Anthropology | Ritual Festival Public Culture
E678 | 28117 | Stoeltje

If we take ritual to be the social act basic to humanity, as Rappaport
argues, this formal event and the multiple related ritual genres
(festival, carnival, drama, contests, pilgrimage, etc.), provide an
arena for the exploration of the social response to contradiction and
change.  Rituals intensify and condense communication, creating an
experimental technology, in the words of the Comaroffs, to affect the
flow of power in the universe, to plumb the magicalities of modernity.

The course will focus on the larger concept of ritual genres as
performed in various locations.  Using anthropological theories the
course will consider the production of ritual, the form itself, its
discourse, and performance.  Selected studies will concentrate on the
public context of ritual and festival, the participation of specific
populations, and the outcomes, planned and unplanned. Linking ritual
to public culture, the course explores it as a response to
contradiction in social and political life.  We will consider the
interaction of the ritual genres with politics, tourism, history,
identity, gender, the state, religion.  Examples will be drawn from
rites of passage (traditional ones and newly created ones),
celebrations of an historical event or date, occupational and seasonal
festivals, carnival, rituals of domination and rituals of resistance.

One emphasis will be placed on the relationship between
ritual/festival and its political contexts, including historical era.
Another important theme will be the relationship between ritual and
media in contemporary societies.

We will also consider the perspective of the individual who
experiences ritual through readings of both ethnographic accounts and


Two papers on a ritual/festival event of your choice (contemporary or
historical), or on ritual theory - one 10 page and one 20 page. Class
presentation of your research.

Readings will include theoretical and ethnographic studies of the
ritual genres and will be drawn from cultures around the world.

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World
Birgit Meyer and Annelies Moors, Religion, Media, and the Public Sphere
Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage.