Wednesday, November 18, 2015

But it doesn't count

Wuthnow has explored what he calls the "ritual aspects" of left-hand turn signals and the mass viewing of the television series "Holocaust." Given the analysis advanced in this chapter, however, the first case is not one of ritualized activities, merely regularized (rule-bound) behavior that functions as a signal of intentions in the context of driving. Why? The answer is cultural. In this culture, such legally articulated modes of regularized behavior are insufficient to count as 'ritual' for most people. In the second case, the network and general media undoubtedly used a variety of strategies to heighten the sense that people were viewing a unique and profound event, that the television was a medium of communal participation with other viewers for witnessing an important simulation of reality, and to dramatize the solemnity of the broadcast in contrast to the usual television fare. Indeed, there was sufficient evocation of ritual ways of acting that many people probably reacted with some of the conventions of consent used in ritual—"If it is this unique and important I should watch and accept," and the like. Nonetheless, in this culture, viewing the series was not likely to be judged ritual for those involved due to cultural distinctions among ways of acting, distinctions vital to any analysis of social action.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 205

<idle musing>
That's refreshing to hear. So many people count just about everything that is regularized as ritual that it has been emptied of its meaning. I agree with her that the cultural distinctions have to be maintained in order for an understanding of what ritual is and what it does.
</idle musing>

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