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Kim Knibbe, Brenda Bartelink, Jelle Wiering, Karin B. Neutel, Marian Burchardt, and Joan Wallach Scott

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Assessing and Adapting Rituals That Reproduce a Collectivity

The Large-Scale Rituals of the Repkong Tantrists in Tibet

Nicolas Sihlé

ABSTRACT

Tantrists, non-monastic religious specialists of Tibetan Buddhism, constitute a diffuse, non-centralized form of clergy. In an area like Repkong, where they present a high demographic density, large-scale supra-local annual ritual gatherings of tantrists are virtually synonymous with, and crucial for, their collective existence. In the largest of these rituals, the ‘elders’ meeting’ is in effect an institutionalized procedure for evaluating the ritual performance, its conditions and effects, and, if necessary, for adjusting aspects of the ritual. At a recent meeting, the ‘elders’ decided to abandon a powerful and valued but violent and problematical component of the ritual, due to its potential detrimental effects on the fabric of social relations on which the ritual depends for its continued existence. Thus, a highly scripted, ‘liturgy-centered’ ritual (per Atkinson) can be adapted to the social context. The specialists of these textual rituals demonstrate collectively an expertise that extends into the sociological dynamics surrounding the ritual.

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Assessing Ritual Experience in Contemporary Spiritualities

The Practice of ‘sharing’ in a New Age Variant of Umbanda

Viola Teisenhoffer

ABSTRACT

Seeking to attain balance and well-being through what practitioners call ‘spiritual development’, the ritual practice in Paris of Umbanda—an Afro-Brazilian religion—is emblematic of the orientation that characterizes contemporary spirituality. In this context, regular public mediumistic rituals are aimed at transforming participants into beings open to the teachings of ‘spiritual entities’, which they embody for their own and others’ benefit. In this process, specialists and participants are explicitly and systematically invited to ‘take stock’ or ’share’, that is, to revisit the rituals they perform. This article argues that ‘sharing’, which may also be found in other forms of contemporary spirituality, is not only an exegetical exercise that participants must regularly submit to in order to assess how these rituals affect them. It may also be understood as a ritual device that the efficacy and reproduction of such practices depend upon.

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Jack Hunter, Annelin Eriksen, Jon Mitchell, Mattijs van de Port, Magnus Course, Nicolás Panotto, Ruth Barcan, David M. R. Orr, Girish Daswani, Piergiorgio Di Giminiani, Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Sofía Ugarte, Ryan J. Cook, Bettina E. Schmidt, and Mylene Mizrahi

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The Death Throes of Sacrificed Chicken

Triggering Critical Reflexive Stances on Ritual Action in Togo

Marie Daugey

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In Kabye society, the commonest sacrificial rites include a device that may prompt celebrants to question their own ritual practice. As in other West African societies, the acceptance or refusal of an offering by a divinity is read in the death throes of the first chicken to be sacrificed. If the fowl does not die in the expected position, the ceremony is interrupted. Celebrants scrutinize the execution of the rite to identify the mistake that led to the sacrifice’s refusal, and they submit their hypothesis to the divinity. However, the resumption of the rite is not conditioned by the correction of the mistake. It is often sufficient that officiants recognize and reassert the rule that they should have followed. The case of a bull sacrifice demonstrates how the celebrants’ self-critical practice may promote a ritual effectiveness in connection with the dialogical and pragmatic nature of the rite.

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Jens Kreinath and Refika Sariönder

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The Alevi cem is a communal ritual that is performed weekly among members of a major religious minority in Turkey. Although formerly celebrated exclusively in rural village communities, this ritual became publicly accessible at the end of the 1980s when Alevi cultural associations were opened in the urban centers of Turkey. Since it was made public, the cem has undergone significant changes in the internal dynamics of its performance and in the formal design of its liturgy. By addressing multiple audiences in its urban milieu, the performance of the cem reveals moments of ritual reflexivity. Based on ethnographic research at a cultural association in Istanbul, this article focuses on a cem performance that led to ruptures and mishaps in the presentation of some ritual acts. We analyze the ritual leader’ s response to these incidents and the theoretical implications of this account for the study of ritual reflexivity.

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Stacy M. K. George

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Scholars have noted the variety of ideological and religious perspectives present in the Tea Party movement. This study addresses why both religious and nonreligious individuals may be involved in the Tea Party despite its cultural connection to ‘traditional’ conservative Christianity. The article explores Tea Party participation and commitment, arguing that group membership is sustained by the party’s ability to create interaction rituals reflective of Christian culture as an acknowledgement of American Christian values. The Tea Party frames its ideology as sacred, thereby establishing group commitment and cohesion. As a result, it is capable of attracting constituents from inside and outside of the Religious Right. By validating the experiences of others and creating a system of interdependency, the Tea Party has the potential to create group solidarity leading to collective action and exceptional political influence.

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Introduction

Doing Ritual While Thinking about It?

Emma Gobin

ABSTRACT

Religious anthropology and ritual studies have increasingly acknowledged that ritual and religion are subject to criticism. There is still a tendency, however, to argue that doubt, skepticism, and forms of ‘critical reflexivity’ develop somewhere outside the ritual ‘frame’, in connection with external processes. In presenting this special section of Religion and Society, this introduction harks back to past research arising out of structural and performative approaches to rite, introduces the notion of critical reflexivity, and outlines the ways it is used to shed light on overlooked formal aspects of religious rituals. In order to stress the subtle connection between ritual action and (local) reflection on this action as evidenced in situ in the course of performance, linked with internal features of ritual activity, the article evokes two lines of empirical inquiry: institutionalized episodes of ritual assessment and ritual ‘accidents’ that do not necessarily imply ritual ‘failure’.

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Introduction

Performing Religion

Ruy Llera Blanes, Sondra L. Hausner, and Simon Coleman

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Kosher Biotech

Between Religion, Regulation, and Globalization

Johan Fischer

ABSTRACT

The Hebrew term ‘kosher’ means ‘fit’ or ‘proper’ and signifies foods conforming to Jewish dietary law (kashrut). Kosher biotechnical production is subject to elaborate rules that have warranted regulation over the last two decades. This article shows how kosher regulation works in biotech production. I argue that while existing studies of kosher production and regulation have emerged mostly from within business studies and the food sciences, the broader institutional picture and the personal relationships between certifiers and businesses that frame these procedures are not yet well understood. Based on empirical research and interaction with biotech companies, I provide an ethnography of how transnational governmentality warrants a product as ‘kosher’ and thereby helps to format and standardize the market. This article builds mainly on fieldwork conducted at the world’s largest producer of enzymes, Novozymes, based in Denmark, which is certified by the leading global kosher certifier, the Orthodox Union.