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Ritual Infrastructure

Roads to Certainty in Two Brazilian Religions

Inger Sjørslev

This article compares the ways in which two different religions in Brazil generate roads to certainty through objectification, one through gods, the other through banknotes. The Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé provides a road to certainty based on cosmological ideas about gods whose presence in ritual is made indubitable through performance and social consensus. Candomblé has historically gained its spiritual force by being both marginal to mainstream religion and spatially peripheral. In contrast, the Neo- Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is located in easily accessible places within urban life. There is a certain parallel between these different locations and the difference in ritual roads to certainty in the two religions. The article draws out connections between different levels of infrastructure – material, spatial and ritual. The comparison between the two religions points to a social imaginary that in both cases has to do with how to deal with indeterminacies in life through objectification.

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Instructive Ritual

The Arab Student Union and the Communitas of the Palestinian Israeli Educated

Lauren Erdreich

In spite of state efforts to limit public nationalist ritual of the Palestinian Israeli community, one ritual system, as this article details, is kept intact by the Arab Student Union (ASU). Based on an ethnographic study of the Hebrew University ASU, I show how this ritual system is instructive in a specific, educated Palestinian Israeli identity. Instruction revolves around the root paradigms of a specifically Israeli Palestinian-ness and of the national responsibility of the educated. The instructive ritual system arouses communitas of the educated Palestinian community through instruction carried out in the context of sacralized space and time and by means of the use of ritual art and events, the recruitment of ritual commentators, and the intermeshing of ethos and world-view. This ritual system can be understood as an indigenous Palestinian Israeli pedagogy for liberation.

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Ritual and Emotions

Moving Relations, Patterned Effusions

François Berthomé and Michael Houseman

This article reconsiders the connection between 'ritual' and 'emotion' from a pragmatic, relational perspective in which rituals are seen as dynamic interactive contexts and emotions as fairly short-lived emergent properties and integral components of these interactions. It emphasizes ritual's capacity to reallocate social positions by instantiating characteristic patterns of relationship, and the way particular emotions crystallize and express these patterns. In short, ritual emotions are treated as the sensate qualities of ritual relationships. From this standpoint, emotions feature in ceremonial settings not as striking experiences grafted onto practices and representations, but as constitutive aspects of ritual interactions themselves, whose properties of bodily salience and relational reflexivity both reflect and inflect the latter's course in a variety of sensory, expressive, moral, and strategic ways. Four issues relating to ritual and emotion are discussed within the framework of particular ceremonial practices that have been the object of much recent research: (1) the ritual expression of emotions in funerary laments, (2) the waning of cathartic models in the interpretation of rites of affliction, (3) the intense emotional arousal characteristic of initiatory ordeals, and (4) the self-constructive, affective dimensions of contemporary devotional practices.

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Ritual Dynamics and Virtual Practice

Beyond Representation and Meaning

Bruce Kapferer

Symbolic meaning and representational and reflexive perspectives remain dominant orientations in the analysis of ritual. While these must be crucial, this essay argues that a focus on the perceptual dynamics of rite, especially as these are located in ritual aesthetics, may expand an understanding of the force of rite. The discussion develops critically upon Victor Turner’s seminal work, suggesting ways in which ritual analyses may be redirected. The related concepts of dynamics and virtuality (distinguished from the cyber-technological kind) are developed, indicating that these may be critical for understanding how rites change or transform the situations to which they are directed. Ritual as a dynamic in virtuality that has no essential or necessary relation to the ordinary realities that surround it may, because of this fact, be greatly empowered as a force that can pragmatically intervene in ordinary realities.

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The Anthropology of Ritual

Monitoring and Stewarding Demonstrations in Northern Ireland

Dominic Bryan

Rioting in Northern Ireland sometimes appears endemic. The control of public space, through the utilisation of rituals and symbols, has played a significant part in the violent conflict and has remained a central issue since the 1998 Multi-Party Agreement institutionalised the peace process. This article draws upon ethnographic research and anthropological models of ritual to explore policy interventions in conflict resolution over potential public disorders. In particular, it looks at the use of monitors, mediators and marshals at parades and demonstrations and describes how anthropological fieldwork has played a role in developing projects and policies that offer solutions to a cycle of intercommunal street violence.

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Aspects of the Naven Ritual

Conversations with an Iatmul Woman of Papua New Guinea

Florence Weiss and Milan Stanek

Rituals are analyzed in anthropology as non-personal cultural structures, embedded in the overall behavioral patterns and semantic networks that are typical for a particular cultural group. This article focuses on the Iatmul people of Papua New Guinea and their ritual, naven, which features transvestite behavior and ritualized social roles. The authors discuss the ethno-psychoanalytic approach, which focuses on the psychodynamics of the relationship between two persons, the foreign researcher and his or her local counterpart, that develops in the course of a series of conversations. The narrative shifts to a case study involving Weiss and an Iatmul woman, Magendaua, which took place over three months. Their conversations particularly illuminate the meanings of the naven ritual. The use Magendaua made of the naven can be characterized as a transformation of the tensions in the relationship with her Swiss ethnographic-interlocutor and interpreted as a general feature of the rituals of this type.

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Ritual and commemoration in contemporary Russia

State-church relationships and the vernacularization of the politics of memory

Tobias Köllner

Since state atheism was abandoned in the 1990s, the Russian Federation entered what can be called a postsecular phase. Religion, formerly limited to the private sphere, reappeared in the public and underwent an astonishing religious revival. During the time of my fieldwork in 2006/2007, a tendency to favor the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and to facilitate its return to the public reached its climax. In this article I draw attention to how the political, the secular, and the religious are interconnected and allow for new vernacular forms of legitimating power and authority. One example is the introduction of new public holidays and public rituals. They connect local and national narratives and relate to ideas about the communality of the Russian people. They create new forms of a divine kinship, which draw heavily on religious and national symbols and merge the sacred and the profane.

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Helen A. Robbins and Leigh Kuwanwisiwma

Religious practice, in all its forms, is intrinsic to the Hopi way of being. The Hopi people have performed rituals of balance and renewal continuously for thousands of years, but the collection and removal of ceremonial items have created a spiritual void. Repatriation legislation has given hope that items can come home, go back to ritual use, and, simply, by the act of their return, nurture the Hopi spirit. Paradoxically, legal and bureaucratic requirements in federal legislation such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) both constrain and subvert Hopi authority over their own repatriation efforts and the items returned. To engage in repatriation, the Hopi must participate in what have become highly ritualized processes outlined in law, as well as submit to a museum’s procedural requirements, also legitimated in law. In this way, the repatriation process ultimately reproduces and reinforces the existing power of the nation-state.

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P. Steven Sangren

For many Western observers, Chinese religion and cosmology appear rife with contradictions, among them the recurrent motif in litera- ture and myth of preordination or fate, on the one hand, and a relentless attempt, through ritual means, to discern, control, or change fate, on the other. This article argues that the obsession with fate and luck is best comprehended with reference to desire understood as a human universal. Underlying one's hope to control the future lies a psychologically more fundamental wish to claim ownership of one's being. I argue that fate and luck are operators in a symbolic economy that implicitly posits what Freud terms the 'omnipotence of thoughts'. Moreover, if the underlying principle of Chinese notions of fate and luck can be termed an 'economy of desire', it is a principle that also coordinates and encompasses Chinese patriliny, family dynamics, and wider collective institutions.

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Assessing and Adapting Rituals That Reproduce a Collectivity

The Large-Scale Rituals of the Repkong Tantrists in Tibet

Nicolas Sihlé

In discussions on processes of ritual assessment and modification, the rituals examined are most often of a ‘performance-centered’ nature. 1 I am drawing here on Atkinson’s (1989: 14–15) useful distinction between ‘liturgy-centered’ and