Author(s): Catherine Bell
From handshakes and toasts to chant and genuflection, ritual pervades our social interactions and religious practices. Still, few of us could identify all of our daily and festal ritual behaviors, much less explain them to an outsider. Similarly, because of the variety of activities that qualify as ritual and their many contradictory yet, in many ways, equally legitimate interpretations, ritual seems to elude any systematic historical and comparative scrutiny.
In this book, Catherine Bell offers a practical introduction to ritual practice and its study; she surveys the most influential theories of religion and ritual, the major categories of ritual activity, and the key debates that have shaped our understanding of ritualism. Bell refuses to nail down ritual with any one definition or understanding. Instead, her purpose is to reveal how definitions emerge and evolve and to help us become more familiar with the interplay of tradition, exigency, and self- expression that goes into constructing this complex social medium.
"A rich and detailed interdisciplinary analysis of the nature and functions of ritual. Scholars in all fields will profit from this sound and probing study." --Religious Studies Review
"A very impressive achievement....[Bell's] is one of the most interesting and important voices in the field of ritual studies today." --Worship
Catherine Bell is the Former Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Santa Clara University, California
PART 1 THEORIES: THE HISTORY OF INTERPRETATION; EARLY THEORIES AND THEORISTS; THEY MYTH AND RITUAL SCHOOLS; THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF RELIGIONS; PSYCHOANALYTIC APPROATCHES TO RITUAL; PROFILE: INTERPRETING THE AKITU FESTIVAL; CONCLUSION; EARLY THEORIES OF SOCIAL SOLIDARITY; FUNCTIONALISM; NEOFUNCTIONAL SYSTEMS ANALYSES; STRUCTURALISM; MAGIC, RELIGION, AND SCIENCE; PROFILE: INTERPRETING THE MUKANDA INITIATION; CONCLUSION; SYMBOLIC SYSTEMS AND SYMBOLIC ACTION; LINGUISTICS; PERFORMANCE; PRACTICE; PROFILE: INTERPRETING BRITISH AND SWAZI ENTHRONEMENT RITES; CONCLUSION; PART II RITES: THE SPECTRUM OF RITUAL ACTIVITIES; RITES OF PASSAGE; CALENDRICAL RITES; RITES OF AFFLICTION; FEASTING, FASTING, AND FESTIVALS; POLITICAL RITES; CONCLUSION; PART III CONTEXTS: THE FABRIC OF RITUAL LIFE; SYSTEMS; TYPOLOGIES; ORTHOPRAXY AND ORTHODOXY; TRADITIONAL AND SECULAR; ORAL AND LITERATE; CHURCH, SECT, AND CULT; CONCLUSION; TRADITION AND TRANSFORMATION; RITUAL INVENTION; MEDIA AND MESSAGE; CONCLUSION; REPUDIATING, RETURNING, ROMANCING; THE EMERGENCE OF "RITUAL"; CONCLUSION; NOTES; REFERENCE; INDEX