Ritual is DIALECTIC unlike Saussure’s linguistic theory which is based on dichotomy: “[R]itual is a dialectical means for the provisional convergence of those opposed forces whose interaction is seen to constitute culture in some form” (23). “Part I addressed the basic question, What is ritual? While taxonomy of ritual has been important for organizing the study of ritual, it has led to several problems: a “dizzying” number of types arise that leads theorist to talk in circles, categories undermine indigenous distinctions and blurs the particulars into unnuanced generals. Ritual is not just blind reenactment of ritual precedent but is subject to constant reinterpretation and renegotiation. Search for more papers by this author. The confusions that accompany attempts to distinguish clearly between rite and non-rite—those perennial obstacles to neat definitions and classification—are revealed to be highly significant for understanding what ritualization does” (7-8). It also relies on the theorist-observer to be a participant (because a performance needs an audience) (39). or. One pattern in theory of ritual: Ritual theory generally distinguishes action from conceptual parts of religion like belief, symbol, and myth. “Skinner finds that despite themselves the major ‘anti-theorists’ of the last few decades have generated comprehensive and architectonic theoretical frameworks. This argument suggests that, historically, the whole issue of ritual arose as a discrete phenomenon to the eyes of social observers in that period in which ‘reason’ and the scientific pursuit of knowledge were defining a particular hegemony in Western intellectual life” (6). Whether ritual empowers or disempowers one in some practical sense, it always suggests the ultimate coherence of a cosmos in which one takes a particular place. “To generate theoretical discourse on culture, or almost any theoretical discourse for that matter, it is necessary to do two things: first, to specify a distinct level or mode of analysis, in this case a ‘cultural’ level; and second, to identify an object or phenomenon that exists as a ‘meaningful totality’ only on such a level of analysis. The example of this is Saussure’s repeated pattern replication of the distinction between synchrony and diachrony that infuses levels of analysis with this artificial distinction (21-22). To do so, need to consider historical development of issues, engagement with our cultural categories, extend this to real examples (5). She's right, by the way. Namely, she questions the universality (7). Book Editor(s): Bonnie J. Miller‐McLemore. She then turns to a deconstructive approach, and demonstrates that this is logically nonfunctional. The basic thought/action dichotomy is a … Malinowski’s theory of magic is well-known and has been widely ac- cepted.2 He holds that any primitive people has a body of empirical kn “The main argument suggests that ritualization is a strategy for the construction of a limited and limiting power relationship. Most attempts to define ritual do so by setting up a universal, and therefore incomplete, definition of ritual. “Thus, the dichotomous nature of conceptions of order (worldview) and dispositions for action (ethos) is fundamental to Geertz’s approach, as is their resolution in such symbolic systems as ritual. He brings in the relationship between observer and participant of ritual: for Geertz, “ritual offers a special vantage point for the theorist to observe these processes” (27). intend to modify the term ritual to function as something other than a ‘global construct’ or ‘a key to culture.’ Yet my close reliance upon current and preceding scholarship ensures continuity with the commonsense notion of ritual while making explicit some of the assumptions and perspectives built into it” (7). This manner of producing a ritualized agent, as I will argue next, can be seen to be the basic and distinctive strategy of so-called ritual behavior” (106-7). Bell emphasizes how the literature points to ambiguity of symbolism, as well as the instability of religious beliefs. The ritualized environment can translate social problems into the terms of the ritual, not resolving them but diffusing them in this network. Closely involved with the objectification and legitimation of an ordering of power as an assumption of the way things really are, ritualization is a strategic arena for the embodiment of power relations. This cosmos is experienced as a chain of states or an order of existence that places one securely in a field of action and in alignment with the ultimate goals of all action. As Quentin Skinner points out, against such arguments, those who wish to move away from object and discourse construction are actually generated “architechtonic theoretical frameworks” (52) that only. Summary – Main objectives of the Virtual Exchange. Ritual Theory Ritual Practice by Catherine Bell available in Trade Paperback on Powells.com, also read synopsis and reviews. Bell turns to Geertz to illustrate the dichotomy/dialectic relationship in ritual theory. The latter may promote the former, but they are distinct. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Catherine Bell's sweeping and seminal work on the subject, helped legitimize the field. There are two parts to generating a theoretical discourse: identify a distinct level or mode of analysis and then identify an object of analysis, which is not independent of the mode. Summary: In this chapter, Bell argues that a circular logic arises when theorists base their theories of ritual on depictions of a social order that is derived from assumptions brought in by the theorist. The theoretical construction of ritual becomes a reflection of the theorist’s method and the motor of a discourse in which the concerns of theorists take center stage” (54). It is in ritual—as practices that act upon the actions of others, as the mute interplay of complex strategies within a field structured by engagements of power, as the arena for prescribed sequences of repetitive movements of the body that simultaneously constitute the body, the person, and the macro- and micronetworks of power—that we can see a fundamental strategy of power. They also suggest that ritualized activities specifically do, “In the following sections I will argue that the projection and embodiment of schemes in ritualization is more effectively viewed as a ‘mastering’ of relationships of power relations within an arena that affords a negotiated appropriation of the dominant values embedded in the symbolic schemes. This type of expedient logic carries another inevitable corollary, however. You can download the paper by clicking the button above. Ritual Studies and the Study of Rabbinic Literature. Ritualizing schemes invoke a series of privileged oppositions that, when acted in space and time through a series of movements, gestures, and sounds, effectively structure and nuance an environment. The latter two are noteworthy for their recognition is more complex than simple Durkheimian affect. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Catherine Bell's sweeping and seminal work on the subject, helped legitimize the field. Geertz looks at ritual by other metaphors, including game, drama, or text (43). As such, of course, the redemptive hegemony of practice does not reflect reality more or less effectively; it creates it more or less effectively. READ PAPER. Producing a ritualized body, one that has a “sense” of ritual and works to shape the sociocultural environment so that it has control, is the implicit ends of ritualization. Summary: Bell’s major argument for this chapter is that a pattern emerges in ritual theory whereby thought and action are dichotomized and then subsequently reintegrated. In a very preliminary sense, ritualization is a way of acting that is designed and orchestrated to distinguish and privilege what is being done in comparison to other, usually more quotidian, activities. Ritual studies today figures as a central element of religious discourse for many scholars around the world. Chel Mau. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice is a thesis which proposes methods for overcoming the divide between thought and action present in the descriptions of ritual. In other words, ideologies exist only in concrete historical forms in specific relations to other ideologies” (191). Another example of the same circularity of explaining the fundamentals of culture such that the theoretical tool solves puzzles that the theorist tries to explain is the Marxian and Hegelian idea of contradiction. Responsibility Catherine Bell. Bell critiques her for emphasizing the difference between social and physical bodies. Ritual theories are embedded in larger discourses, and how ritual is conceived reflects and supports the discourse that is its frame. be a strategic way to ‘traditionalize,’ that is, to construct a type of tradition, but in doing so it can also challenge and renegotiate the very basis of tradition to the point of upending much of what had been seen as fixed previously or by other groups. “In sum, a redemptive hegemony is not an explicit ideology or a single and bounded. From Ritual Theory to Theorizing Rituals . For example, in “Deep Play,” ritual is depicted like a text which can be decoded but also acknowledges the difficulties of using text as a metaphor, which is echoed by Tambiah (44). Bell emphasizes Foucault’s theories of power as local, working indirectly on actions, embedded in networks of relations, and exercised on those who are free and who can resist. Ritual studies today figures as a central element of religious discourse for many scholars around the world. She concludes, “These studies give evidence for the ambiguity and instability of beliefs and symbols as well as the inability of ritual to control by virtue of any consensus based on shared beliefs. Bell suggests, as others have too, that these conclusions miss the fact that ritual can construct tradition (example: Bloch’s concept of formalization of speech to form an oratory code). In this volume, Bell re-examines the issues, methods, and ramifications of our interest in ritual by concentrating on anthropology, sociology, and the history of religions. Grimes suggest that the human body is primary to ritual but explains this because the body can enact social roles and cultural meanings. When these schemes are embodied in a cultural sense of reality and possibility, the agent is capable of interpreting and manipulating simply by reclassifying the very relationships understood as constitutive of reality. The example is given of those analyzing Durkheim and Durkheim himself, there is a tendency to see two sociocultural processes and then try to find a theory that reintegrates them (25). many centuries. Ritualization does so “through the interaction of the body with a structured and structuring environment” (98). Physical description 270 p. Online. This page has been accessed 170 times. Theories of ritual have tended to fall into one of two categories: rituals are a distinctive form of activity or rituals are congruous with other human actions. The distinction between symbolic and secular power is also made, the former relating to ritual and ideology and the latter to institutions. Academia.edu no longer supports Internet Explorer. This mastery is an internalization of schemes with which they are capable of reinterpreting reality in such a way as to afford perceptions and experiences of a redemptive hegemonic order. Such definitions define what can be called ritual and what cannot and lead to categories of ritual. Edward Foley. Indeed, theoretical discourse about ritual is organized as a coherent whole by virtue of a logic based on the opposition of thought and action. Summary: Bell first addresses the question, what is belief? Catholic Theological Union (USA), USA . She also emphasizes the importance of the body as a site of local social practices meeting large-scale institutions. Yet ritualization. “I have not proposed a new theory of ritual because I believe that a new theory of ritual, by definition, would do little to solve the real conundrums that the study of ritual has come up against. Ritualization is a strategic play of power, of domination and resistance, within the arena of the social body” (204). Now with a … On the other hand many problems attend the attempt to see ritual as a dimension of all or many forms of social behavior” (74). “In effect, the dichotomy that isolates ritual on the one hand and the dichotomy that is mediated by ritual on the other become loosely homologized with each other. Bell provides examples of how postmodern conceptions of anthropology are engaged in self-critique, and briefly theorizes on why this discourse of cultural knowledge has come about (changes in the humanities, “the natives” freed from colonial assumptions and being educated abroad). This homology is achieved by a hidden appeal to a type of common denominator, the opposition of thought and action. In ritualization, power is not external to its workings; it exists only insofar as it is constituted with and through the lived body, which is both the body of society and the social body. Hence, ideology is. Part I: “[T]he chapters in Part I take up the initial task of a critical theory of ritual by addressing the construction of the category itself and the role this construction has played in organizing a broad discourse on religion, society, and culture. Bell uses these three patterns to show how prevalent the bifurcation and then reunification at the site of ritual is: “Each of these examples employs the two structural patterns described previously: ritual is first differentiated as a discrete object of analysis by means of various dichotomies that are loosely analogous to thought and action; then ritual is subsequently elaborated as the very means by which these dichotomous categories, neither of which could exist without the other, are reintegrated” (21). People in the Turner-Gluckman have also added a psychological focus. Bell argues his reasoning is circular: “Ultimately, the discontinuity affirmed in the conclusion is a direct replication of the differentiation established in the beginning” (34). Some theorists have tried to build on and improve performance theory, but they are still vulnerable to critiques, such as the fact that sometimes ritual isn’t a performance but is intended to cause change in the outside world (43). Bell argues against Goody, who proposes to throw out the term ritual, which carries with it associations of universality. “I will show theoretical discourse on ritual to be highly structured by the differentiation and subsequent reintegration of two particular categories of human experience: thought and action. As a strategy of power, ritualization has both positive and effective aspects as well as specific limits to what it can do and how far it can extend” (206). Rituals in Theory and Practice enabled students to explain and identify anthropological, psychological and sociological approaches to the study of ritual. While this theory does recognize that there are not such clear cut differences between primitive and modern societies, she emphasizes that context is essential, and not all groups’ rituals can be described by the same theories, which the theory does not deal with adequately. Although each pursues independent analyses, Merquior, J.B. Thompson, and Bourdieu similarly conclude that ideology is best understood as a strategy of power, a process whereby certain social practices or institutions are depicted to be ‘natural’ and ‘right.’ While such a strategy implies the existence of a group or groups whose members stand to gain in some way by an acceptance of these practices, it also implies the existence of some form of opposition. When put in the context of purposive activity with all the characteristics of human practice (strategy, specificity, misrecognition, and redemptive hegemony), a focus on ritual yields to a focus on ritualization. On the contrary, ritualized practices afford a great diversity of interpretation in exchange for little more than consent to the form of the activities. Meaning for the outside theorist comes differently: insofar as he or she can perceive in ritual the true basis of its meaningfulness for the ritual actors—that is, its fusion of conceptual and dispositional categories—then the theorists can go beyond mere thoughts about activity to grasp the meaningfulness of the ritual. The basic thought/action dichotomy is a model for this bifurcation and reintegration in this series of homologous pairs, which is driven because a logic of behavioral versus conceptual categories is set up which carries throughout work on ritual. Sacred and profane: “Whereas Durkheim defined religion and ritual as that which is addressed to the sacred, the approach presented here is an inverse of his, showing how a particular way of acting draws the types of flexible distinctions that yield notions and categories like ‘ritual’ or ‘religion.’ The relative clarity and flexibility of the boundaries, of course, are also a highly strategic matter in a particular cultural community and are best understood in terms of the concrete situation” (91). Even more circularity, it can be described as the strategic production of expedient schemes that structure an environment in such a way that the environment appears to be the source of the schemes and their values. This is a circular process that tends to be misrecognized, if it is perceived at all, as values and experiences impressed upon the person and community from sources of power and order beyond it. Indeed, in seeing itself as responding to an environment, ritualization interprets its own schemes as impressed upon the actors from a more authoritative source, usually from well beyond the immediate human community itself. Using the term "ritualization" to describe ritual thus contextualized, she defines it as a culturally strategic way of acting. Ritual studies today figures as a central element of religious discourse for many scholars around the world. Ritual activity can then become meaningful. “[R]itualization cannot be understood apart from the immediate situation, which is being reproduced in a misrecognized and transformed way through the production of ritualized agents” (100). Example from Mauss of the method/subject reliance in work on gifts (49-50), Geertz on culture and meaning (50), and Ricoeur on text and social action (50-51). Thus, theoretical explanation of meaning “is itself a fusion of thought and action,” the former the theorist’s and the latter the participant’s. Performance theory fails to break out of the dichotomy pattern. “...theoretical discourse about ritual is organized as a coherent whole by virtue of a logic based on the opposition of thought and action.” 3 For attempts to take early Chinese ritual theory seriously as theory, see Puett 2006; and Seligman et al. Green Library. Academia.edu uses cookies to personalize content, tailor ads and improve the user experience. examining the present status of the theory of ritual by means of a study of a controversy between what are perhaps its two most important experts. . The Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion, Vanderbilt University (USA), USA. Thus, a cultural focus on ritual activity renders the rite a veritable window on the most important process of cultural life” (28). A short summary of this paper. “In brief, it is my general thesis here that ritualization, as a strategic mode of action effective within certain social orders, does not, in any useful understanding of the words, ‘control’ individuals or society. Yet, other literature shows that “ritual has an important social function with regard to inculcating belief” (186). It is argued that ritual practices generate belief and belonging in participants by activating multiple social–psychological mechanisms that interactively create the characteristic outcomes of ritual. Noté /5. In this volume, Bell re-examines the issues, methods, and ramifications of our interest in ritual by concentrating on anthropology, sociology, and the history of religions. Bell also clarifies Foucault’s use of the term ritual with respect to power. ‘It is in the dialectical relationship between the body and a space structured according to mythico-ritual oppositions,’ writes Bourdieu, ‘that one finds the form par excellence of the structural apprenticeship which leads to the em-bodying of the structures of the world, that is, the appropriating by the world of a body thus enabled to appropriate the world.’ Hence, through a series of physical movements ritual practices spatially and temporally construct an environment organized according to schemes of privileged oppositions. The book is organized into three major sections: "The Practice of Ritual Theory" (chapters 1-3), which generally surveys the prior work in the field and situates Bell's book in that context; "The Sense of Ritual" (chapters 4-6), which develops the concept of ritual in terms of bodies and the external systems within which they work; and "Ritual and Power" (chapters 7-9), which frames the discussion of ritual in … In this volume, Bell re-examines the issues, methods, and ramifications of our interest in ritual by concentrating on anthropology, sociology, and the history of religions. Bell then discusses what symbols do: many analyses suggest that symbols serve a purpose of creating solidarity and community integration. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Catherine Bell's sweeping and seminal work on the subject, helped legitimize the field. The person involved misrecognizes this process: the person perceives that the values and experiences come from a place of power beyond the person and her ritual activity. Hence, I will attempt to demonstrate that ritual does not control; rather, it constitutes a particular dynamic of social empowerment” (181). This object will act as the natural object of the specified mode of analysis, although the object so identified is not independent of this analysis; it is constituted and depicted as such in terms of the specified mode of analysis. “It is important to emphasize a conclusion implicit in the many examples cited so far: ritual systems do not function to regulate or control the systems of social relations’, they. that defines a culture’s sense of reality. Ritual studies today figures as a central element of religious discourse for many scholars around the world. In this volume, Bell re-examines the issues, methods, and ramifications of our interest in ritual by concentrating on anthropology, sociology, and the history of religions. An exploration of the internal logic of this differentiation and reintegration of thought and action in ritual theory suggests that the recent role of ritual as a category in the study of culture has been inextricably linked to the construction of a specifically ‘cultural’ methodology, a theoretical approach that defines and addresses ‘cultural’ data. Download. of ritual studies, indigenous ritualizes have also developed (emic) theories about rituals over . In this framework, ritual activities are restored to their rightful context, the multitude of ways of acting in a particular culture. The distinction between symbolic and instrumental has a tendency to collapse into emotional versus logical, which itself often leads to ritual described as cathartic and dealing with anxiety. That is, people DO ritual, and THINK something else. Despite the differences among historians of religion, sociologists, and anthropologists, their theories of ritual all similarly function to resolve the complex problems posed by an initial bifurcation of thought and action. Summary: Bell begins with a discussion of the term power, which is understood as influence or as force, the former “inherent, nonspecific, and inherent” and the latter “intentional, specific, and threatening” (197). This environment, constructed and reconstructed by the actions of the social agents within it, provides an experience of the objective reality of the embodied subjective schemes that have created it. In her overall critique of performance theory, Bell criticizes how it rests on a slippery extended metaphor, which leads to naturalization of observer, the slippage from performance as metaphor to idea that that is the actual nature of the activity, there is no way to distinguish between different types of performance (42). Yet the more subtle and far-reaching distortion is not the obvious bifurcation of a single, complex reality into dichotomous aspects that can exist in theory only. Rather than an embracing ideological vision of the whole, it conveys a biased, nuanced rendering of the ordering of power so as to facilitate the envisioning of personal empowerment through activity in the perceived system” (84). 2 Sahlins 1996, Asad 1993. To analyze practice in terms of its vision of redemptive hegemony is, therefore, to formulate the unexpressed assumptions that constitute the actor’s strategic understanding of the place, purpose, and trajectory of the act” (85). She also notes that the symbolic vs practical distinction is not a native, but an imposed one. In the following chapter I will attempt to demonstrate this alternative position more fully by showing how ritualization as a strategic mode of practice produces nuanced relationships of power, relationships characterized by acceptance and resistance, negotiated appropriation, and redemptive reinterpretation of the hegemonic order” (196). “I have tried to suggest that ritual is an eminently suitable device for organizing a theoretical conversation that wishes to uncover cultural meanings through the interpretation of ‘texts’ that ‘reek of meaning.’ The construction of ritual as a decipherable text allows the theorist to interpret simply by deconstructing ritual back into its prefused components. A similar thing happens in ritual, though unlike Saussure, in ritual, there is a reintegration not just serial differentiations (23). Geertz, who is focused on meaning, polarizes ethos and worldview, which is parallel to the analogous to the split between action and belief, respectively. Summary of the problem: “With these objections [described in the summary above] an impasse appears to loom. Her argument relies on analysis of how language is used (8). Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Catherine Bell's sweeping and seminal work on the subject, helped legitimize the field.In this volume, Bell re-examines the issues, methods, and ramifications of our interest in ritual by concentrating on anthropology, sociology, and the history of religions. A focus on activity itself as the framework within which to understand ritual activity illuminates the complex nature of power relations” (197). action. The starting point of the study is consideration of what causes certain acts to be called ritual, how the category affects knowledge about other cultures, and what the assumptions are that limit how we think of ritual (4). Strategies, signification, and the experience of meaningfulness are found in the endless circularity of the references mobilized, during the course of which some differentiations come to dominate others. Although this chapter will begin with Émile Durkheim's ([1912] 1995) The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Elementary Forms), I will focus on the place of ritual in the Durkheimian tradition, rather than add to the already enormous amount of explication of that book and the place of ritual in it. She suggests that within this discourse of cultural knowledge, there may be attempts to deal with the traditional relationship between subject and theorist which needs to be reevaluated within this new context. A second pattern: “This second pattern describes ritual as type of functional or structural mechanism to reintegrate the thought-action dichotomy, which may appear in the guise of a distinction between belief and behavior or any number of other homologous pairs” (20). 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