Full Text


Philip Smith

Subject Sociology » Sociology of Culture and Media

Key-Topics ritual

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Ritual involves conventionalized and stylized human actions. These are often organized with reference to overarching cultural codes, have a communicative intent, and generate powerful emotional responses among participants. Historically marginalized as a concern for anthropologists, since the cultural turn became institutionalized in social theory in the 1980s the concept of ritual has become more and more central to the sociological enterprise. The core debates revolve around the following themes: (1) whether priority should be given to analyzing rites (embodied actions, doing) or beliefs (cosmologies and symbols, thinking); (2) how a model conceived in functionalism can be adapted to include understandings of power and domination; (3) whether we should understand ritual in collectivistic or more microsociological ways. The canonical text for the study of ritual in social science is Durkheim's Elementary Forms of Religious Life . Here, Durkheim drew upon ethnographic material about Aboriginal Australia to argue that societies needed periodically to renew social bonds and solidaristic ties. Tribal gatherings involving ritual activity – the corroboree – performed this function. They involved the manipulation and invocation of symbols, totems, and supernatural forces; coordinated bodily motions and expressive actions, feasting and sexual activity, the enactment of myths and legends. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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