Dimitris Xygalatas engages the problems of the generalizability and comparability of research results and their “ecological validity.” Xygalatas argues for the “methodological interaction between forms of participant-observation and experimentation,” combining the insights of approaches often seen as at odds with each other, to produce a collaborative and strong version of interdisciplinary research. Drawing from his own work on extreme religious rituals such as fire-walking and body piercing, the author demonstrates the benefits of research designs that include perspectives from the “field” and the “lab.”
Dimitris Xygalatas is an anthropologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Connecticut. His research interests include some of the things that make us human, including ritual, sports, music, cooperation, and the interaction between cognition and culture. His work on those topics involves the application of scientific methods and technologies in ethnographic field research. He has conducted several years of fieldwork in Southern Europe and Mauritius. After receiving his PhD in anthropology from Queens University Belfast, 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 interdisciplinary methods and technologies for studying behavior in real-life settings. His research has been published in numerous journals across various fields, including anthropology, biology, psychology, religious studies, and general science. He is the author of the monograph The Burning Saints: Cognition and Culture in the Fire-Walking Rituals of the Anastenaria and coeditor of the volume Mental Culture: Classical Social Theory and the Cognitive Science of Religion.