenue for applying this theoretical perspective to religious practices in general. It also contributes ethnographically to our understanding of Sufi rituals and mysticism. The article is the only article, tour knowledge that uses Douglas Hofstadter's idea regarding stages of accessing the interiority of others.


This article gives you a rich ethnographic description of life in a South Asian Muslim village and the place of Sufism in their lives. It also gives you one of the few descriptions of a Rifai festival in South Asia. The paper also draws out a commonsensical and useful theory about three different relational stages of knowing someone else--as a stranger, a friend or neighbor, and as a core intimate.

Victor C de Munck
Vytauto Didziojo Universitetas

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Accessing the interiority of others: Sufism in Sri Lanka, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, June 2019, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/1467-9655.13080.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page