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Ambient Sufism
Ritual Niches and the Social Work of Musical Form
Richard C. Jankowsky
University of Chicago Press, 2020
Ambient Sufism is a study of the intertwined musical lives of several ritual communities in Tunisia that invoke the healing powers of long-deceased Muslim saints through music-driven trance rituals. Richard C. Jankowsky illuminates the virtually undocumented role of women and minorities in shaping the ritual musical landscape of the region, with case studies on men’s and women’s Sufi orders, Jewish and black Tunisian healing musical troupes, and the popular music of hard-drinking laborers, as well as the cohorts involved in mass-mediated staged spectacles of ritual that continue to inject ritual sounds into the public sphere. He uses the term “ambient Sufism” to illuminate these adjacent ritual practices, each serving as a musical, social, and devotional-therapeutic niche while contributing to a larger, shared ecology of practices surrounding and invoking the figures of saints. And he argues that ritual musical form—that is, the large-scale structuring of ritual through musical organization—has agency; that is, form is revealing and constitutive of experience and encourages particular subjectivities. Ambient Sufism promises many useful ideas for ethnomusicology, anthropology, Islamic and religious studies, and North African studies. 

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Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America
An Interpretive Guide
Cheryl Claassen
University of Alabama Press, 2015
A comprehensive and essential field reference, Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America reveals the spiritual landscape in the American Archaic period.

Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America describes, illustrates, and offers nondogmatic interpretations of rituals and beliefs in Archaic America. In compiling a wealth of detailed entries, author Cheryl Claassen has created both an exhaustive reference as well as an opening into new archaeological taxonomies, connections, and understandings of Native American culture.
The material is presented in an introductory essay about Archaic rituals followed by two sections of entries that incorporate reports and articles discussing archaeological sites; studies of relevant practices of ritual and belief; data related to geologic features, artifact attributes, and burial settings; ethnographies; and pilgrimages to specific sites. Claassen’s work focuses on the American Archaic period (marked by the end of the Ice Age approximately 11,000 years ago) and a geographic area bounded by the edge of the Great Plains, Newfoundland, and southern Florida. This period and region share specific beliefs and practices such as human sacrifice, dirt mound burial, and oyster shell middens.
This interpretive guide serves as a platform for new interpretations and theories on this period. For example, Claassen connects rituals to topographic features and posits the Pleistocene-Holocene transition as a major stimulus to Archaic beliefs. She also expands the interpretation of existing data previously understood in economic or environmental terms to include how this same data may also reveal spiritual and symbolic practices. Similarly, Claassen interprets Archaic culture in terms of human agency and social constraint, bringing ritual acts into focus as drivers of social transformation and ethnogenesis.
Richly annotated and cross-referenced for ease of use, Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America will benefit scholars and students of archaeology and Native American culture. Claassen’s overview of the archaeological record should encourage the development of original archaeological and historical connections and patterns. Such an approach, Claassen suggests, may reveal patterns of influence extending from early eastern Americans to the Aztec and Maya.

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Celebrating the Family
Ethnicity, Consumer Culture, and Family Rituals
Elizabeth H. Pleck
Harvard University Press, 2000

Nostalgia for the imagined warm family gatherings of yesteryear has colored our understanding of family celebrations. Elizabeth Pleck examines family traditions over two centuries and finds a complicated process of change in the way Americans have celebrated holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, and Passover as well as the life cycle rituals of birth, coming of age, marriage, and death. By the early nineteenth century carnivalesque celebrations outside the home were becoming sentimental occasions that used consumer culture and displays of status and wealth to celebrate the idea of home and family. The 1960s saw the full emergence of a postsentimental approach to holiday celebration, which takes place outside as often as inside the home, and recognizes changes in the family and women's roles, as well as the growth of ethnic group consciousness.

This multicultural, comparative history of American family celebration, rich in detail and spiced with telling anecdotes and illustrations and a keen sense of irony, offers insight into the significance of ethnicity and consumer culture in shaping what people regard as the most memorable moments of family life.


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The Entablo Manuscript
Water Rituals and Khipu Boards of San Pedro de Casta, Peru
Sarah Bennison
University of Texas Press, 2022

A unique study of an Andean community’s water rituals and the extraordinary document describing how they should be performed

In the dry season in the Andes, water from springs, lakes, reservoirs and melting glaciers feeds irrigation canals that have sustained communities for thousands of years. Managing and maintaining these water infrastructures is essential, and in 1921, in the village of San Pedro de Casta, Peru, local authorities recorded their ritual canal-cleaning duties in a Spanish-language document called the Entablo. It is only the second book (along with the Huarochirí Manuscript) ever seen by scholars in which an Andean community explains its customs and ritual laws in its own words.

Sarah Bennison offers a critical introduction to the Entablo, a Spanish transcription of the document, and an English translation. Among its other revelations, the Entablo delves into the use of khipu boards, devices that meld the traditional knotted strings known as khipus with a written alphabet. Only in the Entablo do we learn that there were multiple khipu boards associated with a single canal-cleaning ritual, or that there were separate khipu records for men and women. The Entablo manuscript furnishes unparalleled insights into Andean rituals, religion, and community history at a historical moment when rural highland communities were changing rapidly.


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Feasting with Shellfish in the Southern Ohio Valley
Archaic Sacred Sites and Rituals
Cheryl Claassen
University of Tennessee Press, 2010

In this provocative work, Cheryl Claassen challenges long-standing notions n this provocative work, Cheryl Claassen challenges long-standing notions Iabout hunter-gatherer life in the southern Ohio Valley as it unfolded some Iabout hunter-gatherer life in the southern Ohio Valley as it unfolded some I8,000 to 3,500 years ago. Focusing on freshwater shell mounds scattered 8,000 to 3,500 years ago. Focusing on freshwater shell mounds scattered along the Tennessee, Ohio, Green, and Harpeth rivers, Claassen draws on the latest archaeological research to offer penetrating new insights into the sacred world of Archaic peoples. Some of the most striking ideas are that there were no villages in the southern Ohio Valley during the Archaic period, that all of the trading and killing were for ritual purposes, and that body positioning in graves reflects cause of death primarily.

Mid-twentieth-century assessments of the shell mounds saw them as the products of culturally simple societies that cared little about their dead and were concerned only with food. More recent interpretations, while attributing greater complexity to these peoples, have viewed the sites as mere villages and stressed such factors as population growth and climate change in analyzing the way these societies and their practices evolved. Claassen, however, makes a persuasive case that the sites were actually the settings for sacred rituals of burial and
renewal and that their large shell accumulations are evidence of feasts associated with those ceremonies. She argues that the physical evidence—including the location of the sites, the largely undisturbed nature of the deposits, the high incidence of dog burials, the number of tools per body found at the sites, and the indications of human sacrifice and violent death—not only supports this view but reveals how ritual practices developed over time. The seemingly sudden demise of shellfish consumption, Claassen contends, was not due to overharvesting and environmental change; it ended, rather, because the sacred rituals changed.

Feasting with Shellfish in the Southern Ohio Valley is a work bound to stir controversy and debate among scholars of the Archaic period. Just as surely, it will encourage a new appreciation for the spiritual life of ancient peoples—how they thought about the cosmos and the mysterious forces that surrounded them.


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The Female Voice in Sufi Ritual
Devotional Practices of Pakistan and India
By Shemeem Burney Abbas
University of Texas Press, 2002

The female voice plays a more central role in Sufi ritual, especially in the singing of devotional poetry, than in almost any other area of Muslim culture. Female singers perform sufiana-kalam, or mystical poetry, at Sufi shrines and in concerts, folk festivals, and domestic life, while male singers assume the female voice when singing the myths of heroines in qawwali and sufiana-kalam. Yet, despite the centrality of the female voice in Sufi practice throughout South Asia and the Middle East, it has received little scholarly attention and is largely unknown in the West.

This book presents the first in-depth study of the female voice in Sufi practice in the subcontinent of Pakistan and India. Shemeem Burney Abbas investigates the rituals at the Sufi shrines and looks at women's participation in them, as well as male performers' use of the female voice. The strengths of the book are her use of interviews with both prominent and grassroots female and male musicians and her transliteration of audio- and videotaped performances. Through them, she draws vital connections between oral culture and the written Sufi poetry that the musicians sing for their audiences. This research clarifies why the female voice is so important in Sufi practice and underscores the many contributions of women to Sufism and its rituals.


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Imperiled Destinies
The Daoist Quest for Deliverance in Medieval China
Franciscus Verellen
Harvard University Press, 2019

Imperiled Destinies examines the evolution of Daoist beliefs about human liability and redemption over eight centuries and outlines ritual procedures for rescuing an ill‐starred destiny. From the second through the tenth century CE, Daoism emerged as a liturgical organization that engaged vigorously with Buddhism and transformed Chinese thinking about suffering, the nature of evil, and the aims of liberation. In the fifth century, elements of classical Daoism combined with Indian yogic practices to interiorize the quest for deliverance.

The medieval record portrays a world engulfed by evil, where human existence was mortgaged from birth and burdened by increasing debts and obligations in this world and the next. Against this gloomy outlook, Daoism offered ritual and sacramental instruments capable of acting on the unseen world, providing therapeutic relief and ecstatic release from apprehensions of death, disease, war, spoilt harvests, and loss. Drawing on prayer texts, liturgical sermons, and experiential narratives, Franciscus Verellen focuses on the Daoist vocabulary of bondage and redemption, the changing meanings of sacrifice, and metaphoric conceptualizations bridging the visible and invisible realms. The language of medieval supplicants envisaged the redemption of an imperiled destiny as debt forgiveness, and deliverance as healing, purification, release, or emergence from darkness into light.


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Rulin waishi and Cultural Transformation in Late Imperial China
Wei Shang
Harvard University Press, 2003

Rulin waishi (The Unofficial History of the Scholars) is more than a landmark in the history of the Chinese novel. This eighteenth-century work, which was deeply embedded in the intellectual and literary discourses of its time, challenges the reader to come to grips with the mid-Qing debates over ritual and ritualism, and the construction of history, narrative, and lyricism. Wu Jingzi's (1701–54) ironic portrait of literati life was unprecedented in its comprehensive treatment of the degeneration of mores, the predicaments of official institutions, and the Confucian elite's futile struggle to reassert moral and cultural authority. Like many of his fellow literati, Wu found the vernacular novel an expressive and malleable medium for discussing elite concerns.

Through a close reading of Rulin waishi, Shang Wei seeks to answer such questions as What accounts for the literati's enthusiasm for writing and reading novels? Does this enthusiasm bespeak a conscious effort to develop a community of critical discourse outside the official world? Why did literati authors eschew publication? What are the bases for their social and cultural criticisms? How far do their criticisms go, given the authors' alleged Confucianism? And if literati authors were interested solely in recovering moral and cultural hegemony for their class, how can we explain the irony found in their works?


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Legible Religion
Books, Gods, and Rituals in Roman Culture
Duncan MacRae
Harvard University Press, 2016

Scholars have long emphasized the importance of scripture in studying religion, tacitly separating a few privileged “religions of the Book” from faiths lacking sacred texts, including ancient Roman religion. Looking beyond this distinction, Duncan MacRae delves into Roman religious culture to grapple with a central question: what was the significance of books in a religion without scripture?

In the last two centuries BCE, Varro and other learned Roman authors wrote treatises on the nature of the Roman gods and the rituals devoted to them. Although these books were not sacred texts, they made Roman religion legible in ways analogous to scripture-based faiths such as Judaism and Christianity. Rather than reflect the astonishingly varied polytheistic practices of the regions under Roman sway, the contents of the books comprise Rome’s “civil theology”—not a description of an official state religion but one limited to the civic role of religion in Roman life. An extended comparison between Roman books and the Mishnah—an early Rabbinic compilation of Jewish practice and law—highlights the important role of nonscriptural texts in the demarcation of religious systems.

Tracing the subsequent influence of Roman religious texts from the late first century BCE to early fifth century CE, Legible Religion shows how two major developments—the establishment of the Roman imperial monarchy and the rise of the Christian Church—shaped the reception and interpretation of Roman civil theology.


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Making a Mantra
Tantric Ritual and Renunciation on the Jain Path to Liberation
Ellen Gough
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Jainism originated in India and shares some features with Buddhism and Hinduism, but it is a distinct tradition with its own key texts, art, rituals, beliefs, and history. One important way it has often been distinguished from Buddhism and Hinduism is through the highly contested category of Tantra: Jainism, unlike the others, does not contain a tantric path to liberation. But in Making a Mantra, historian of religions Ellen Gough refines and challenges our understanding of Tantra by looking at the development over two millennia of a Jain incantation, or mantra, that evolved from an auspicious invocation in a second-century text into a key component of mendicant initiations and meditations that continue to this day.

Typically, Jainism is characterized as a celibate, ascetic path to liberation in which one destroys karma through austerities, while the tantric path to liberation is characterized as embracing the pleasures of the material world, requiring the ritual use of mantras to destroy karma. Gough, however, argues that asceticism and Tantra should not be viewed in opposition to one another. She does so by showing that Jains perform “tantric” rituals of initiation and meditation on mantras and maṇḍalas. Jainism includes kinds of tantric practices, Gough provocatively argues, because tantric practices are a logical extension of the ascetic path to liberation.

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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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Mourning Animals
Rituals and Practices Surrounding Animal Death
Margo DeMello
Michigan State University Press, 2016
We live more intimately with nonhuman animals than ever before in history. The change in the way we cohabitate with animals can be seen in the way we treat them when they die. There is an almost infinite variety of ways to help us cope with the loss of our nonhuman friends—from burial, cremation, and taxidermy; to wearing or displaying the remains (ashes, fur, or other parts) of our deceased animals in jewelry, tattoos, or other artwork; to counselors who specialize in helping people mourn pets; to classes for veterinarians; to tips to help the surviving animals who are grieving their animal friends; to pet psychics and memorial websites. But the reality is that these practices, and related beliefs about animal souls or animal afterlife, generally only extend, with very few exceptions, to certain kinds of animals—pets. Most animals, in most cultures, are not mourned, and the question of an animal afterlife is not contemplated at all. Mourning Animals investigates how we mourn animal deaths, which animals are grievable, and what the implications are for all animals.

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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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Nepalese Shaman Oral Texts
Gregory G. Maskarinec
Harvard University Press, 1998

Nepalese Shaman Oral Texts is a bilingual (Nepali and English) critical edition of three complete, representative repertoires of shaman texts collected over the past twenty years in Jajarkot District, Western Nepal. Throughout that area, shamans continue to fulfill important therapeutic roles, diagnosing problems, treating afflictions, and restoring order and balance to the lives of their clients and their communities. Each of these efforts incorporates extensive, meticulously memorized oral texts, materials that not only clarify symptoms and causes but also detail the proper ways to conduct rituals. These texts preserve the knowledge necessary to act as a shaman, and confirm a social world that demands continuous intervention by shamans.

This volume, the first of its kind, includes both publicly chanted recitals and privately whispered spells of the area's three leading shamans, annotated with extensive notes. Containing over 250 texts, this work endeavors to provide a comprehensive documentation of a non-Western healing system through the material that sustains and preserves that tradition, demonstrating that shaman texts remain thoroughly meaningful.


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On Sacred Grounds
Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the Cult of Confucius
Thomas A. Wilson
Harvard University Press, 2002

The sacred landscape of imperial China was dotted with Buddhist monasteries, Daoist temples, shrines to local deities, and the altars of the mandarinate. Prominent among the official shrines were the temples in every capital throughout the empire devoted to the veneration of Confucius. Twice a year members of the educated elite and officials in each area gathered to offer sacrifices to Confucius, his disciples, and the major scholars of the Confucian tradition.

The worship of Confucius is one of the least understood aspects of Confucianism, even though the temple and the cult were highly visible signs of Confucianism's existence in imperial China. To many modern observers of traditional China, the temple cult is difficult to reconcile with the image of Confucianism as an ethical, humanistic, rational philosophy. The nine essays in this book are an attempt to recover the meaning and significance of the religious side of Confucianism. Among other subjects, the authors analyze the social, cultural, and political meaning attached to the cult; its history; the legends, images, and rituals associated with the worship of Confucius; the power of the descendants of Confucius, the main temple in the birthplace of Confucius; and the contemporary fate of temples to Confucius.


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On the Lips of Others
Moteuczoma's Fame in Aztec Monuments and Rituals
By Patrick Thomas Hajovsky
University of Texas Press, 2015

Moteuczoma, the last king who ruled the Aztec Empire, was rarely seen or heard by his subjects, yet his presence was felt throughout the capital city of Tenochtitlan, where his deeds were recorded in hieroglyphic inscriptions on monuments and his command was expressed in highly refined ritual performances. What did Moteuczoma’s “fame” mean in the Aztec world? How was it created and maintained? In this innovative study, Patrick Hajovsky investigates the king’s inscribed and spoken name, showing how it distinguished his aura from those of his constituencies, especially other Aztec nobles, warriors, and merchants, who also vied for their own grandeur and fame. While Tenochtitlan reached its greatest size and complexity under Moteuczoma, the “Great Speaker” innovated upon fame by tying his very name to the Aztec royal office.

As Moteuczoma’s fame transcends Aztec visual and oral culture, Hajovsky brings together a vast body of evidence, including Nahuatl language and poetry, indigenous pictorial manuscripts and written narratives, and archaeological and sculptural artifacts. The kaleidoscopic assortment of sources casts Moteuczoma as a divine king who, while inheriting the fame of past rulers, saw his own reputation become entwined with imperial politics, ideological narratives, and eternal gods. Hajovsky also reflects on posthumous narratives about Moteuczoma, which created a very different sense of his fame as a conquered subject. These contrasting aspects of fame offer important new insights into the politics of personhood and portraiture across Aztec and colonial-period sources.


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The Paradox of Being
Truth, Identity, and Images in Daoism
Poul Andersen
Harvard University Press, 2019

The question of truth has never been more urgent than today, when the distortion of facts and the imposition of pseudo-realities in the service of the powerful have become the order of the day. In The Paradox of Being Poul Andersen addresses the concept of truth in Chinese Daoist philosophy and ritual. His approach is unapologetically universalist, and the book may be read as a call for a new way of studying Chinese culture, one that does not shy away from approaching “the other” in terms of an engagement with “our own” philosophical heritage.

The basic Chinese word for truth is zhen, which means both true and real, and it bypasses the separation of the two ideas insisted on in much of the Western philosophical tradition. Through wide-ranging research into Daoist ritual, both in history and as it survives in the present day, Andersen shows that the concept of true reality that informs this tradition posits being as a paradox anchored in the inexistent Way (Dao). The preferred way of life suggested by this insight consists in seeking to be an exception to ordinary norms and rules of behavior which nonetheless engages what is common to us all.


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The Power of the Buddhas
The Politics of Buddhism during the Koryo Dynasty (918 - 1392)
Sem Vermeersch
Harvard University Press, 2008

Buddhism in medieval Korea is characterized as “State Protection Buddhism,” a religion whose primary purpose was to rally support (supernatural and popular) for and legitimate the state. In this view, the state used Buddhism to engender compliance with its goals. A closer look, however, reveals that Buddhism was a canvas on which people projected many religious and secular concerns and desires.

This study is an attempt to specify Buddhism’s place in Koryo and to ascertain to what extent and in what areas Buddhism functioned as a state religion. Was state support the main reason for Buddhism’s dominance in Koryo? How actively did the state seek to promote religious ideals? What was the strength of Buddhism as an institution and the nature of its relationship to the state? What role did Confucianism, the other state ideology, play in Koryo? This study argues that Buddhism provided most of the symbols and rituals, and some of the beliefs, that constructed an aura of legitimacy, but that there was no single ideological system underlying the Koryo dynasty’s legitimating strategies.


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Religious Bodies Politic
Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism
Anya Bernstein
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Religious Bodies Politic examines the complex relationship between transnational religion and politics through the lens of one cosmopolitan community in Siberia: Buryats, who live in a semiautonomous republic within Russia with a large Buddhist population. Looking at religious transformation among Buryats across changing political economies, Anya Bernstein argues that under conditions of rapid social change—such as those that accompanied the Russian Revolution, the Cold War, and the fall of the Soviet Union—Buryats have used Buddhist “body politics” to articulate their relationship not only with the Russian state, but also with the larger Buddhist world.
During these periods, Bernstein shows, certain people and their bodies became key sites through which Buryats conformed to and challenged Russian political rule. She presents particular cases of these emblematic bodies—dead bodies of famous monks, temporary bodies of reincarnated lamas, ascetic and celibate bodies of Buddhist monastics, and dismembered bodies of lay disciples given as imaginary gifts to spirits—to investigate the specific ways in which religion and politics have intersected. Contributing to the growing literature on postsocialism and studies of sovereignty that focus on the body, Religious Bodies Politic is a fascinating illustration of how this community employed Buddhism to adapt to key moments of political change.

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Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World
Rituals and Remembrances
Edited by Mamadou Diouf and Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo
University of Michigan Press, 2010

"Collecting essays by fourteen expert contributors into a trans-oceanic celebration and critique, Mamadou Diouf and Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo show how music, dance, and popular culture turn ways of remembering Africa into African ways of remembering.  With a mix of Nuyorican, Cuban, Haitian, Kenyan, Senegalese, Trinidagonian, and Brazilian beats, Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World proves that the pleasures of poly-rhythm belong to the realm of the discursive as well as the sonic and the kinesthetic."
---Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater, Yale University

"As necessary as it is brilliant, Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World dances across, beyond, and within the Black Atlantic Diaspora with the aplomb and skill befitting its editors and contributors."
---Mark Anthony Neal, author of Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic

Along with linked modes of religiosity, music and dance have long occupied a central position in the ways in which Atlantic peoples have enacted, made sense of, and responded to their encounters with each other. This unique collection of essays connects nations from across the Atlantic---Senegal, Kenya, Trinidad, Cuba, Brazil, and the United States, among others---highlighting contemporary popular, folkloric, and religious music and dance. By tracking the continuous reframing, revision, and erasure of aural, oral, and corporeal traces, the contributors to Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World collectively argue that music and dance are the living evidence of a constant (re)composition and (re)mixing of local sounds and gestures.

Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World distinguishes itself as a collection focusing on the circulation of cultural forms across the Atlantic world, tracing the paths trod by a range of music and dance forms within, across, or beyond the variety of locales that constitute the Atlantic world. The editors and contributors do so, however, without assuming that these paths have been either always in line with national, regional, or continental boundaries or always transnational, transgressive, and perfectly hybrid/syncretic. This collection seeks to reorient the discourse on cultural forms moving in the Atlantic world by being attentive to the specifics of the forms---their specific geneses, the specific uses to which they are put by their creators and consumers, and the specific ways in which they travel or churn in place.

Mamadou Diouf is Leitner Family Professor of African Studies, Director of the Institute of African Studies, and Professor of History at Columbia University.

Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo is Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

Jacket photograph by Elias Irizarry


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Rhythms, Rites and Rituals
My Life in Japan in Two-step and Waltz-time
Dorothy Britton
Amsterdam University Press, 2015

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Rituals and Ceremonies in Popular Culture
Edited by Ray B. Browne
University of Wisconsin Press, 1980
This collection of essays examines various rituals and ceremonies in American popular culture, including architecture, religion, television viewing, humor, eating, and dancing.

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Rituals and Patterns in Children's Lives
Edited by Kathy Merlock Jackson
University of Wisconsin Press, 2005

    Trick-or-treating. Flower girls. Bedtime stories. Bar and bat mitvah. In a nation of increasing ethnic, familial, and technological complexity, the patterns of children's lives both persist and evolve. This book considers how such events shape identity and transmit cultural norms, asking such questions as:
    * How do immigrant families negotiate between old traditions and new?
    * What does it mean when children engage in ritual insults and sick jokes?  
    * How does playing with dolls reflect and construct feelings of racial identity?  
    * Whatever happened to the practice of going to the Saturday matinee to see a Western?
    * What does it mean for a child to be (in the words of one bride) "flower-girl material"?  How does that role
        cement a girl's bond to her family and initiate her into society?  
    * What is the function of masks and costumes, and why do children yearn for these accoutrements of disguise?

    Rituals and Patterns in Children's Lives suggests the manifold ways in which America's children come to know their society and themselves.


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Rituals and Sisterhoods
Single Women's Households in Mexico, 1560–1750
Amos Megged
University Press of Colorado, 2019
Rituals and Sisterhoods reveals the previously under-studied world of plebeian single women and single-female-headed households in colonial Mexican urban centers. Focusing on the lower echelons of society, Amos Megged considers why some commoner women remained single and established their own female-headed households, examining their unique discourses and self-representations from various angles.
Megged analyzes these women’s life stories recorded during the Spanish Inquisition, as well as wills and bequests, petitions, parish records, and private letters that describe—in their own words—how they exercised agency in male-dominated and religious spaces. Translations of select documents and accompanying analysis illustrate the conditions in which women dissolved their marriages, remained in long-lasting extramarital cohabitations, and formed female-led households and “sisterhoods” of their own. Megged provides evidence that single women in colonial Mexico played a far more active and central role in economic systems, social organizations, cults, and political activism than has been previously thought, creating spaces for themselves in which they could initiate and maintain autonomy and values distinct from those of elite society.
The institutionalization of female-headed households in mid-colonial Mexico had wide-ranging repercussions and effects on general societal values. Rituals and Sisterhoods details the particular relevance of these changes to the history of emotions, sexuality, gender concepts, perceptions of marriage, life choices, and views of honor and shame in colonial society. This book will be of significant interest to students and scholars of colonial Latin American history, the history of Early Modern Spain and Europe, and gender and women’s studies.

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Rituals in Slavic Pre-Christian Religion
Festivals, Banqueting, and Divination
Juan Antonio Álvarez-Pedrosa
Arc Humanities Press, 2023
The authors comprehensively analyze all the available information regarding the ritual practices of Slavic pre-Christian religion that can be found in written medieval texts. After investigating every kind of reference to such practices, they offer a reconstruction of Slavic pre-Christian religion on the basis of these medieval testimonies. In doing so, they overcome the challenges presented by the fact that all of these sources are indirect, since the Slavs did not acquire literacy until they became Christians. Thus the writers of these texts mostly professed a monotheistic religion, being Christians and in some cases Muslims. The picture that they offer is biased and determined by their own faith. The present analysis innovatively combines testimonies from every Slavic area (Eastern, Western, and Southern), showing their mutual correspondences and emphasizing the relationship between the Slavic pre-Christian religion and its Indo-European roots.

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Rituals of Fertility and the Sacrifice of Desire
Nazarite Women's Performance in South Africa
Carol Ann Muller
University of Chicago Press, 1999
With close to one million members, the Church of the Nazarites (ibandla lamaNazaretha) is one of the most popular indigenous religious communities in South Africa. Founded in 1910 by Isaiah Shembe, it offers South Africans—particularly disadvantaged black women and girls—a way to remake and reconnect to ancient sacred traditions disrupted by colonialism and apartheid. Ethnomusicologist Carol Muller explores the everyday lives of Nazarite women through their religious songs and dances, dream narratives, and fertility rituals, which come to life both musically and visually on CD-ROM.

Against the backdrop of South Africa's turbulent history, Muller shows how Shembe's ideas of female ritual purity developed as a response to a regime and culture that pushed all things associated with women, cultural expression, and Africanness to the margins.

Carol Muller breaks new ground in the study of this changing region and along the way includes fascinating details of her own poignant journey, as a young, white South African woman, to the "other" side of a divided society.

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Rituals Of Mediation
International Politics And Social Meaning
Francois Debrix
University of Minnesota Press, 2003

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Rituals of Respect
The Secret of Survival in the High Peruvian Andes
By Inge Bolin
University of Texas Press, 1998

"In the remoteness of their mountain retreat, the herders of Chillihuani, Peru, recognize that respect for others is the central and most significant element of all thought and action," observes Inge Bolin. "Without respect, no society, no civilization, can flourish for long. Without respect, humanity is doomed and so is the earth, sustainer of all life."

In this beautifully written ethnography, Bolin describes the rituals of respect that maintain harmonious relations among people, the natural world, and the realm of the gods in an isolated Andean community of llama and alpaca herders that reaches up to 16,500 feet. Bolin was the first foreigner to visit Chillihuani, and she was permitted to participate in private family rituals, as well as public ceremonies. In turn, she allows the villagers to explain the meaning of their rituals in their own words.

From these first-hand experiences, Bolin offers an intimate portrait of an annual ritual cycle that dates back to Inca and pre-Inca times, including the ancient Pukllay; weddings; the Fiesta de Santiago, with its horse races on the top of the world; and Peru's Independence Day, when the Rituals of Respect for elders and young people alike are carried out within male and female hierarchies reminiscent of Inca times.


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Rituals of Self-Revelation
Shishōsetsu as Literary Genre and Socio-Cultural Phenomenon
Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnerei
Harvard University Press, 1996
Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit brings a sophisticated and graceful method of analysis to this English translation of her book on the shishosetsu, one of the most important yet misunderstood genres in Japanese literature. Thorough and insightful, this study of the Japanese version of the I-novel provides a means of researching and interpreting the tradition of the genre, linking it to forms of autobiographical fiction as well as to cultural assumptions of the classical period of Japanese history. Hijiya-Kirschnereit provides a model of systematic inquiry into literary traditions that will stimulate American and English Japanologists, providing a much-needed bridge between German Japanologists and the rest of the field.

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Rituals of the Past
Prehispanic and Colonial Case Studies in Andean Archaeology
Silvana Rosenfeld
University Press of Colorado, 2017

Rituals of the Past explores the various approaches archaeologists use to identify ritual in the material record and discusses the influence ritual had on the formation, reproduction, and transformation of community life in past Andean societies. A diverse group of established and rising scholars from across the globe investigates how ritual influenced, permeated, and altered political authority, economic production, shamanic practice, landscape cognition, and religion in the Andes over a period of three thousand years.

Contributors deal with theoretical and methodological concerns including non-human and human agency; the development and maintenance of political and religious authority, ideology, cosmologies, and social memory; and relationships with ritual action. The authors use a diverse array of archaeological, ethnographic, and linguistic data and historical documents to demonstrate the role ritual played in prehispanic, colonial, and post-colonial Andean societies throughout the regions of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. By providing a diachronic and widely regional perspective, Rituals of the Past shows how ritual is vital to understanding many aspects of the formation, reproduction, and change of past lifeways in Andean societies.

Contributors: Sarah Abraham, Carlos Angiorama, Florencia Avila, Camila Capriata Estrada, David Chicoine, Daniel Contreras, Matthew Edwards, Francesca Fernandini, Matthew Helmer, Hugo Ikehara, Enrique Lopez-Hurtado, Jerry Moore, Axel Nielsen, Yoshio Onuki, John Rick, Mario Ruales, Koichiro Shibata, Hendrik Van Gijseghem, Rafael Vega-Centeno, Verity Whalen


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Songs, Roars, and Rituals
Communication in Birds, Mammals, and Other Animals
Lesley J. Rogers and Gisela Kaplan
Harvard University Press, 2000

From the calling macaw and the roaring lion to the dancing lyrebird, animals all around us can be heard and seen communicating with each other and, occasionally, with us. Why they do so, what their utterances mean, and how much we know about them are the subject of Songs, Roars, and Rituals. This is a concise, yet comprehensive, introduction to the complexities of communication in animals.

Rogers and Kaplan take us on an exciting journey through communication in the animal world, offering insights on how animals communicate by sight, sound, smell, touch, and even electrical signaling. They explore a wide variety of communication patterns in many species of mammals and birds and discuss in detail how communication signals evolved, how they are learned, and what song and mimicry may mean.

An up-to-date account of the science of animal communication, this book also considers modern concepts (such as that of deceptive communication) and modern controversies, primarily those surrounding the evolution of human language and the use of symbolic language by apes. It concludes with a thought-provoking look at the future of communication between humans and animals.


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The Spiritual Churches Of New Orleans
Origins, Beliefs, And Rituals Of An African American
Claude F. Jacobs
University of Tennessee Press, 2001
The New Orleans Spiritual churches constitute a distinctive African-American belief system.  Influenced by Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Spiritualism, and Voodoo, the group is a New World syncretic faith, similar to Espiritismo, Santería, and Umbanda. The Spiritual Churches of New Orleans combines a historical account of the emergence of this religion with careful ethnographic description of current congregations.  At the same time, text and photographs eloquently convey the ecstasy at the heart of the Spiritual experience.

The Spiritual churches began in the 1920s as a women's movement.  Men later assumed leadership in an effort to legitimate the group within the New Orleans religious community and form associations with Spiritual churches elsewhere in the United States.

Unlike earlier researchers, who treated practices in the churches as expressions of black folk traditions, the authors see Spiritual ritual not as based on magic, but as the way the sacred is acted out within an African-American aesthetic.  During worship, members may be filled by the Holy Spirit, as in Pentecostal churches, or "entertain" spirits or spirit guides, as in Spiritualism or Voodoo.  Prophecy and healing are presented as the markers of this faith, and the Native American figure Black Hawk as a major symbol of empowerment.

Based on extensive interviews with church members, years of participant observation, and careful research in documentary sources, this book achieves rigorous conceptual clarity in a straightforward, engaging style.

The Authors: Claude F. Jacobs holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Tulane University.  He teaches at Oakland University.

Andrew J. Kaslow holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University.  He is a consultant to international organizations.

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Stories about Posts
Vedic Variations around the Hindu Goddess
Madeleine Biardeau
University of Chicago Press, 2004
Stories about Posts is the magnum opus of Madeleine Biardeau, one of the most influential Indologists of the twentieth century. Nearly twenty years in the making, it connects her varied studies on the Sanskrit epics, the Hindu Goddess, Vedic sacrifice, rural India, and the interpretation of Hinduism.

After exploring several ethnographic facts that have escaped the notice of previous observers, Biardeau presents a variety of hunches, hypotheses, and insights building up to the provocative thesis of Stories about Posts: that the variations found in the contemporary cult of the Goddess—in both her royal and rural village aspects—reveal untraced regional histories of the Vedic sacrificial post, the yupa. Biardeau's work opens up new ways of thinking about Vedic sacrificial themes and elements as they recur in post-Vedic texts and iconographies. It also connects wayside stones in Maharashtra named after the buffalo to stones, posts, and people named after a so-called Buffalo King in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu.

A work of magnificent scholarship and fieldwork, Stories about Posts, in ways no previous work has attempted, much less accomplished, unravels much of the mystery surrounding contemporary Hindu ritual by connecting it to the ancient Sanskrit epics. As such, it will fascinate students of Indology, religious studies, and anthropology for years to come.

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The Women of Karbala
Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shi'i Islam
Edited by Kamran Scot Aghaie
University of Texas Press, 2005

Commemorating the Battle of Karbala, in which the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hosayn and seventy-two of his family members and supporters were martyred in 680 CE, is the central religious observance of Shi'i Islam. Though much has been written about the rituals that reenact and venerate Karbala, until now no one has studied women's participation in these observances. This collection of original essays by a multidisciplinary team of scholars analyzes the diverse roles that women have played in the Karbala rituals, as well as the varied ways in which gender-coded symbols have been used within religious and political discourses.

The contributors to this volume consider women as participants in and observers of the Karbala rituals in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, and the United States. They find that women's experiences in the Shi'i rituals vary considerably from one community to another, based on regional customs, personal preferences, religious interpretations, popular culture, and socioeconomic background. The authors also examine the gender symbolism within the rituals, showing how it reinforces distinctions between the genders while it also highlights the centrality of women to the symbolic repertory of Shi'ism. Overall, the authors conclude that while Shi'i rituals and symbols have in some ways been used to restrict women's social roles, in other ways they have served to provide women with a sense of independence and empowerment.


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The Worship of Confucius in Japan
James McMullen
Harvard University Press, 2019

How has Confucius, quintessentially and symbolically Chinese, been received throughout Japanese history? The Worship of Confucius in Japan provides the first overview of the richly documented and colorful Japanese version of the East Asian ritual to venerate Confucius, known in Japan as the sekiten. The original Chinese political liturgy embodied assumptions about sociopolitical order different from those of Japan. Over more than thirteen centuries, Japanese in power expressed a persistently ambivalent response to the ritual’s challenges and often tended to interpret the ceremony in cultural rather than political terms.

Like many rituals, the sekiten self-referentially reinterpreted earlier versions of itself. James McMullen adopts a diachronic and comparative perspective. Focusing on the relationship of the ritual to political authority in the premodern period, McMullen sheds fresh light on Sino-Japanese cultural relations and on the distinctive political, cultural, and social history of Confucianism in Japan. Successive sections of The Worship of Confucius in Japan trace the vicissitudes of the ceremony through two major cycles of adoption, modification, and decline, first in ancient and medieval Japan, then in the late feudal period culminating in its rejection at the Meiji Restoration. An epilogue sketches the history of the ceremony in the altered conditions of post-Restoration Japan and up to the present.


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