While working on the rewrite of my thesis, I started to look at Ritual more seriously as an element of social / symbolic interaction and wanted to get a better handle on what others in the field have contributed.
So I did what every academic has done from time to time - hit Amazon.com and see who's published what in the field of late. Academic journal articles are usually too spot-on and specific for what I was wanting. I needed a broad overview of ritual within social interactions from a socio/cultural perspective.
And guess what I found?
A new favorite author.
Catherine Bell, who died in 2008, was one of the leading authors on ritual within society and published three books on the field before her death. I snatched up copies of the first two and started to tear into them as soon as they arrived in the mail.
The first one that I started to read was actually her second book; Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions.
From handshakes and toasts to chant and genuflection, ritual pervades
our social interactions and religious practices. Still, few of us could
identify all of our daily and festal ritual behaviors, much less explain
them to an outsider. Similarly, because of the variety of activities
that qualify as ritual and their many contradictory yet, in many ways,
equally legitimate interpretations, ritual seems to elude any systematic
historical and comparative scrutiny. In this book, Catherine Bell
offers a practical introduction to ritual practice and its study; she
surveys the most influential theories of religion and ritual, the major
categories of ritual activity, and the key debates that have shaped our
understanding of ritualism. Bell refuses to nail down ritual with any
one definition or understanding. Instead, her purpose is to reveal how
definitions emerge and evolve and to help us become more familiar with
the interplay of tradition, exigency, and self-expression that goes into
constructing this complex social medium.
So, in keeping with my new system, I am publishing a link to all of the quotes that I found 'usable' within the text on my google docs site, here.
Most of the book's beginning was, essentially, a lit-review of all of the great authors who have published in the field of Ritual Studies. This must be the 'perspective' part of the title.