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Ritual and Belief. What is Belief ?. powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people conceptions of a general order of existence auras of factuality moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic. Clifford Geertz on Religion.

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Ritual and Belief

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Ritual and belief

Ritual and Belief

What is belief

What is Belief?

  • powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people

  • conceptions of a general order of existence

  • auras of factuality

  • moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic

Clifford geertz on religion

Clifford Geertz on Religion

  • a religion is: "(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in people by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." (Geertz:90)

Psych anthro and the study of emotion

Psych Anthro and the Study of Emotion

  • patterns of affect – how people feel about themselves and others

  • Emotion as cultural construct

  • emotional feeling is structured by particular cultural systems and particular social and material environments

  • emotions are appraisals, judgments based on cultural beliefs and values

  • emotions involve the self in relationships to others

  • emotions are learned or acquired rather than naturally given

Ritual practice and belief geertz

Ritual (Practice) and Belief: Geertz

  • belief & practice - "a group's ethos is rendered intellectually reasonable by being shown to represent a way of life ... rendered emotionally convincing by being presented as an image of the actual state of affairs...”

What does religion do

What does religion do?

Functional psychological explanations

functional, psychological explanations

  • satisfy cognitive & affective/emotional demands for a stable, comprehensible, and coercible world for the individual

  • provides an orderly model of the universe

  • explains the unknown

  • reduces anxiety and fear

  • enabling the individual to maintain an inner security in the face of natural contingency

Social structural explanations

social, structural explanations

  • sets precedents for appropriate behavior

  • sanctions conduct

  • a form of social control

  • justifies perpetuates a social order

  • maintains social solidarity

  • educates believers in social knowledge

  • provides a sense of control and a source of solace

    • alleviation of grief

I e witchcraft accusations

i.e. witchcraft accusations

  • accusations provide a socially proscribed way to deal with these problems

  • allows for public hearing

  • entire complex of social relationships investigated

  • effects for the community of witchcraft accusations

    • evil outsider  community solidarity

    • evil insider  necessary societal realignment

Religion and worldview

religion and worldview

  • sacred symbols function to synthesize a people's ethos

    • the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, institution

    • a basic congruence between a particular style of life and a specific metaphysic/cosmology

  • encompassing pictures of reality based on a set of shared assumptions about how the world works

Religion and society

Religion and society

  • belief & ritual reinforce social ties between people

  • religion (ritual & spirituality) represents one form of collective consciousness

  • Durkheim: shared representations that form the basis for religion

Religion and social structure

Religion and social structure

  • Geertz: "the way in which the social structure of a group is strengthened & perpetuated through the ritualistic or mythic symbolization of the underlying social values upon which it rests."



  • ritual is a vital element in the processes that make and remake social facts and collective identities everywhere (Comaroff & Comaroff)

  • the symbolic behavior through which religion comes alive

Ritual is repetitive sequential non ordinary and powerful

ritual is repetitive, sequential, non-ordinary, and “powerful”

  • repetitive: innovation not tolerated

  • sequential: amen is at the end

  • non-ordinary: marked in time or space

  • “powerful”: power to change the world

    • by intervention of supernatural entities

    • transformation of the participant

Functions of ritual

Functions of ritual

  • Reinforce social bonds

  • Relieve social tension

  • Deal with life crises

  • Celebrate life cycle events

  • ritual is also a way a society remembers

    • through habit

    • through bodily practices

Types of ritual

Types of ritual

Rites of passage

Rites of Passage

  • Van Gennep and Victor Turner

  • rites include three stages

    • Separation

    • marginality or liminality

      • Communitas and anti-structure

    • incorporation or re-aggregation

Other types of ritual

Other Types of Ritual

  • Rites of intensification

    • cyclical rituals that reinforce the solidarity of the group

  • ritual inversion

  • Divination rituals

    • predict future & gain hidden info

  • Technological rituals

    • designed to control nature for the purpose of human exploitation

  • Protective rites

    • aimed at coping with uncertainty of nature, seas, floods, crop diseases

More types

More Types

  • therapy & anti-therapy rituals

    • designed to control human health; curative, witchcraft, sorcery

  • ideological rituals

    • intended to control the behavior, mood, sentiments & values of groups for the sake of community as a whole

  • salvation rituals

    • aimed at repairing self esteem & other forms of impaired identity

Violence as ritual practice

Violence as ritual practice?

  • Violence, its forms and controls, is fundamental to human social existence and is central to theories regarding the nature of society.

  • Violence as cultural expression and/or performance

    • Scripted

  • From anthropology of identity (pol. org.) to experience, emotive forces, bodily practices

  • A discursive practice with rituals and symbols

  • Violence as cultural practice

    • Not just instrumental

  • A way of affirming and subverting “culture”

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