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Animals in Religion
Devotion, Symbol and Ritual
Barbara Allen
Reaktion Books, 2016
Animals in Religion explores the role of animals within a wide range of religious traditions. Exploring countless stories and myths passed down orally and in many religious texts, Barbara Allen—herself a practicing minister—offers a fascinating history of the ways animals have figured in our spiritual lives, whether they have been Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any number of lesser-known religions.
           
Some of the figures here will be familiar, such as St. Francis of Assisi, famous for his accord with animals, or that beloved remover of obstacles, Ganesha, the popular elephant god in the Hindu pantheon. Delving deeper, Allen highlights the numerous ways that our religious practices have honored and relied upon our animal brethren. She examines the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, which has Jains sweeping the pathways before them so as not to kill any insects, as well as the similar principle in Judaism of ts’ar ba’alei chayim and the notion in some sects of Islam that all living creatures are Muslim. From ancient Egypt to the Druids to the indigenous cultures of North America and Australia, Allen tells story after story that emphasizes the same message: all species are spiritually connected. 
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Anthropomorphizing the Cosmos
Middle Preclassic Lowland Maya Figurines, Ritual, and Time
Prudence M. Rice
University Press of Colorado, 2019
Anthropomorphizing the Cosmos explores the sociocultural significance of more than three hundred Middle Preclassic Maya figurines uncovered at the site of Nixtun-Ch'ich' on Lake Petén Itzá in northern Guatemala. In this careful, holistic, and detailed analysis of the Petén lakes figurines—hand-modeled, terracotta anthropomorphic fragments, animal figures, and musical instruments such as whistles and ocarinas—Prudence M. Rice engages with a broad swath of theory and comparative data on Maya ritual practice.
 
Presenting original data, Anthropomorphizing the Cosmos offers insight into the synchronous appearance of fired-clay figurines with the emergence of societal complexity in and beyond Mesoamerica. Rice situates these Preclassic Maya figurines in the broader context of Mesoamerican human figural representation, identifies possible connections between anthropomorphic figurine heads and the origins of calendrics and other writing in Mesoamerica, and examines the role of anthropomorphic figurines and zoomorphic musical instruments in Preclassic Maya ritual. The volume shows how community rituals involving the figurines helped to mitigate the uncertainties of societal transitions, including the beginnings of settled agricultural life, the emergence of social differentiation and inequalities, and the centralization of political power and decision-making in the Petén lowlands.
 
Literature on Maya ritual, cosmology, and specialized artifacts has traditionally focused on the Classic period, with little research centering on the very beginnings of Maya sociopolitical organization and ideological beliefs in the Middle Preclassic. Anthropomorphizing the Cosmos is a welcome contribution to the understanding of the earliest Maya and will be significant to Mayanists and Mesoamericanists as well as nonspecialists with interest in these early figurines
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Archaeology at El Perú-Waka'
Ancient Maya Performances of Ritual, Memory, and Power
Edited by Olivia C. Navarro-Farr and Michelle Rich
University of Arizona Press, 2014
Archaeology at El Perú-Waka’ is the first book to summarize long-term research at this major Maya site. The results of fieldwork and subsequent analyses conducted by members of the El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project are coupled with theoretical approaches treating the topics of ritual, memory, and power as deciphered through material remains discovered at Waka’.  The book is site-centered, yet the fifteen wide-ranging contributions offer readers greater insight to the richness and complexity of Classic-period Maya culture, as well as to the ways in which archaeologists believe ancient peoples negotiated their ritual lives and comprehended their own pasts.
 
El Perú-Waka’ is an ancient Maya city located in present-day northwestern Petén, Guatemala. Rediscovered by petroleum exploration workers in the mid-1960s, it is the largest known archaeological site in the Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. The El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project initiated scientific investigations in 2003, and through excavation and survey, researchers established that Waka’ was a key political and economic center well integrated into Classic-period lowland Maya civilization, and reconstructed many aspects of Maya life and ritual activity in this ancient community. The research detailed in this volume provides a wealth of new, substantive, and scientifically excavated data, which contributors approach with fresh theoretical insights. In the process, they lay out sound strategies for understanding the ritual manipulation of monuments, landscapes, buildings, objects, and memories, as well as related topics encompassing the performance and negotiation of power throughout the city’s extensive sociopolitical history.
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Architecture for the Shroud
Relic and Ritual in Turin
John Beldon Scott
University of Chicago Press, 2003
The famed linen cloth preserved in Turin Cathedral has provoked pious devotion, scientific scrutiny, and morbid curiosity. Imprinted with an image many faithful have traditionally believed to be that of the crucified Christ "painted in his own blood," the Shroud remains an object of intense debate and notoriety yet today.

In this amply illustrated volume, John Beldon Scott traces the history of the unique relic, focusing especially on the black-marble and gilt-bronze structure Guarino Guarini designed to house and exhibit it. A key Baroque monument, the chapel comprises many unusual architectural features, which Scott identifies and explains, particulary how the chapel's unprecedented geometry and bizarre imagery convey to the viewer the supernatural powers of the object enshrined there. Drawing on early plans and documents, he demonstrates how the architect's design mirrors the Shroud's strange history as well as political aspirations of its owners, the Dukes of Savoy. Exhibiting it ritually, the Savoy prized their relic with its godly vestige as a means to link their dynasty with divine purposes. Guarini, too, promoted this end by fashioning an illusionary world and sacred space that positioned the duke visually so that he appeared close to the Shroud during its ceremonial display. Finally, Scott describes how the additional need for an outdoor stage for the public showing of the relic to the thousands who came to Turin to see it also helped shape the urban plan of the city and its transformation into the Savoyard capital.

Exploring the mystique of this enigmatic relic and investigating its architectural and urban history for the first time, Architecture for the Shroud will appeal to anyone curious about the textile, its display, and the architectural settings designed to enhance its veneration and boost the political agenda of the ruling family.
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Art, Myth, and Ritual
The Path to Political Authority in Ancient China
K. C. Chang
Harvard University Press, 1983
A leading scholar in the United States on Chinese archaeology challenges long-standing conceptions of the rise of political authority in ancient China. Questioning Marx’s concept of an “Asiatic” mode of production, Wittfogel’s “hydraulic hypothesis,” and cultural-materialist theories on the importance of technology, K. C. Chang builds an impressive counterargument, one which ranges widely from recent archaeological discoveries to studies of mythology, ancient Chinese poetry, and the iconography of Shang food vessels.
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Becoming Mapuche
Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile
Magnus Course
University of Illinois Press, 2011
Magnus Course blends convincing historical analysis with sophisticated contemporary theory in this superb ethnography of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork, Becoming Mapuche takes readers to the indigenous reserves where many Mapuche have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. In addition to accounts of the intimacies of everyday kinship and friendship, Course also offers the first complete ethnographic analyses of the major social events of contemporary rural Mapuche life--eluwün funerals, the ritual sport of palin, and the great ngillatun fertility ritual. The volume includes a glossary of terms in Mapudungun.
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Blessing the World
Ritual and Lay Piety in Medieval Religion
Derek A. Rivard
Catholic University of America Press, 2009
In Blessing the World, Derek A. Rivard studies liturgical blessing and its role in the religious life of Christians during the central and later Middle Ages, with a particular focus on the blessings of the Franco-Roman liturgical tradition from the tenth to late thirteenth centuries.
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Celestial Masters
History and Ritual in Early Daoist Communities
Terry F. Kleeman
Harvard University Press, 2016

In 142 CE, the divine Lord Lao descended to Mount Cranecall (Sichuan province) to establish a new covenant with humanity through a man named Zhang Ling, the first Celestial Master. Facing an impending apocalypse caused by centuries of sin, Zhang and his descendants forged a communal faith centering on a universal priesthood, strict codes of conduct, and healing through the confession of sins; this faith was based upon a new, bureaucratic relationship with incorruptible supernatural administrators. By the fourth century, Celestial Master Daoism had spread to all parts of China, and has since played a key role in China’s religious and intellectual history.

Celestial Masters is the first book in any Western language devoted solely to the founding of the world religion Daoism. It traces the movement from the mid-second century CE through the sixth century, examining all surviving primary documents in both secular and canonical sources to provide a comprehensive account of the development of this poorly understood religion. It also provides a detailed analysis of ritual life within the movement, covering the roles of common believer or Daoist citizen, novice, and priest or libationer.

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Celestial Masters
History and Ritual in Early Daoist Communities
Terry F. Kleeman
Harvard University Press

In 142 CE, the divine Lord Lao descended to Mount Cranecall (Sichuan province) to establish a new covenant with humanity through a man named Zhang Ling, the first Celestial Master. Facing an impending apocalypse caused by centuries of sin, Zhang and his descendants forged a communal faith centering on a universal priesthood, strict codes of conduct, and healing through the confession of sins; this faith was based upon a new, bureaucratic relationship with incorruptible supernatural administrators. By the fourth century, Celestial Master Daoism had spread to all parts of China, and has since played a key role in China’s religious and intellectual history.

Celestial Masters is the first book in any Western language devoted solely to the founding of the world religion Daoism. It traces the movement from the mid-second century CE through the sixth century, examining all surviving primary documents in both secular and canonical sources to provide a comprehensive account of the development of this poorly understood religion. It also provides a detailed analysis of ritual life within the movement, covering the roles of common believer or Daoist citizen, novice, and priest or libationer.

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The Codex Borbonicus Veintena Imagery
Visualizing History, Time, and Ritual in Aztec Solar-Year Festivals
Catherine DiCesare
Amsterdam University Press

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A Common Humanity
Ritual, Religion, and Immigrant Advocacy in Tucson, Arizona
Lane Van Ham
University of Arizona Press, 2011
As debate about immigration policy rages from small towns to state capitals, from coffee shops to Congress, would-be immigrants are dying in the desert along the US–Mexico border. Beginning in the 1990s, the US government effectively sealed off the most common border crossing routes. This had the unintended effect of forcing desperate people to seek new paths across open desert. At least 4,000 of them died between 1995 and 2009. While some Americans thought the dead had gotten what they deserved, other Americans organized humanitarian aid groups. A Common Humanity examines some of the most active aid organizations in Tucson, Arizona, which has become a hotbed of advocacy on behalf of undocumented immigrants.

This is the first book to examine immigrant aid groups from the inside. Author Lane Van Ham spent more than three years observing the groups and many hours in discussions and interviews. He is particularly interested in how immigrant advocates both uphold the legitimacy of the United States and maintain a broader view of its social responsibilities. By advocating for immigrants regardless of their documentation status, he suggests, advocates navigate the conflicting pulls of their own nation-state citizenship and broader obligations to their neighbors in a globalizing world. And although the advocacy organizations are not overtly religious, Van Ham finds that they do employ religious symbolism as part of their public rhetoric, arguing that immigrants are entitled to humane treatment based on universal human values.

Beautifully written and immensely engaging, A Common Humanity adds a valuable human dimension to the immigration debate.
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The Cow in the Elevator
An Anthropology of Wonder
Tulasi Srinivas
Duke University Press, 2018
In The Cow in the Elevator Tulasi Srinivas explores a wonderful world where deities jump fences and priests ride in helicopters to present a joyful, imaginative, yet critical reading of modern religious life. Drawing on nearly two decades of fieldwork with priests, residents, and devotees, and her own experience of living in the high-tech city of Bangalore, Srinivas finds moments where ritual enmeshes with global modernity to create wonder—a feeling of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime. Offering a nuanced account of how the ruptures of modernity can be made normal, enrapturing, and even comical in a city swept up in globalization's tumult, Srinivas brings the visceral richness of wonder—apparent in creative ritual in and around Hindu temples—into the anthropological gaze. Broaching provocative philosophical themes like desire, complicity, loss, time, money, technology, and the imagination, Srinivas pursues an interrogation of wonder and the adventure of writing true to its experience. The Cow in the Elevator rethinks the study of ritual while reshaping our appreciation of wonder's transformative potential for scholarship and for life.
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Ecology and the Sacred
Engaging the Anthropology of Roy A. Rappaport
Ellen Messer and Michael Lambek, Editors
University of Michigan Press, 2001
Ecology and the Sacred commemorates and advances the anthropology of Roy A. (Skip) Rappaport. Rappaport was an original and visionary thinker whose writings, like these essays, encompass ecological theory and method; ritual, the sacred, and the cybernetics of the holy; the structural study of social maladaptation or "the anthropology of trouble"; and a policy-engaged anthropology that addresses social complexity and structural disorders in modern contexts. The contributors, who are leaders in anthropological studies of the environment and of religion, address themes emerging from Rappaport's pioneering ethnography of Papua New Guinea through his engagement with contemporary social problems. In addition to presenting significant new ethnographic data and sharp critical perspectives, the collection demonstrates the essential holism of anthropology as represented by Rappaport's contributions and legacy.
At a time when anthropology is fractured by debates over whether it is a science or a humanistic tradition, theoretical or applied, this festschrift testifies that a unified anthropology is both possible and necessary for the understanding of humanity and global transformations. The volume will be of interest not only to anthropologists, but to geographers, sociologists, scholars in science-studies, historians, and experts and practitioners in religious studies, as well.
Ellen Messer is Visiting Associate Professor, Tufts University. Michael Lambek is Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto.
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Enduring Legacy
Rhetoric and Ritual of the Lost Cause
W. Stuart. Towns
University of Alabama Press, 2013
Explores the crucial role of rhetoric and oratory in creating and propagating a “Lost Cause” public memory of the American South
 
Enduring Legacy explores the vital place of ceremonial oratory in the oral tradition in the South and analyses how rituals such as Confederate Memorial Day, Confederate veteran reunions, and dedication of Confederate monuments have contributed to creating and sustaining a Lost Cause paradigm for Southern identity. Towns studies in detail secessionist and Civil War speeches and how they laid the groundwork for future generations, including Southern responses to the civil rights movement, and beyond.

The Lost Cause orators that came after the Civil War, Towns argues, helped to shape a lasting mythology of the brave Confederate martyr, and the Southern positions for why the Confederacy lost and who was to blame. Innumerable words were spent—in commemorative speeches, newspaper editorials, and statehouse oratory—condemning the evils of Reconstruction, redemption, reconciliation, and the new and future South. Towns concludes with an analysis of how Lost Cause myths still influence Southern and national perceptions of the region today, as evidenced in debates over the continued deployment of the Confederate flag and the popularity of Civil War reenactments.
 
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Expressing New Mexico
Nuevomexicano Creativity, Ritual, and Memory
Edited by Phillip B. Gonzales
University of Arizona Press, 2007
The culture of the Nuevomexicanos, forged by Spanish-speaking residents of New Mexico over the course of many centuries, is known for its richness and diversity. Expressing New Mexico contributes to a present-day renaissance of research on Nuevomexicano culture by assembling eleven original and noteworthy essays. They are grouped under two broad headings: “expressing culture” and “expressing place.” Expressing culture derives from the notion of “expressive culture,” referring to “fine art” productions, such as music, painting, sculpture, drawing, dance, drama, and film, but it is expanded here to include folklore, religious ritual, community commemoration, ethnopolitical identity, and the pragmatics of ritualized response to the difficult problems of everyday life.

Intertwined with the concept of expressive culture is that of “place” in relation to New Mexico itself. Place is addressed directly by four of the authors in this anthology and is present in some way and in varying degrees among the rest. Place figures prominently in Nuevomexicano “character,” contributors argue. They assert that Nuevomexicanos and Nuevomexicanas construct and develop a sense of self that is shaped by the geography and culture of the state as well as by their heritage.

Many of the articles deal with recent events or with recent reverberations of important historical events, which imbues the collection with a sense of immediacy. Rituals, traditions, community commemorations, self-concepts, and historical revisionism all play key roles. Contributors include both prominent and emerging scholars united by their interest in, and fascination with, the distinctiveness of Nuevomexicano culture.
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Film Remakes as Ritual and Disguise
From Carmen to Ripley
Anat Zanger
Amsterdam University Press, 2007
The first full-length history of the remake in cinema, Film Remakes as Ritual and Disguise is also the first book to explore how and why these stories are told. 

Anat Zanger focuses on contemporary retellings of three particular tales—Joanof Arc, Carmen, and Psycho—to reveal what she calls the remake’s “rituals of disguise.” Joan of Arc, Zanger demonstrates, later appears as the tough, androgynous Ripley in the blockbuster Alien series and the God-ridden Bess in Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Ultimately, these remake chains offer evidence of the archetypes of our own age, cultural “fingerprints” that are reflective of society’s own preferences and politics. Underneath the redundancy of the remake, Zanger shows, lies our collective social memory.  Indeed, at its core the lowly remake represents a primal attempt to gain immortality, to triumph over death—playing at movie theaters seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

Addressing the wider theoretical implications of her argument with sections on contemporary film issues such as trauma, jouissance, and censorship, Film Remakes as Ritual and Disguise is an insightful addition to current debates in film theory and cinema history.

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For Money and Elders
Ritual, Sovereignty, and the Sacred in Kenya
Robert W. Blunt
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Many observers of Kenya’s complicated history see causes for concern, from the use of public office for private gain to a constitutional structure historically lopsided towards the executive branch. Yet efforts from critics and academics to diagnose the country’s problems do not often consider what these fiscal and political issues mean to ordinary Kenyans. How do Kenyans express their own political understanding, make sense of governance, and articulate what they expect from their leaders?
 
In For Money and Elders, Robert W. Blunt addresses these questions by turning to the political, economic, and religious signs in circulation in Kenya today. He examines how Kenyans attempt to make sense of political instability caused by the uncertainty of authority behind everything from currency to title deeds. When the symbolic order of a society is up for grabs, he shows, violence may seem like an expedient way to enforce the authority of signs. Drawing on fertile concepts of sovereignty, elderhood, counterfeiting, acephaly, and more, Blunt explores phenomena as diverse as the destabilization of ritual “oaths,” public anxieties about Satanism with the advent of democratic reform, and mistrust of official signs. The result is a fascinating glimpse into Kenya’s past and present and a penetrating reflection on meanings of violence in African politics.
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Formations of Ritual
Colonial and Anthropological Discourses on the Sinhala Yaktovil
David Scott
University of Minnesota Press, 1994

Formations of Ritual was first published in 1994. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

Yaktovil is an elaborate healing ceremony employed by Sinhalas in Sri Lanka to dispel the effects of the eyesight of a pantheon of malevolent supernatural figures known as yakku. Anthropology, traditionally, has articulated this ceremony with the concept metaphor of "demonism." Yet, as David Scott demonstrates in this provocative book, this use of "demonism" reveals more about the discourse of anthropology than it does about the ritual itself. His investigation of yaktovil and yakku within the Sinhala cosmology is also an inquiry into the ways in which anthropology, by ignoring the discursive history of the rituals, religions, and relationships it seeks to describe, tends to reproduce ideological-often, specifically colonial-objects.

To do this, Scott describes the discursive apparatus through which yakku are positioned in the moral universe of Sinhala, traces the appearance of yakku and yaktovil in Western discourse, evaluates the contribution of these figures and this ceremony in anthropology, and attempts to show how the larger anthropology of Buddhism, in which the anthropology of yaktovil is embedded, might be reconfigured. Finally, he offers a rereading of the ritual in terms of the historically selfconscious approach he proposes.The result points to a major rethinking of the historical nature not only of the objects, but also of the concepts through which they are constructed in anthropological discourse.

David Scott teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.

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The Friday Mosque in the City
Liminality, Ritual, and Politics
Edited by A. Hilâl Ugurlu and Suzan Yalman
Intellect Books, 2020

This edited volume explores the dynamic relationship between the Friday mosque and the Islamic city, addressing the traditional topics through a fresh new lens and offering a critical examination of each case study in its own spatial, urban, and socio-cultural context. While these two well-known themes—concepts that once defined the field—have been widely studied by historians of Islamic architecture and urbanism, this compilation specifically addresses the functional and spatial ambiguity or liminality between these spaces. 

Instead of addressing the Friday mosque as the central signifier of the Islamic city, this collection provides evidence that there was (and continues to be) variety in the way architectural borders became fluid in and around Friday mosques across the Islamic world, from Cordoba to Jerusalem and from London to Lahore. By historicizing different cases and exploring the way human agency, through ritual and politics, shaped the physical and social fabric of the city, this volume challenges the generalizing and reductionist tendencies in earlier scholarship.

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The Gnostics
Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity
David Brakke
Harvard University Press, 2012

Who were the Gnostics? And how did the Gnostic movement influence the development of Christianity in antiquity? Is it true that the Church rejected Gnosticism? This book offers an illuminating discussion of recent scholarly debates over the concept of “Gnosticism” and the nature of early Christian diversity. Acknowledging that the category “Gnosticism” is flawed and must be reformed, David Brakke argues for a more careful approach to gathering evidence for the ancient Christian movement known as the Gnostic school of thought. He shows how Gnostic myth and ritual addressed basic human concerns about alienation and meaning, offered a message of salvation in Jesus, and provided a way for people to regain knowledge of God, the ultimate source of their being.

Rather than depicting the Gnostics as heretics or as the losers in the fight to define Christianity, Brakke argues that the Gnostics participated in an ongoing reinvention of Christianity, in which other Christians not only rejected their ideas but also adapted and transformed them. This book will challenge scholars to think in news ways, but it also provides an accessible introduction to the Gnostics and their fellow early Christians.

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Human Nature, Ritual, and History
Studies in Xunzi and Chinese Philosophy (Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Volume 43)
Antonio S. Cua
Catholic University of America Press, 2005
In this volume, distinguished philosopher Antonio S. Cua offers a collection of original studies on Xunzi, a leading classical Confucian thinker, and on other aspects of Chinese philosophy.
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Identity, Ritual, and Power in Colonial Puebla
Frances L. Ramos
University of Arizona Press, 2012
Located between Mexico City and Veracruz, Puebla has been a political hub since its founding as Puebla de los Ángeles in 1531. Frances L. Ramos’s dynamic and meticulously researched study exposes and explains the many (and often surprising) ways that politics and political culture were forged, tested, and demonstrated through public ceremonies in eighteenth-century Puebla, colonial Mexico’s “second city.”

With Ramos as a guide, we are not only dazzled by the trappings of power—the silk canopies, brocaded robes, and exploding fireworks—but are also witnesses to the public spectacles through which municipal councilmen consolidated local and imperial rule. By sponsoring a wide variety of carefully choreographed rituals, the municipal council made locals into audience, participants, and judges of the city’s tumultuous political life. Public rituals encouraged residents to identify with the Roman Catholic Church, their respective corporations, the Spanish Empire, and their city, but also provided arenas where individuals and groups could vie for power.

As Ramos portrays the royal oath ceremonies, funerary rites, feast-day celebrations, viceregal entrance ceremonies, and Holy Week processions, we have to wonder who paid for these elaborate rituals—and why. Ramos discovers and decodes the intense debates over expenditures for public rituals and finds them to be a central part of ongoing efforts of councilmen to negotiate political relationships. Even with the Spanish Crown’s increasing disapproval of costly public ritual and a worsening economy, Puebla’s councilmen consistently defied all attempts to diminish their importance.

Ramos innovatively employs a wealth of source materials, including council minutes, judicial cases, official correspondence, and printed sermons, to illustrate how public rituals became pivotal in the shaping of Puebla’s complex political culture.
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The Indian Christ, the Indian King
The Historical Substrate of Maya Myth and Ritual
By Victoria Reifler Bricker
University of Texas Press, 1981

Victoria Bricker shows that "history" sometimes rests on mythological foundations and that "myth" can contain valid historical information. Her book, which is a highly original critique of postconquest historiography about the Maya, challenges major assumptions about the relationship between myth and history implicit in structuralist interpretations. The focus of the book is ethnic conflict, a theme that pervades Maya folklore and is also well documented historically.

The book begins with the Spanish conquest of the Maya. In chapters on the postconquest history of the Maya, five ethnic conflicts are treated in depth: the Cancuc revolt of 1712, the Quisteil uprising of 1761, the Totonicapan rebellion of 1820, the Caste War of Yucatan (1847-1901), and the Chamulan uprising in 1869. Analytical chapters consider the relationship between historical events and modern folklore about ethnic conflict. Bricker demonstrates that myths and rituals emphasize structure at the expense of temporal and geographical provenience, treating events separated by centuries or thousands of miles as equivalent and interchangeable.

An unexpected result of Bricker's research is the finding that many seemingly aboriginal elements in Maya folklore are actually of postconquest origin, and she shows that it is possible to determine precisely when and, more important, why they become part of myth and ritual. Furthermore, she finds that the patterning of the accretion of events in folklore over time provides clues to the function, or meaning, of myth and ritual for the Maya.

Bricker has made use of many unpublished documents in Spanish, English, and Maya, as well as standard synthetic historical works. The appendices contain extensive samples of the oral traditions that are explained by her analysis.

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An Intimate Rebuke
Female Genital Power in Ritual and Politics in West Africa
Laura S. Grillo
Duke University Press, 2018
Throughout West African societies, at times of social crises, postmenopausal women—the Mothers—make a ritual appeal to their innate moral authority. The seat of this power is the female genitalia. Wielding branches or pestles, they strip naked and slap their genitals and bare breasts to curse and expel the forces of evil. In An Intimate Rebuke Laura S. Grillo draws on fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire that spans three decades to illustrate how these rituals of Female Genital Power (FGP) constitute religious and political responses to abuses of power. When deployed in secret, FGP operates as spiritual warfare against witchcraft; in public, it serves as a political activism. During Côte d’Ivoire’s civil wars FGP challenged the immoral forces of both rebels and the state. Grillo shows how the ritual potency of the Mothers’ nudity and the conjuration of their sex embodies a moral power that has been foundational to West African civilization. Highlighting the remarkable continuity of the practice across centuries while foregrounding the timeliness of FGP in contemporary political resistance, Grillo shifts perspectives on West African history, ethnography, comparative religious studies, and postcolonial studies.
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King of Sacrifice
Ritual and Royal Authority in the Iliad
Sarah Hitch
Harvard University Press, 2009
Descriptions of animal sacrifice in Homer offer us some of the most detailed accounts of this attempt at communication between man and gods. What is the significance of these scenes within the framework of the Iliad? This book explores the structural and thematic importance of animal sacrifice as an expression of the quarrel between Akhilleus and Agamemnon through the differing perspectives of the primary narrative and character speech. In the Iliad, animal sacrifice is incorporated into the primary narrative to bolster the royal authority of Agamemnon and further emphasize Akhilleus' isolation. The sacrifices embedded in character speech express frustration with the failure of reciprocity and the inability of sacrifice to influence the course of human events.
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Las Varas
Ritual and Ethnicity in the Ancient Andes
Howard Tsai
University of Alabama Press, 2020
Archaeological data from Las Varas, Peru, that establish the importance of ritual in constructing ethnic boundaries

Recent popular discourse on nationalism and ethnicity assumes that humans by nature prefer “tribalism,” as if people cannot help but divide themselves along lines of social and ethnic difference. Research from anthropology, history, and archaeology, however, shows that individuals actively construct cultural and social ideologies to fabricate the stereotypes, myths, and beliefs that separate “us” from “them.” Archaeologist Howard Tsai and his team uncovered a thousand-year-old village in northern Peru where rituals were performed to recognize and reinforce ethnic identities.

This site—Las Varas—is located near the coast of Peru in a valley leading into the Andes. Excavations revealed a western entrance to Las Varas for those arriving from the coast and an eastern entryway for those coming from the highlands. Rituals were performed at both of these entrances, indicating that the community was open to exchange and interaction, yet at the same time controlled the flow of people and goods through ceremonial protocols. Using these checkpoints and associated rituals, the villagers of Las Varas were able to maintain ethnic differences between themselves and visitors from foreign lands.

Las Varas: Ritual and Ethnicity in the Ancient Andes reveals a rare case of finding ethnicity relying solely on archaeological remains. In this monograph, data from the excavation of Las Varas are analyzed within a theoretical framework based on current understandings of ethnicity. Tsai’s method, approach, and inference demonstrate the potential for archaeologists to discover how ethnic identities were constructed in the past, ultimately making us question the supposed naturalness of tribal divisions in human antiquity.

 
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Making the Gods Speak
The Ritual Production of Revelation in Chinese Religious History
Vincent Goossaert
Harvard University Press, 2022
For two millennia, Chinese society has been producing divine revelations on an unparalleled scale, in multifarious genres and formats. This book is the first comprehensive attempt at accounting for the processes of such production. It builds a typology of the various ritual techniques used to make gods present and allow them to speak or write, and it follows the historical development of these types and the revealed teachings they made possible. Within the large array of visionary, mediumistic, and mystical techniques, Vincent Goossaert devotes the bulk of his analysis to spirit-writing, a family of rites that appeared around the eleventh century and gradually came to account for the largest numbers of books and tracts ascribed to the gods. In doing so, he shows that the practice of spirit-writing must be placed within the framework of techniques used by ritual specialists to control human communications with gods and spirits for healing, divining, and self-divinization, among other purposes. Making the Gods Speak thus offers a ritual-centered framework to study revelation in Chinese cultural history and comparatively with the revelatory practices of other religious traditions.
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Materializing Ritual Practices
Lisa M. Johnson
University Press of Colorado, 2021
Materializing Ritual Practices explores the deep history of ritual practice in Mexico and Central America and the ways interdisciplinary research can be coordinated to illuminate how rituals create, destroy, and transform social relations.
 
Ritual action produces sequences of creation, destruction, and transformation, which involve a variety of materials that are active and agential. The materialities of ritual may persist at temporal scales long beyond the lives of humans or be as ephemeral as spoken words, music, and scents. In this book, archaeologists and ethnographers, including specialists in narrative, music, and ritual practice, explore the rhythms and materiality of rituals that accompany everyday actions, like the construction of houses, healing practices, and religious festivals, and that paced commemoration of rulers, ancestor veneration, and relations with spiritual beings in the past.
 
Connecting the kinds of observed material discursive practices that ethnographers witness to the sedimented practices from which archaeologists infer similar practices in the past, Materializing Ritual Practices addresses how specific materialities encourage repetition in ritual actions and, in other circumstances, resist changes to ritual sequences. The volume will be of interest to cultural anthropologists, archaeologists, and linguists with interests in Central America, ritual, materiality, and time.
 
Contributors: M. Charlotte Arnauld, Giovani Balam Caamal, Isaac Barrientos, Cedric Becquey, Johann Begel, Valeria Bellomia, Juan Carillo Gonzalez, Maire Chosson, Julien Hiquet, Katrina Kosyk, Olivier Le Guen, Maria Luisa Vasquez de Agredos Pascual, Alessandro Lupo, Philippe Nondedeo, Julie Patrois, Russel Sheptak, Valentina Vapnarsky, Francisca Zalaquett Rock
 
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Mecca and Eden
Ritual, Relics, and Territory in Islam
Brannon Wheeler
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Nineteenth-century philologist and Biblical critic William Robertson Smith famously concluded that the sacred status of holy places derives not from their intrinsic nature but from their social character. Building upon this insight, Mecca and Eden uses Islamic exegetical and legal texts to analyze the rituals and objects associated with the sanctuary at Mecca. 

Integrating Islamic examples into the comparative study of religion, Brannon Wheeler shows how the treatment of rituals, relics, and territory is related to the more general mythological depiction of the origins of Islamic civilization. Along the way, Wheeler considers the contrast between Mecca and Eden in Muslim rituals, the dispersal and collection of relics of the prophet Muhammad, their relationship to the sanctuary at Mecca, and long tombs associated with the gigantic size of certain prophets mentioned in the Quran. 

Mecca and Eden succeeds, as few books have done, in making Islamic sources available to the broader study of religion.
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Memories of the Slave Trade
Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone
Rosalind Shaw
University of Chicago Press, 2002
How is the slave trade remembered in West Africa? In a work that challenges recurring claims that Africans felt (and still feel) no sense of moral responsibility concerning the sale of slaves, Rosalind Shaw traces memories of the slave trade in Temne-speaking communities in Sierra Leone. While the slave-trading past is rarely remembered in explicit verbal accounts, it is often made vividly present in such forms as rogue spirits, ritual specialists' visions, and the imagery of divination techniques.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork and archival research, Shaw argues that memories of the slave trade have shaped (and been reshaped by) experiences of colonialism, postcolonialism, and the country's ten-year rebel war. Thus money and commodities, for instance, are often linked to an invisible city of witches whose affluence was built on the theft of human lives. These ritual and visionary memories make hitherto invisible realities manifest, forming a prism through which past and present mutually configure each other.
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Mishkan Ga'avah
Where Pride Dwells: A Celebration of Jewish Life and Ritual
Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Central Conference of American Rabbis, 2020
This groundbreaking collection of LGBTQ prayers, poems, liturgy, and rituals is both a spiritual resource and a celebratory affirmation of Jewish diversity. Giving voice to the private and public sectors of queer Jewish experience, Mishkan Ga'avah is also a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of both the Stonewall Riots and the first pride march, reflecting the longtime advocacy of the Reform Movement for full LGBTQ inclusion.
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The Mixe of Oaxaca
Religion, Ritual, and Healing
By Frank J. Lipp
University of Texas Press, 1991

The Mixe of Oaxaca was the first extensive ethnography of the Mixe, with a special focus on Mixe religious beliefs and rituals and the curing practices associated with them. It records the procedures, design-plan, corresponding prayers, and symbolic context of well over one hundred rituals. Frank Lipp has written a new preface for this edition, in which he comments on the relationship of Mixe religion to current theoretical understandings of present-day Middle American folk religions.

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Mythography
The Study of Myths and Rituals
William G. Doty
University of Alabama Press, 2000
This new edition of William Doty's critically acclaimed study provides a comprehensive guidebook to the many schools of interpretation in this burgeoning field

William Doty's popular text has been hailed as the most comprehensive work of its kind. Extensively rewritten and completely restructured, the new edition provides further depth and perspective and is even more accessible to students of myth. It includes expanded coverage of postmodern and poststructuralist perspectives, the Gernet Center, mythic iconography, neo-Jungian approaches, and cultural studies, and it summarizes what is new in the study of Greek myth, iconography, French classical scholarship, and ritual studies. It also features a comprehensive index of names and topics, a glossary, an up-to-date annotated bibliography, and a guide to myth on the Internet.

Presenting all major myth theorists from antiquity to the present, Mythography is an encyclopedic work that offers a cross-disciplinary approach to the study of myth. By reflecting the dramatic increase in interest in myth among both scholars and general readers since publication of the first edition, it remains a key study of modern approaches to myth and
an essential guide to the wealth of mythographic research available today.
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The Myths of the Popol Vuh in Cosmology, Art, and Ritual
Holley Moyes
University Press of Colorado, 2021
This volume offers an integrated and comparative approach to the Popol Vuh, analyzing its myths to elucidate the ancient Maya past while using multiple lines of evidence to shed light on the text. Combining interpretations of the myths with analyses of archaeological, iconographic, epigraphic, ethnohistoric, ethnographic, and literary resources, the work demonstrates how Popol Vuh mythologies contribute to the analysis and interpretation of the ancient Maya past.
 
The chapters are grouped into four sections. The first section interprets the Highland Maya worldview through examination of the text, analyzing interdependence between deities and human beings as well as the textual and cosmological coherence of the Popol Vuh as a source. The second section analyzes the Precolumbian Maya archaeological record as it relates to the myths of the Popol Vuh, providing new interpretations of the use of space, architecture, burials, artifacts, and human remains found in Classic Maya caves. The third explores ancient Maya iconographic motifs, including those found in Classic Maya ceramic art; the nature of predatory birds; and the Hero Twins’ deeds in the Popol Vuh. The final chapters address mythological continuities and change, reexamining past methodological approaches using the Popol Vuh as a resource for the interpretation of Classic Maya iconography and ancient Maya religion and mythology, connecting the myths of the Popol Vuh to iconography from Preclassic Izapa, and demonstrating how narratives from the Popol Vuh can illuminate mythologies from other parts of Mesoamerica.
 
The Myths of the Popol Vuh in Cosmology, Art, and Ritual is the first volume to bring together multiple perspectives and original interpretations of the Popol Vuh myths. It will be of interest not only to Mesoamericanists but also to art historians, archaeologists, ethnohistorians, iconographers, linguists, anthropologists, and scholars working in ritual studies, the history of religion, historic and Precolumbian literature and historic linguistics.
 
Contributors: Jaime J. Awe, Karen Bassie-Sweet, Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos, Michael D. Coe, Iyaxel Cojtí Ren, Héctor Escobedo, Thomas H. Guderjan, Julia Guernsey, Christophe Helmke, Nicholas A. Hopkins, Barbara MacLeod, Jesper Nielsen, Colin Snider, Karl A. Taube
 
 
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Oglala Women
Myth, Ritual, and Reality
Marla N. Powers
University of Chicago Press, 1986
Based on interviews and life histories collected over more than twenty-five years of study on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, Marla N. Powers conveys what it means to be an Oglala woman. Despite the myth of the Euramerican that sees Oglala women as inferior to men, and the Lakota myth that seems them as superior, in reality, Powers argues, the roles of male and female emerge as complementary. In fact, she claims, Oglala women have been better able to adapt to the dominant white culture and provide much of the stability and continuity of modern tribal life. This rich ethnographic portrait considers the complete context of Oglala life—religion, economics, medicine, politics, old age—and is enhanced by numerous modern and historical photographs.


"It is a happy event when a fine scholarly work is rendered accessible to the general reader, especially so when none of the complexity of the subject matter is sacrificed. Oglala Women is a long overdue revisionary ethnography of Native American culture."—Penny Skillman, San Francisco Chronicle Review

"Marla N. Powers's fine study introduced me to Oglala women 'portrayed from the perspectives of Indians,' to women who did not pity themselves and want no pity from others. . . . A brave, thorough, and stimulating book."—Melody Graulich, Women's Review of Books

"Powers's new book is an intricate weaving . . . and her synthesis brings all of these pieces into a well-integrated and insightful whole, one which sheds new light on the importance of women and how they have adapted to the circumstances of the last century."—Elizabeth S. Grobsmith, Nebraska History
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Online a Lot of the Time
Ritual, Fetish, Sign
Ken Hillis
Duke University Press, 2009
A wedding ceremony in a Web-based virtual world. Online memorials commemorating the dead. A coffee klatch attended by persons thousands of miles apart via webcams. These are just a few of the ritual practices that have developed and are emerging in online settings. Such Web-based rituals depend on the merging of two modes of communication often held distinct by scholars: the use of a device or mechanism to transmit messages between people across space, and a ritual gathering of people in the same place for the performance of activities intended to generate, maintain, repair, and renew social relations. In Online a Lot of the Time, Ken Hillis explores the stakes when rituals that would formerly have required participants to gather in one physical space are reformulated for the Web. In so doing, he develops a theory of how ritual, fetish, and signification translate to online environments and offer new forms of visual and spatial interaction. The online environments Hillis examines reflect the dynamic contradictions at the core of identity and the ways these contradictions get signified.

Hillis analyzes forms of ritual and fetishism made possible through second-generation virtual environments such as Second Life and the popular practice of using webcams to “lifecast” one’s life online twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Discussing how people create and identify with their electronic avatars, he shows how the customs of virtual-world chat reinforce modern consumer-based subjectivities, allowing individuals to both identify with and distance themselves from their characters. His consideration of web-cam cultures links the ritual of exposing one’s life online to a politics of visibility. Hillis argues that these new “rituals of transmission” are compelling because they provide a seemingly material trace of the actual person on the other side of the interface.

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Orange Parades
The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control
Dominic Bryan
Pluto Press, 2000
In the first major study of the Protestant Loyalist Orange Order in Northern Ireland, Dominic Bryan provides a detailed ethnographic and historical study of Orange Order parades. He looks at the development of the parades, the history of disputes over the parades, the structure and politics of the Orange Order, the organisation of loyalist bands, the role of social class in Unionist politics – and the anthropology of ritual itself.
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The Poison in the Gift
Ritual, Prestation, and the Dominant Caste in a North Indian Village
Gloria Goodwin Raheja
University of Chicago Press, 1988
The Poison in the Gift is a detailed ethnography of gift-giving in a North Indian village that powerfully demonstrates a new theoretical interpretation of caste. Introducing the concept of ritual centrality, Raheja shows that the position of the dominant landholding caste in the village is grounded in a central-peripheral configuration of castes rather than a hierarchical ordering. She advances a view of caste as semiotically constituted of contextually shifting sets of meanings, rather than one overarching ideological feature. This new understanding undermines the controversial interpretation advanced by Louis Dumont in his 1966 book, Homo Hierarchicus, in which he proposed a disjunction between the ideology of hierarchy based on the "purity" of the Brahman priest and the "temporal power" of the dominant caste or the king.
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Precolumbian Water Management
Ideology, Ritual, and Power
Edited by Lisa J. Lucero and Barbara W. Fash
University of Arizona Press, 2006
Among ancient Mesoamerican and Southwestern peoples, water was as essential as maize for sustenance and was a driving force in the development of complex society. Control of water shaped the political, economic, and religious landscape of the ancient Americas, yet it is often overlooked in Precolumbian studies. Now one volume offers the latest thinking on water systems and their place within the ancient physical and mental language of the region.

Precolumbian Water Management examines water management from both economic and symbolic perspectives. Water management facilities, settlement patterns, shrines, and water-related imagery associated with civic-ceremonial and residential architecture provide evidence that water systems pervade all aspects of ancient society. Through analysis of such data, the contributors seek to combine an understanding of imagery and the religious aspects of water with its functional components, thereby presenting a unified perspective of how water was conceived, used, and represented in ancient greater Mesoamerica. The collection boasts broad chronological and geographical coverage—from the irrigation networks of Teotihuacan to the use of ritual water technology at Casas Grandes—that shows how procurement and storage systems were adapted to local conditions.

The articles consider the mechanisms that were used to build upon the sacredness of water to enhance political authority through time and space and show that water was not merely an essential natural resource but an important spiritual one as well, and that its manipulation was socially far more complex than might appear at first glance. As these papers reveal, an understanding of materials associated with water can contribute much to the ways that archaeologists study ancient cultural systems. Precolumbian Water Management underscores the importance of water management research and the need to include it in archaeological projects of all types.
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Remains of Ritual
Northern Gods in a Southern Land
Steven M. Friedson
University of Chicago Press, 2009

Remains of Ritual, Steven M. Friedson’s second book on musical experience in African ritual, focuses on the Brekete/Gorovodu religion of the Ewe people. Friedson presents a multifaceted understanding of religious practice through a historical and ethnographic study of one of the dominant ritual sites on the southern coast of Ghana: a medicine shrine whose origins lie in the northern region of the country. Each chapter of this fascinating book considers a different aspect of ritual life, demonstrating throughout that none of them can be conceived of separately from their musicality—in the Brekete world, music functions as ritual and ritual as music. Dance and possession, chanted calls to prayer, animal sacrifice, the sounds and movements of wake keeping, the play of the drums all come under Friedson’s careful scrutiny, as does his own position and experience within this ritual-dominated society.

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Rethinking Modern Judaism
Ritual, Commandment, Community
Arnold M. Eisen
University of Chicago Press, 1998
Arnold Eisen here calls for a fundamental rethinking of the story of modern Judaism. More than simply a study of Jewish thought on customs and rituals, Rethinking Modern Judaism explores the central role that practice plays in Judaism's encounter with modernity.

"Fascinating . . . an insightful entrance point to understanding the evolution of the theologies of America's largest Jewish denominations."—Tikkun

"I know of no other treatment of these issues that matches Eisen's talents for synthesizing a wide variety of historical, philosophical, and social scientific sources, and bringing them to bear in a balanced and open-minded way on the delicate questions of why modern Jews relate as they do to the practices of Judaism."—Joseph Reimer, Boston Book Review

"At once an incisive survey of modern Jewish thought and an inquiry into how Jews actually live their religious lives, Mr. Eisen's book is an invaluable addition to the study of American Judaism."—Elliott Abrams, Washington Times
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Rethinking Zapotec Time
Cosmology, Ritual, and Resistance in Colonial Mexico
David Tavárez
University of Texas Press, 2022

2023 — Best Subsequent Book — Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
2023 — Honorable Mention, Best Book in the Social Sciences — Latin American Studies Association, Mexico Section
2022 — Marysa Navarro Best Book Prize — New England Council of Latin American Studies

 

As the first exhaustive translation and analysis of an extraordinary Zapotec calendar and ritual song corpus, seized in New Spain in 1704, this book expands our understanding of Mesoamerican history, cosmology, and culture.

In 1702, after the brutal suppression of a Zapotec revolt, the bishop of Oaxaca proclaimed an amnesty for idolatry in exchange for collective confessions. To evade conflict, Northern Zapotec communities denounced ritual specialists and surrendered sacred songs and 102 divinatory manuals, which preserve cosmological accounts, exchanges with divine beings, and protocols of pre-Columbian origin that strongly resemble sections of the Codex Borgia. These texts were sent to Spain as evidence of failed Dominican evangelization efforts, and there they remained, in oblivion, until the 1960s.

In this book, David Tavárez dives deep into this formidable archive of ritual and divinatory manuals, the largest calendar corpus in the colonial Americas, and emerges with a rich understanding of Indigenous social and cultural history, Mesoamerican theories of cosmos and time, and Zapotec ancestor worship. Drawing on his knowledge of Zapotec and Nahuatl, two decades of archival research, and a decade of fieldwork, Tavárez dissects Mesoamerican calendars as well as Native resistance and accommodation to the colonial conquest of time, while also addressing entangled transatlantic histories and shining new light on texts still connected to contemporary observances in Zapotec communities.

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Revisiting McKeithen Weeden Island
Complexity, Ritual, and Pottery
Prudence M. Rice
University of Alabama Press, 2024

Reassesses the ancient Indigenous McKeithen site in northern Florida in light of new data, analyses, and theories

Revisiting McKeithen Weeden Island further illuminates an Indigenous Late Woodland (ca. AD 200–900) mound-and-village community in northern Florida that was first excavated in the late 1970s. Since then, some artifacts received additional analyses, and the topic of prechiefdom societies has been broadly reconsidered in anthropology and archaeology. These developments allow new perspectives on McKeithen’s history and significance.

Prudence M. Rice, a Mayanist who began her career at the University of Florida, revisits what is known about McKeithen and recontextualizes the 1970s excavations. Weeden Island and McKeithen are best known through mortuary mounds and mortuary ritual, mainly involving unusual pottery bird effigies. Rice discusses current theoretical trends in studies of ritual and belief systems and their relation to mound-building at McKeithen in early stages of developing societal complexity.

Revisiting McKeithen Weeden Island serves as a masterful example of an esteemed archaeologist advancing the field through rethought and updated interpretations of the site and its significance, primarily through its pottery. Rice’s case study ultimately also fosters understanding of later Mississippian society and other civilizations around the world at this time period. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and social historians as well as students and avocational readers will welcome Rice’s insight.

 

 

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Ritual and Capital
Edited by Bard Graduate Center and Wendy's Subway
Bard Graduate Center, 2020
Ritual and Capital is an expansive volume that collects an interdisciplinary range of voices and genres that reflect on ritual as a form of resistance against capitalism. The poems, essays, and artworks included in this anthology explore habits and practices formed to subvert, subsist, and survive under the repression of capital. These works explore the refuge in ritual, how ritual practices might endow objects with qualities that resist market values, the use of ritual in embodied practices of healing and care, and how ritual strengthens communities.

The publication of Ritual and Capital is the culmination of a series of public readings organized by Wendy’s Subway, a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn, as part of their Spring 2017 Reading Room residency at the Bard Graduate Center. Copublished by the Bard Graduate Center and Wendy’s Subway, Ritual and Capital is the first title in the BGCX series, a publication series designed to expand time-based programming after the events themselves have ended. Springing from the generative spontaneity of conversation, performance, and hands-on engagement as their starting points, these experimental publishing projects will provide space for continued reflection and research in a form that is inclusive of a variety of artists and makers.
 
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Ritual and Economy in a Pre-Columbian Chiefdom
The El Cajón Region of Honduras
Kenneth Hirth
University Press of Colorado, 2023
This volume examines the organization and ritual economy of a pre-Columbian chiefdom that developed in central Honduras over a 1,400-year period from 400 BC to AD 1000. Extremely applicable and broadly important to the archaeological studies of Mesoamerica, Ritual and Economy in a Pre-Columbian Chiefdom models the ritual organization of pre-Columbian societies across Honduras to expand the understanding of chiefdom societies in Central America and explore how these non-Maya societies developed and evolved.
 
As part of the ritual economy, a large quantity of jade and marble artifacts were deposited as offerings in the ritual architecture of the El Cajón region’s central community of Salitrón Viejo. Over 2,800 of these high-value items were recovered from their original ritual contexts, making Salitrón Viejo one of the largest in situ collections of these materials ever recovered in the New World. These materials are well dated and tremendously varied and provide a cross-section of all jade-carving lapidary traditions in use across eastern Mesoamerica between AD 250 and 350.
 
With a complementary website providing extensive additional description, visualization, and analysis (https://journals.psu.edu/opa/issue/view/3127), Ritual and Economy in a Pre-Columbian Chiefdom is a new and original contribution that employs an “economy of ritual approach” to the study of chiefdom societies in the Americas. It is a foundational reference point for any scholar working in Mesoamerica and Central America, especially those engaged in Maya research, as well as archaeologists working with societies at this scale of complexity in Latin America and around the world.
 
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Ritual and Performativity
The Chorus in Old Comedy
Anton Bierl
Harvard University Press, 2009
In this groundbreaking study, Anton Bierl uses recent approaches in literary and cultural studies to investigate the chorus of Old Comedy. After an extensive theoretical introduction that also serves as a general introduction to the dramatic chorus from the comic vantage point, a close reading of Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae shows that ritual is indeed present in both the micro- and macrostructure of Attic comedy, not as a fossilized remnant of the origins of the genre but as part of a still existing performative choral culture. The chorus members do play a role within the dramatic plot, but they simultaneously refer to their own performance in the here and now and to their function as participants in a ritual. Bierl's investigation also includes an unparalleled treatment of the phallic songs preserved by Semos.
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Ritual and Pilgrimage in the Ancient Andes
The Islands of the Sun and the Moon
By Brian S. Bauer and Charles Stanish
University of Texas Press, 2001

The Islands of the Sun and the Moon in Bolivia's Lake Titicaca were two of the most sacred locations in the Inca empire. A pan-Andean belief held that they marked the origin place of the Sun and the Moon, and pilgrims from across the Inca realm made ritual journeys to the sacred shrines there. In this book, Brian Bauer and Charles Stanish explore the extent to which this use of the islands as a pilgrimage center during Inca times was founded on and developed from earlier religious traditions of the Lake Titicaca region.

Drawing on a systematic archaeological survey and test excavations in the islands, as well as data from historical texts and ethnography, the authors document a succession of complex polities in the islands from 2000 BC to the time of European contact in the 1530s AD. They uncover significant evidence of pre-Inca ritual use of the islands, which raises the compelling possibility that the religious significance of the islands is of great antiquity. The authors also use these data to address broader anthropological questions on the role of pilgrimage centers in the development of pre-modern states.

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Ritual and Power in Stone
The Performance of Rulership in Mesoamerican Izapan Style Art
By Julia Guernsey
University of Texas Press, 2006
The ancient Mesoamerican city of Izapa in Chiapas, Mexico, is renowned for its extensive collection of elaborate stone stelae and altars, which were carved during the Late Preclassic period (300 BC-AD 250). Many of these monuments depict kings garbed in the costume and persona of a bird, a well-known avian deity who had great significance for the Maya and other cultures in adjacent regions. This Izapan style of carving and kingly representation appears at numerous sites across the Pacific slope and piedmont of Mexico and Guatemala, making it possible to trace political and economic corridors of communication during the Late Preclassic period. In this book, Julia Guernsey offers a masterful art historical analysis of the Izapan style monuments and their integral role in developing and communicating the institution of divine kingship. She looks specifically at how rulers expressed political authority by erecting monuments that recorded their performance of rituals in which they communicated with the supernatural realm in the persona of the avian deity. She also considers how rulers used the monuments to structure their built environment and create spaces for ritual and politically charged performances. Setting her discussion in a broader context, Guernsey also considers how the Izapan style monuments helped to motivate and structure some of the dramatic, pan-regional developments of the Late Preclassic period, including the forging of a codified language of divine kingship. This pioneering investigation, which links monumental art to the matrices of political, economic, and supernatural exchange, offers an important new understanding of a region, time period, and group of monuments that played a key role in the history of Mesoamerica and continue to intrigue scholars within the field of Mesoamerican studies.
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Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes
Rachel Corr
University of Arizona Press, 2010
Not every world culture that has battled colonization has suffered or died. In the Ecuadorian Andean parish of Salasaca, the indigenous culture has stayed true to itself and its surroundings for centuries while adapting to each new situation. Today, indigenous Salascans continue to devote a large part of their lives to their distinctive practices—both community rituals and individual behaviors—while living side by side with white-mestizo culture.

In this book Rachel Corr provides a knowledgeable account of the Salasacan religion and rituals and their respective histories. Based on eighteen years of fieldwork in Salasaca, as well as extensive research in Church archives—including never-before-published documents—Corr’s book illuminates how Salasacan culture adapted to Catholic traditions and recentered, reinterpreted, and even reshaped them to serve similarly motivated Salasacan practices, demonstrating the link between formal and folk Catholicism and pre-Columbian beliefs and practices. Corr also explores the intense connection between the local Salasacan rituals and the mountain landscapes around them, from peak to valley.

Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes is, in its portrayal of Salasacan religious culture, both thorough and all-encompassing. Sections of the book cover everything from the performance of death rituals to stories about Amazonia as Salasacans interacted with outsiders—conquistadors and camera-toting tourists alike. Corr also investigates the role of shamanism in modern Salasacan culture, including shamanic powers and mountain spirits, and the use of reshaped, Andeanized Catholicism to sustain collective memory. Through its unique insider’s perspective of Salasacan spirituality, Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes is a valuable anthropological work that honestly represents this people’s great ability to adapt.
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Ritual Matters
Material Remains and Ancient Religion
Claudia Moser and Jennifer Knust, editors
University of Michigan Press, 2017
Ritual Matters interrupts the anachronistic binaries of religious practice and belief, the material and the theological, by taking a new approach to the study of archaeological remains of ancient religions. Focusing on the materiality of ritual—inherent in everything from monumental temples and altars, to votive offerings and codices, to sanctioned inscriptions and reliefs—allows for a novel vantage point from which to consider ancient religious practices, as well as an important counterbalance to more traditional conceptual perspectives often privileged in the field.

Material remains of religious practices may reveal striking local continuity, but they also highlight points of change, as distinct moments of manufacture and use transformed both sites and objects. Yet not every religious practice leaves a trace: the embodied use of imperial statuary, the rationale for the design of particular sacred books or the ephemeral “magical” implements designed by local religious experts leave few traces, if any, and are therefore less amenable to material investigation. What does remain, however, challenges any neat association between representation and reality or literary claim and practical application.

This volume represents a significant contribution to the material approach of studying the ancient Mediterranean’s diverse religious practices. In addition to volume editors Claudia Moser and Jennifer Knust, contributors include Henri Duday, Gunnel Ekroth, David Frankfurter, Richard Gordon, Valérie Huet, William Van Andringa, and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi. Topics covered include funerary remains, sacrificial practices, “magic,” Roman altars, imperial reliefs and statuary, and the role of sacred books.

 
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Ritual, Myth, and Mysticism in the Work of Mary Butts
Between Feminism and Modernism
FOY ROSLYN
University of Arkansas Press, 2000
Mary Butts wrote and lived among notable modernist writers such as T.S. Eliot, Ford Madox Ford, Jean Cocteau, H.D., and Ezra Pound, and was on her way to becoming one of the most respected British female writers of the twentieth century. Yet, after her death in 1937 at the age of forty-six, her reputation suffered a decline. Butt's idiosyncratic spirituality did not lend itself to easy critical examination, modernism was generally considered a masculine endeavor, and her papers were not made public for over fifty years. The recent acquisition of those papers by the Beinecke Library at Yale University, however, has brought about a resurgence of interest in her unique writings. Mary Butts confronts and reinterprets reality in extraordinary ways, and her modernist vision recalls the natural origins and powers of the female divine. Her intense dedication to ancient rites and myth, and her dabbling in the occult, became embedded in her fiction and led to her own brand of mysticism. Indeed, the Butts heroine is at once, healer, sacred priestess, earth goddess, lover, and daimon/demon. In presenting her characters this way, Butts valorizes what she calls "the soul living at its fullest capacity." Roslyn Reso Foy gives us the first sustained critical study of Butts, exploring the signficance of feminism, mysticism, and magic in her life and writings. Foy's thoughtful analysis, combining scholarship with straightforward discussion, will serve as an introduction to, and foundation for, further critical studies of this remarkable female modernist whose work coincides with contemporary concerns and who can no longer be ignored.
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Ritual, Spectacle, and Theatre in Late Medieval Seville
Performing Empire
Christopher Swift
Arc Humanities Press, 2023
From the fall of Islamic Išbīliya in 1248 to the conquest of the New World, Seville was a nexus of economic and religious power where interconfessional living among Christians, Jews, and Muslims was negotiated on public stages. From out of seemingly irreconcilable ideologies of faith, hybrid performance culture emerged in spectacles of miraculous transformation, disciplinary processionals, and representations of religious identity. Ritual, Spectacle, and Theatre in Late Medieval Seville reinvigorates the study of medieval Iberian theatre by revealing the ways in which public expressions of devotion, penance, and power fostered cultural reciprocity, rehearsed religious difference, and ultimately helped establish Seville as the imperial centre of Christian Spain.
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Sacred Consumption
Food and Ritual in Aztec Art and Culture
By Elizabeth Morán
University of Texas Press, 2016

Making a foundational contribution to Mesoamerican studies, this book explores Aztec painted manuscripts and sculptures, as well as indigenous and colonial Spanish texts, to offer the first integrated study of food and ritual in Aztec art.

Aztec painted manuscripts and sculptural works, as well as indigenous and Spanish sixteenth-century texts, were filled with images of foodstuffs and food processing and consumption. Both gods and humans were depicted feasting, and food and eating clearly played a pervasive, integral role in Aztec rituals. Basic foods were transformed into sacred elements within particular rituals, while food in turn gave meaning to the ritual performance.

This pioneering book offers the first integrated study of food and ritual in Aztec art. Elizabeth Morán asserts that while feasting and consumption are often seen as a secondary aspect of ritual performance, a close examination of images of food rites in Aztec ceremonies demonstrates that the presence—or, in some cases, the absence—of food in the rituals gave them significance. She traces the ritual use of food from the beginning of Aztec mythic history through contact with Europeans, demonstrating how food and ritual activity, the everyday and the sacred, blended in ceremonies that ranged from observances of births, marriages, and deaths to sacrificial offerings of human hearts and blood to feed the gods and maintain the cosmic order. Morán also briefly considers continuities in the use of pre-Hispanic foods in the daily life and ritual practices of contemporary Mexico. Bringing together two domains that have previously been studied in isolation, Sacred Consumption promises to be a foundational work in Mesoamerican studies.

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Sacred Darkness
A Global Perspective on the Ritual Use of Caves
Holley Moyes
University Press of Colorado, 2014
Caves have been used in various ways across human society, but despite the persistence within popular culture of the iconic caveman, deep caves were never used primarily as habitation sites for early humans. Rather, in both ancient and contemporary contexts, caves have served primarily as ritual spaces. In Sacred Darkness, contributors use archaeological evidence as well as ethnographic studies of modern ritual practices to envision the cave as place of spiritual and ideological power that emerges as a potent venue for ritual practice.

Covering the ritual use of caves in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, Mesoamerica, and the US Southwest and Eastern woodlands, this book brings together case studies by prominent scholars whose research spans from the Paleolithic period to the present day. These contributions demonstrate that cave sites are as fruitful as surface contexts in promoting the understanding of both ancient and modern religious beliefs and practices.

This state-of-the-art survey of ritual cave use will be one of the most valuable resources for understanding the role of caves in studies of religion, sacred landscape, or cosmology and a must-read for any archaeologist interested in caves.

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Santeria Enthroned
Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion
David H. Brown
University of Chicago Press, 2003
Ever since its emergence in colonial-era Cuba, Afro-Cuban Santería (or Lucumí) has displayed a complex dynamic of continuity and change in its institutions, rituals, and iconography. In Santería Enthroned, David H. Brown combines art history, cultural anthropology, and ethnohistory to show how Africans and their descendants have developed novel forms of religious practice in the face of relentless oppression.

Focusing on the royal throne as a potent metaphor in Santería belief and practice, Brown shows how negotiation among ideologically competing interests have shaped the religion's symbols, rituals, and institutions from the nineteenth century to the present. Rich case studies of change in Cuba and the United States, including a New Jersey temple and South Carolina's Oyotunji Village, reveal patterns of innovation similar to those found among rival Yoruba kingdoms in Nigeria. Throughout, Brown argues for a theoretical perspective on culture as a field of potential strategies and "usable pasts" that actors draw upon to craft new forms and identities—a perspective that will be invaluable to all students of the African Diaspora.

American Acemy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Analytical-Descriptive Category)
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Savage Energies
Lessons of Myth and Ritual in Ancient Greece
Walter Burkert
University of Chicago Press, 2001
We often think of classical Greek society as a model of rationality and order. Yet as Walter Burkert demonstrates in these influential essays on the history of Greek religion, there were archaic, savage forces surging beneath the outwardly calm face of classical Greece, whose potentially violent and destructive energies, Burkert argues, were harnessed to constructive ends through the interlinked uses of myth and ritual.

For example, in a much-cited essay on the Athenian religious festival of the Arrephoria, Burkert uncovers deep connections between this strange nocturnal ritual, in which two virgin girls carried sacred offerings into a cave and later returned with something given to them there, and tribal puberty initiations by linking the festival with the myth of the daughters of Kekrops. Other chapters explore the origins of tragedy in blood sacrifice; the role of myth in the ritual of the new fire on Lemnos; the ties between violence, the Athenian courts, and the annual purification of the divine image; and how failed political propaganda entered the realm of myth at the time of the Persian Wars.
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Shaman, Priest, Practice, Belief
Materials of Ritual and Religion in Eastern North America
Edited by Stephen B. Carmody and Casey R. Barrier
University of Alabama Press, 2020
Archaeological case studies consider material evidence of religion and ritual in the pre-Columbian Eastern Woodlands

Archaeologists today are interpreting Native American religion and ritual in the distant past in more sophisticated ways, considering new understandings of the ways that Native Americans themselves experienced them. Shaman, Priest, Practice, Belief: Materials of Ritual and Religion in Eastern North America broadly considers Native American religion and ritual in eastern North America and focuses on practices that altered and used a vast array of material items as well as how physical spaces were shaped by religious practices.

Unbound to a single theoretical perspective of religion, contributors approach ritual and religion in diverse ways. Importantly, they focus on how people in the past practiced religion by altering and using a vast array of material items, from smoking pipes, ceremonial vessels, carved figurines, and iconographic images, to sacred bundles, hallucinogenic plants, revered animals, and ritual architecture. Contributors also show how physical spaces were shaped by religious practice, and how rock art, monuments, soils and special substances, and even land- and cityscapes were part of the active material worlds of religious agents.

Case studies, arranged chronologically, cover time periods ranging from the Paleoindian period (13,000–7900 BC) to the late Mississippian and into the protohistoric/contact periods. The geographical scope is much of the greater southeastern and southern Midwestern culture areas of the Eastern Woodlands, from the Central and Lower Mississippi River Valleys to the Ohio Hopewell region, and from the greater Ohio River Valley down through the Deep South and across to the Carolinas.

Contributors
Sarah E. Baires / Melissa R. Baltus / Casey R. Barrier / James F. Bates / Sierra M. Bow / James A. Brown / Stephen B. Carmody / Meagan E. Dennison / Aaron Deter-Wolf / David H. Dye / Bretton T. Giles / Cameron Gokee / Kandace D. Hollenbach / Thomas A. Jennings / Megan C. Kassabaum / John E. Kelly / Ashley A. Peles / Tanya M. Peres / Charlotte D. Pevny / Connie M. Randall / Jan F. Simek / Ashley M. Smallwood / Renee B. Walker / Alice P. Wright

 
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Sounding the Center
History and Aesthetics in Thai Buddhist Performance
Deborah Wong
University of Chicago Press, 2001
Sounding the Center is an in-depth look at the power behind classical music and dance in Bangkok, the capital and sacred center of Buddhist Thailand. Focusing on the ritual honoring teachers of music and dance, Deborah Wong reveals a complex network of connections among kings, teachers, knowledge, and performance that underlies the classical court arts.

Drawing on her extensive fieldwork, Wong lays out the ritual in detail: the way it is enacted, the foods and objects involved, and the people who perform it, emphasizing the way the performers themselves discuss and construct aspects of the ceremony.
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Symbolism and Ritual in a One-Party Regime
Unveiling Mexico's Political Culture
Larissa Adler-Lomnitz, Rodrigo Salazar Elena, and Ilya Adler
University of Arizona Press, 2010
Because of the long dominance of Mexico’s leading political party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the campaigns of its presidential candidates were never considered relevant in determining the victor. This book offers an ethnography of the Mexican political system under PRI hegemony, focusing on the relationship between the formal democratic structure of the state and the unofficial practices of the underlying political culture, and addressing the question of what purpose campaigns serve when the outcome is predetermined.

Discussing Mexican presidential politics from the perspectives of anthropology, political science, and communications science, the authors analyze the 1988 presidential campaign of Carlos Salinas de Gortari—the last great campaign of the PRI to display the characteristics traditionally found in the twentieth century. These detailed descriptions of campaign events show that their ritualistic nature expressed both a national culture and an aura of domination.

The authors describe the political and cultural context in which this campaign took place—an authoritarian presidential system that dated from the 1920s—and explain how the constitutional provisions of the state interacted with the informal practices of the party to produce highly scripted symbolic rituals. Their analysis probes such topics as the meanings behind the candidate’s behavior, the effects of public opinion polling, and the role of the press, then goes on to show how the system has begun to change since 2000.

By dealing with the campaign from multiple perspectives, the authors reveal it as a rite of passage that sheds light on the political culture of the country. Their study expands our understanding of authoritarianism during the years of PRI dominance and facilitates comparison of current practices with those of the past.
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The Taylor Mac Book
Ritual, Realness and Radical Performance
David Román and Sean F. Edgecomb, Editors
University of Michigan Press, 2023
This is the first book to dedicate critical attention to the work of influential theater-maker Taylor Mac. Mac is particularly celebrated for the historic performance event A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, in which Mac, in fantastical costumes designed by collaborator Machine Dazzle, sang the history of the United States for 24 straight hours in October 2016. The MacArthur Foundation soon thereafter awarded their “genius” award to a “writer, director, actor, singer, and performance artist whose fearlessly experimental works dramatize the power of theater as a space for building community . . . [and who] interacts with the audience to inspire a reconsideration of assumptions about gender, identity, ethnicity, and performance itself.”
 
Featuring essays, interviews, and commentaries by noted critics and artists, the volume examines the vastness of Mac’s theatrical imagination, the singularity of their voice, the inclusiveness of their cultural insights and critiques, and the creativity they display through stylistic and formal qualities and the unorthodoxies of their personal and professional trajectories. Contributors consider the range of Mac’s career as a playwright, performer, actor, and singer, expanding and enriching the conversation on this much-celebrated and deeply resonant body of work.
 
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Time, History and Ritual in a K'iche' Community
Contemporary Maya Calendar Knowledge and Practices in the Highlands of Guatemala
Paul van den Akker
Leiden University Press, 2018

This work analyzes ritual practices and knowledge related to the Mesoamerican calendar with the aim of contributing to an understanding of the use and conceptualization of this calendar system in the contemporary K’iche’ community of Momostenango in the Highlands of Guatemala. The research presented here discusses the indigenous calendar system, forms of synergy between the Christian and the Highland Guatemalan calendar, the indigenous perception of history, and continuity in time-related symbolism.

Van den Akker argues that the social role of cultural anthropologists and archaeologists is to contribute to the ongoing process of cultural healing and spiritual recovery of the peoples that suffer(ed) from colonization and oppression. This study therefore places an emphasis on cultural continuity and approaches the continuation of Maya calendar practices as a possible tool for restoring breaks in social memory, which are caused by dramatic events such as colonization.

Throughout this book it is argued that time is an authority which directs human behavior in a cyclical manner through the landscape on a local and regional scale. Time is related to morality and cultural values, and a shared perception of time contributes to the cohesion of the community as it recreates and reaffirms the identity of its members by reiterating their shared social conventions and history. Finally, the conjunction of time and ritual provides a tool to overcome the rupture caused by death and to transmit messages from generation to generation over a long span of time.

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To Take Place
Toward Theory in Ritual
Jonathan Z. Smith
University of Chicago Press, 1987
In this broad-ranging inquiry into ritual and its relation to place, Jonathan Z. Smith prepares the way for a new approach to the comparative study of religion.

Smith stresses the importance of place—in particular, constructed ritual environments—to a proper understanding of the ways in which "empty" actions become rituals. He structures his argument around the territories of the Tjilpa aborigines in Australia and two sites in Jerusalem—the temple envisioned by Ezekiel and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The first of these locales—the focus of one of the more important contemporary theories of religious ritual—allows Smith to raise questions concerning the enterprise of comparison. His close examination of Eliade's influential interpretation of the Tjilpa tradition leads to a powerful critique of the approach to religion, myth, and ritual that begins with cosmology and the category of "The Sacred."

In substance and in method, To Take Place represents a significant advance toward a theory of ritual. It is of great value not only to historians of religion and students of ritual, but to all, whether social scientists or humanists, who are concerned with the nature of place.

"This book is extraordinarily stimulating in prompting one to think about the ways in which space, or place, is perceived, marked, and utilized religiously. . . . A provocative example of the application of humanistic geography to our understanding of what takes place in religion."—Dale Goldsmith, Interpretation

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Tragic Rites
Narrative and Ritual in Sophoclean Drama
Adriana E. Brook
University of Wisconsin Press, 2018
Presenting an innovative new reading of Sophocles' plays, Tragic Rites analyzes the poetic and narrative function of ritual in the seven extant plays of Sophocles. Adriana Brook closely examines four of them—Ajax, Electra, Philoctetes, and Oedipus at Colonus—in the context of her wide-ranging consideration of the entire Sophoclean corpus. Exploring the playwright's dramatic technique, she shows how he used elements of ritual to guide the perceptions and expectations of his fifth-century audience about plot and character.

Employing both modern ritual theory and Aristotle's Poetics, Brook exposes the deep structural analogies between ritual and narrative, the parallels between mistakes in ritual and deviations from the expected in the plot, and the relationship between ritual content and dramatic closure.
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Unpopular Culture
The Ritual of Complaint in a British Bank
John R. Weeks
University of Chicago Press, 2003
When you start a new job, you learn how things are done in the company, and you learn how they are complained about too. Unpopular Culture considers why people complain about their work culture and what impact those complaints have on their organizations. John Weeks based his study on long-term observations of the British Armstrong Bank in the United Kingdom. Not one person at this organization, he found, from the CEO down to the junior clerks, had anything good to say about its corporate culture. And yet, despite all the griping—and despite high-profile efforts at culture change—the way things were done never seemed fundamentally to alter. The organization was restructured, jobs redefined, and processes redesigned, but the complaining remained the same.

As Weeks demonstrates, this is because the everyday standards of behavior that regulate complaints curtail their effectiveness. Embarrass someone by complaining in a way that is too public or too pointed, and you will find your social standing diminished. Complain too loudly or too long, and your coworkers might see you as contrary. On the other hand, complain too little and you may be seen as too stiff or just too strange to be trusted. The rituals of complaint, Weeks shows, have powerful social functions.
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Victory Banner Over the Reichstag
Film, Document and Ritual in Russia's Contested Memory of World War II
Jeremy Hicks
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020
In one of the most iconic images from World War II, a Russian soldier raises a red flag atop the ruins of the German Reichstag on April 30, 1945. Known as the Victory Banner, this piece of fabric has come to symbolize Russian triumph, glory, and patriotism. Facsimiles are used in public celebrations all over the country, and an exact replica is the centerpiece in the annual Victory Parade in Moscow’s Red Square. The Victory Banner Over the Reichstag examines how and why this symbol was created, the changing media of its expression, and the contested evolution of its message. From association with Stalinism and communism to its acquisition of Russian nationalist meaning, Jeremy Hicks demonstrates how this symbol was used to construct a collective Russian memory of the war. He traces how the Soviets, and then Vladimir Putin, have used this image and the banner itself to build a remarkably powerful mythology of Russian greatness.
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Warfare, Ritual, and Symbol in Biblical and Modern Contexts
Brad E. Kelle
SBL Press, 2014

New perspectives on Israelite warfare for biblical studies, military studies, and social theory

Contributors investigate what constituted a symbol in war, what rituals were performed and their purpose, how symbols and rituals functioned in and between wars and battles, what effects symbols and rituals had on insiders and outsiders, what ways symbols and rituals functioned as instruments of war, and what roles rituals and symbols played in the production and use of texts.

Features:

  • Thirteen essays examine war in textual, historical, and social contexts
  • Texts from the Hebrew Bible are read in light of ancient Near Eastern texts and archaeology
  • Interdisciplinary studies make use of contemporary ritual and social theory
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Water and Ritual
The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Rulers
By Lisa J. Lucero
University of Texas Press, 2006

In the southern Maya lowlands, rainfall provided the primary and, in some areas, the only source of water for people and crops. Classic Maya kings sponsored elaborate public rituals that affirmed their close ties to the supernatural world and their ability to intercede with deities and ancestors to ensure an adequate amount of rain, which was then stored to provide water during the four-to-five-month dry season. As long as the rains came, Maya kings supplied their subjects with water and exacted tribute in labor and goods in return. But when the rains failed at the end of the Classic period (AD 850-950), the Maya rulers lost both their claim to supernatural power and their temporal authority. Maya commoners continued to supplicate gods and ancestors for rain in household rituals, but they stopped paying tribute to rulers whom the gods had forsaken.

In this paradigm-shifting book, Lisa Lucero investigates the central role of water and ritual in the rise, dominance, and fall of Classic Maya rulers. She documents commoner, elite, and royal ritual histories in the southern Maya lowlands from the Late Preclassic through the Terminal Classic periods to show how elites and rulers gained political power through the public replication and elaboration of household-level rituals. At the same time, Lucero demonstrates that political power rested equally on material conditions that the Maya rulers could only partially control. Offering a new, more nuanced understanding of these dual bases of power, Lucero makes a compelling case for spiritual and material factors intermingling in the development and demise of Maya political complexity.

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Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy
Christiane Klapisch-Zuber
University of Chicago Press, 1987
Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, a brilliant historian of the Annales school, skillfully uncovers the lives of ordinary Italians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Tuscans in particular, young and old, rich, middle-class, and poor. From the extraordinarily detailed records kept by Florentine tax collectors and the equally precise ricordanze (household accounts with notations of events great and small), Klapisch-Zuber draws a living picture of the Tuscan household. We learn, for example, how children were named, how wet nurses were engaged, how marriages were negotiated and celebrated. A wealth of other sources are tapped—including city statutes, private letters, philosophical works on marriage, paintings—to determine the social status of women. Klapisch-Zuber reveals how women, in their roles as daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers, were largely subject to a family system that needed them but valued them little.
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A World of Their Own Making
Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values
John R. Gillis
Harvard University Press
Our whole society may be obsessed with “family values,” but as John Gillis points out in this entertaining and eye-opening book, most of our images of “home sweet home” are of very recent vintage. A World of Their Own Making questions our idealized notion of “The Family,” a mind-set in which myth and symbol still hold sway. As the families we live with become more fragile, the symbolic families we live by become more powerful. Yet it is only by accepting the notion that our ritual, myths, and images must be open to perpetual revision that we can satisfy our human needs and changing circumstances.
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Yuthu
Community and Ritual in an Early Andean Village
Allison R. Davis
University of Michigan Press, 2011

The crown jewel of the Inka Empire was their capital, Cusco. So celebrated was the Cusco of Inka times that we sometimes forget how little we know of earlier times in the region. This book presents Allison Davis’ pioneering excavations at the high-altitude Formative site of Yuthu. Davis presents all her data on early households and evidence for the villagers’ subsistence strategies, craft production, and mortuary practices. From her excavations we learn a great deal about daily life and public rituals, each conducted in a different sector of Yuthu. An unexpected bonus of Davis’ excavations was the discovery that some well-known Inka practices actually had their origin in the early villages of the Cusco region. Before her work at Yuthu, so few early houses and ceremonial structures had been published in detail for the Cusco area that we had much less evidence for understanding sacred versus secular space. Davis’ excavations contribute to our understanding of one of the most important transitions in Andean history: the shift from autonomous egalitarian villages to multicommunity polities with hereditary inequality. She is able to link archaeological houses, sites, and multisite clusters to socially meaningful units such as families, villages, and communities. Davis is also able to combine her excavations with settlement pattern data to develop a regional picture of the Formative period in Cusco. This volume is not only the first excavation report on a Formative village in the Cusco area, but is also a study that contributes new data on many traditional Andean themes, including zonal complementarity, sacred landscapes, community composition, mummies and ancestor veneration, ritual canals and religious rites, and intra-village subdivisions.

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