Ritual can be rehabilitated in its own right by emphasizing what it has in common with play: the ludic evocation of a simultaneous shadow reality. What is more, ritual can be understood as an enjoyable form of playing with realities. More than a solemn occasion, useful because of its social and cultural functions, ritual is a festive enactment of a counterreality. Connectionist ideas on the parallel processing of schemas and repertoires lend themselves for mapping the properties of ritual in its own ludic right. The human mind allows for a rapid comparison by the parallel—and not serial or sequential— processing of alternative schemas for thought, action, and emotion. An ethnographic illustration is taken from a boys’ initiation ritual among the Wagenia (Congo).
Enjoying an Emerging Alternative World
Ritual in Its Own Ludic Right
The Red and the Black
A Practical Experiment for Thinking about Ritual
This essay reports on the performance of an initiatory rite of the author’s invention, undertaken as a practical experiment for thinking about certain recurrent features of ritual action and, specifically, of (male) initiation. In keeping with an approach that sees ritual as the enactment of special relationships, this initiation, The Red and the Black, was designed to demonstrate the importance of interactive patterning both for the structuring of ritual performance and for the participants’ commitment to the relationships they ritually enact. Its meaningfulness, as well as its capacity to affect the participants’ perceptions and ideas, is shown to derive less from the (minimal) explicit symbolism it employs, the beliefs it presupposes, or the social functions that can be attributed to it than from the relational entailments of the coordinate interactions it involves. Framing, simulation, secrecy, imposed suffering, symbolism, ceremonial efficacy, ritual condensation, and the complex interplay of in-group and out-group perspectives are among the issues that are illustrated and discussed.
Coming of Age in the Elder State
J. Cammaert Raval
Kenya’s tumultuous late colonial period. Paul Ocobock’s An Uncertain Age is a welcome contribution to the long understudied topic of male initiation and circumcision, providing Africanists a more complete, gendered picture of colonialism’s impact on
The Death Throes of Sacrificed Chicken
Triggering Critical Reflexive Stances on Ritual Action in Togo
rituals are thought to renew the earth’s fertility over a demarcated area, but they also precondition the organization of the rites of entry into the final male initiation grade that produces a new generation of adult men. On these occasions, in each