Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How it does what it does

[R]itualization involves the differentiation and privileging of particular activities. Theoretically, these activities may differentiate themselves by a variety of features; in practice, some general tendencies are obvious. For example, these activities may use a delineated and structured space to which access is restricted; a special periodicity for the occurrence and internal orchestration of the activities; restricted codes of communication to heighten the formality of movement and speech; distinct and specialized personnel; objects, texts, and dress designated for use in these activities alone; verbal and gestural combinations that evoke or purport to be the ways things have always been done; preparations that demand particular physical or mental states; and the involvement of a particular constituency not necessarily assembled for any other activities. These are not universal features, however. At best, ritualization can be defined only as a 'way of acting' that makes distinctions like the foregoing ones by means of culturally and situationally relevant categories and nuances. When such culturally specific strategies are generalized into a universal phenomenon, much of the logic by which these ritual strategies do what they do is lost. This becomes particularly clear in recalling that the situational and strategic nature of ritualization affects even the degree to which such ritualized acts differentiate themselves at all from other forms of activity. In other words, an essential strategy of ritualization is how it clarifies or blurs the boundaries that identify it as a specific way of acting.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, pages 204–5

<idle musing>
As she keeps saying throughout the book, when you try to analyze ritual, you destroy its power. When it becomes an object of intellectual inquiry, it ceases to be effective—for you, not for the ones participating in it!

I must say, now that I'm almost through with the book, that this is a dense book and difficult to get through. It might be that I'm not familiar enough with the field, or it might be just plain difficult! But, I didn't always follow her arguments and frequently felt she was being convoluted; maybe that's the nature of ritual—to be difficult to describe clearly...I dunno, just an
</idle musing>

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