THERE ARE TWO OPTIONS FOR THIS PAPER:
Option 1: Describe a ritual performance (rite, ceremony) of which you have had experience either as a participant or as an observer. This can be either a ritual you have experienced recently (and perhaps on more than one occasion) or one that took place some time ago but which you still recall in sufficient detail. Drawing on this experience as well as anthropological approaches to ritual covered in the readings and in class (e.g. Turner’s theory of ritual symbols; Van Gennep’s model of ‘rites of passage), you should then analyse the performance, addressing the following questions: Is the ritual primarily religious or secular? Can you identify economic aspects or implications of the performance. What sort of knowledge (broadly defined, including ideology, beliefs, etc.), inform the ritual? What forms of authority or other power relationships exist within the ritual or otherwise find expression it? And it what ways does the ritual affect the identities of participants?
Option 2: Edmund Leach proposed a very inclusive definition of ‘ritual’ according to which ritual can refer to the expressive or symbolic aspect of any behaviour, or regular behaviour that is primarily expressive rather than practical or utilitarian. What sorts of things would you identify as ritual, in this sense, in your own life (you might think of things you regularly do in the course of a day, week, or month). Referring to anthropological approaches to ritual explored in course readings, lectures, and seminars, how would you as an anthropologist analyse and interpret these actions or behaviours? What sort of knowledge (broadly defined) informs them and how might they affect your dealings or relationships with other people? And what particular significance do you think they might have for you? You can either focus on several behaviours or one particular (sort of) behaviour in greater detail.
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