IAHR 2025


Dimitris Xygalatas

Dimitris Xygalatas is a cognitive anthropologist whose research combines laboratory and field methods to study human interaction in real-life settings. He has conducted several years of fieldwork in Southern Europe and Mauritius, and continues to go to the field each year. Before coming to UConn, he held positions at the universities of Princeton, Aarhus, and Masaryk, where he served as Director of the Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion (LEVYNA). At UConn, he directs the Experimental Anthropology Lab, which develops methods and technologies for quantifying behavior in real-life settings. He is affiliated with the Cognitive Science Program, the Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy.

Keynote lecture

The future of ritual: embodiment, praxis, and meaning in an increasingly virtual world

Both cognitive and phenomenological accounts of ritual emphasize the role of the embodiment in producing ritual (and spiritual) experiences that help individuals find connection, comfort, and meaning. Such experiences are formed and structured through dynamic interactions between mind, body, and physical and social contexts. However, as our world is becoming increasingly virtual, many rituals are also changing, often losing some of their core features, such as synchrony, regularity, socialization, and in-person engagement. What is the future of ritual in such a virtual world? Drawing from empirical studies on the embodied nature of ritual, I will discuss the functions of ritual, whether and how new technologies may undermine them, and how to overcome these challenges moving forward towards our virtual future.