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Lecture 04/20

by: Viktoryia Zhuleva

Lecture 04/20 ANTH 10000

Viktoryia Zhuleva
GPA 3.0

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About this Document

Rituals and their effect on societies
Dr. Richard Blanton
Class Notes
Anthropology, Purdue
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Viktoryia Zhuleva on Wednesday April 20, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ANTH 10000 at Purdue University taught by Dr. Richard Blanton in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 64 views. For similar materials see Anthropology in Liberal Arts at Purdue University.


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Date Created: 04/20/16
Lecture 04/20 Tree Properties of Ritual  Behaviors are patterned and invariant (liturgy)  As a social act, ritual participation is socially communicative  Ritual experience is outside of ordinary experience and may be strongly evocative (emotionally powerful) Ritual Facilitates Cooperation in Groups Where Individuals May Have Different Preferences  Even in small groups, where one might expect that consensus could be realized through direct face-to-face negotiation, the ability to arrive at a decision typically is interwoven with ceremonial elaboration, I.e. ritual (e.g. Robert's Rules of Order)  The correct performance of ritual certifies the acceptability of decision even where there might be different preferences The Problem of Truthfulness  In order to gain benefits by cooperating, individuals must be able to make mutual claims to accountability on each other  But humans have consistent problem with truthfulness – how is it possible to trust that another or others will do what is expected? Rituals as a Form of Social Communication  Actions speak more clearly to truth than words  Public participation in ritual certifies a person's acceptance of a group's social conventions  Public ritual is one strategy humans have developed to address the deception problem Ritual as "costly signaling"  Rituals (or similar kinds of demands on community members) are often costly in materials and time (they appear "wasteful")  Ritual participation signals a person's willingness to accept group conventions because "faking it" may be too costly ("costly signaling theory") - this helps people gauge who is trustworthy Social Conventions  To achieve a consensus among group members is challenging when the conventions require personal sacrifice (when they might not be accepted based on rational calculation of costs and benefits to self)  Ritual create consensus in a way that is apart from rational thought Focus (self-aware) Thought Versus Impulse  The brain's center of self-awareness is the "upper" neocortex, the seat of self-control  The brain's center of impulse or autonomic response is the "lower" brain (the subcortical circuitry) Ritual and Loss of Impulse Control  Elaborate, sensorially rich and demanding ritual overloads the brains of participants with sensory stimuli  This can exhaust the executive areas of the brain, reducing their control over the subcortical areas, bringing on loss of impulse control and a heightened emotional rather than thoughtful state of mind Ritual and Affect  Repetitiousness, visual, olfactory, and acoustical stimulation, and sometimes exhausting physical demands induce and "affective" or "numinous" state (religious experience) The Sacraliation or Sanctification of Social Conventions Through Ritual  One of the key propositions of ritual research: through ritual experience and numinence, social conventions are accepted less through logical apprehension than on emotional grounds  Hence they are more likely to be accepted as valid (accepted as part of what is regarded as truthful, I.e. canonical) Ritual in Social Life: The Role of Ritual When Social Transitions Threaten Group Solidarity  Ritual may provide and emotional or sentimental basis for: o Reaffirming or altering established ties when change ir required due to death , marriage, or other kinds of transitions o Facilitating, through "rites of passage," role change through the life course ("liminal ritual") Ritual as Liminal Experience  The root Latin word limen refers to: limit, transition, boundary, or threshold  Liminal ritual facilitates role transitions across the life course  Liminal ritual facilitates the acceptance of new obligations that a role transition implies (particularly rites of passage from adolescence to adulthood)  The liminal state: a transitional period between the role being abandoned and the role being assumed  The liminal state is neither here nor there – it is timeless, out of society and ordinary life  The person's old identity is already gone, but the new identity is not yet established  The person's old identity is denied and a new one established that emphasizes group membership and obligations  Numinous experience plays a role in influencing the new recruit Ritual in Social Life: Conclusions  Ritual participation signals a person's acceptance of social conventions ("costly signaling")  Ritual produces and affective state (numinence) that serves to sanctify social conventions  Ritual enhances social cohesion where social relationships are realigned or where there is a transition to a new social role (liminal ritual)


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