Understandably, one would think, the social is the heartland of ritual studies.
What is ritual, if not the Durkheimian effervescence of the social? Still, a number
of the essays in this volume move towards the borders of the social. Perhaps
this has occurred because the contributors were asked to think of ritual in its
own right, thereby freeing them from the so deeply embedded anthropological
stricture that ritual is social because it must be attached to, relate to, or service
some group. Ritual is created by groups and expressive of groups, otherwise it
is insignificant. This complicity of ritual and groupness implicitly demands
that rite have meaning or function for the social, the raison d’être of ritual’s
existence. Thus, the structures, dynamics, and processes of ritual are immediately
oriented to the social. Rarely considered is that taking this tack eliminates
other possibilities in which thinking on ritual ignores the borders of the social.