International Studies | Rituals & Beliefs: International Perspectives
I207 | 26719 | Stoeltje, B.


This course examines the theory and practice of ritual, surveys
different forms of ritual action, defines tools and terms for
interpreting ritual, and explores the interconnections between
ritual and belief in different contexts.  It is thus theoretical,
global, and comparative.
Like a language, ritual is expressive and public.  One aim of the
course is to examine how rituals enable practitioners to re-present
a set of beliefs in visible, often dramatic performance.  We will
explore conventional rituals as well as ritualistic aspects to what
is considered non-ritualistic behavior in politics and popular
culture.  Among the questions we will ask are the following: How and
what do rituals communicate? Why is repetition so integral to
ritual?  How can ritual performances heal?  What is the religious
function of dance, carnival, or religious drama?  Why do people go
on pilgrimages?  How does ritual stand in relation to political or
social hierarchies?  How does political ceremony take on ritualistic
qualities?  What kind of rituals occur in popular culture, and how
do those compare with more traditional varieties and practices?  Are
rituals meaningful, senseless, conservative, liberating, or some
mixture of these social dynamics?  How do rituals migrate across
cultural boundaries, and what happens when they do so?
The course is designed to expose students to a wide range of rituals
throughout the world while exploring some of the most prominent
comparative theories about the nature and function of ritual.  As a
multifaceted phenomenon, ritual invites analysis that integrates
insights from folklore, anthropology, religious studies, performance
theory, and cultural studies, among others.  Hence our inquiry will
be interdisciplinary.