CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

The article expounds the central importance of rituals for the creation, retention and development of social practices in modern society. Formerly, rituals were examined with particular emphasis on their religious aspects and the structures and values of society. Where they used to be read as texts in a hermeneutical approach, today the focus of research in this area is particularly on the aspects of performativity and dynamics. Inasmuch that rituals are stagings and performances of bodies, they carry more weight in terms of communication than plain discouse. They have at least ten functions that are important for human communication. Rituals can : 1. Create social feelings by advancing and changing the community and, in this way, ensure unity through their emotional and symbolic dimensions ; 2. Establish order by creating social structures and ensuring tasks are distributed and planned, and in this way also make possible adaptation and suppression ; 3. Create identity by defining or producing the identity of the current members of a community ; 4. Aid memory by ensuring a coherent time structure for the participants helping to ensure continuity and creating points of reference for the future ; 5. Settle crises by setting healing processes and crisis management mechanisms in motion after painful experiences or by attempting to answer questions relating to life and death ; 6. Be magically transcendent by guaranteeing communication with the Other – the sacred ; 7. Solve differences by generating and marking fractures, thresholds and framework of social activities and breaking these down again if necessary ; 8. Initiate and intensify mimetic processes, by repeating social arrangements and altering them in the course of this ; 9. Create practical knowledge by contributing to the embodiment of forms of activity, social images and schemes ; 10. Develop subjectivity by giving individuals the opportunity of experiencing social situations and enabling them to develop through this experience.


  • ritual
  • performance
  • difference
  • alterity
  • magic
  • social
  • community
Uploaded on on 30/11/-0001
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