Introduction

Why Ritual in Its Own Right? How So?

in Social Analysis
Author:
Don Handelman Hebrew University of Jerusalem mshand@mscc.huji.ac.il

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Calvin, who introduces this collection of essays on ritual in its own right, understands ritual as well as many anthropologists. Calvin is dramatizing thematics that I am trying to avoid. Complaining about the peanut butter, spoiled because his mother did not observe the proper ritual for scooping it out, he is telling us: do the ritual correctly. It exists because it has a function—control. Perform control in your ritual, and you will have control in your life. The ritual of how to scoop out peanut butter is a representation of life. Living produces its own symbols, its own reflections, and these are the ritual, existing to enact themes of living—here that of control. The ritual has meaning, otherwise why the argument between Calvin and his mother over its importance for living? For Calvin, scooping out peanut butter is akin to a Geertzian model of and model for living—you scoop peanut butter the way you live your life. One thing is certain: to understand the peanut butter ritual, one begins with life, not with a jar of peanut butter. First, though, let’s have a look at the peanut butter in the jar …

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Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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