Rituals are at the core of the social identity of all communities. Yeteach society varies in its view of what is ritual and what is not.
explores how ritual can be understoodwithin the framework of contemporary social anthropology, andshows that ritual is now one of the most fertile fields of anthropological research.The contributors look at ritual as a special kind of performance,which is both an act and a statement. They discuss the views of Frazer, Van Gennep, Robertson Smith and Marcel Mauss, andexplore the different aspects of ritual activity in order to questionthe validity of current theories. They also analyse specific ritualstaken from a wide range of societies: they link Vedic times to thepresent situation in India, a Christianized Moluccan society to itsstill current pre-Christian social structure and values, contrast thedifferent modes of participation in a Nuba village in Sudan, anddescribe the confrontation between Punjabi and Englishcommunities in a London suburb.
shows how rituals create and maintain—or transform—a society’s cultural identity and social relations. Byexamining these rituals, both in particular and in general, thecontributors enable us to discover the ultimate and contradictoryvalues to which each society as a whole is attached. The book willtherefore be of great value to all students and teachers of socialanthropology and cultural studies.
Daniel de Coppet
is Directeur d’Etudes at the Ecole des HautesEtudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.