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Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice by [Bell, Catherine]
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Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice Kindle Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Throws down the gauntlet to cultural interpretations of ritual...Bell's erudition and command of the literature, especially in the field of anthropology, is most impressive. Her appeal for the centrality of dynamic individuals, strategies, and power relationships is powerful and will no doubt strike a chord among those similarly disaffected with prevailing trends in understanding ritual. American Journal of Sociology

Review


"Throws down the gauntlet to cultural interpretations of ritual....Bell's erudition and command of the literature, especially in the field of anthropology, is most impressive. Her appeal for the centrality of dynamic individuals, strategies, and power relationships is powerful and will no doubt strike a chord among those similarly disaffected with prevailing trends in understanding ritual."--American Journal of Sociology


"Fills a gap....Bell has supplied a thorough study of the field that brings together some valuable insights difficult to find elsewhere under one cover."--Sociology


"Catherine Bell's book will surely set the standard for work in the burgeoning field of "ritual studies" for some time....excellent."--The Journal of Religion


"This book would serve as a valuable resource for understanding theories and developing research ideas on ritual--especially with Bell's incisive, comprehensive treatment of previous theories....I strongly recommend this book to any social scientist who is critical and curious enough to swim against the mainstream in exploration of our complex, dynamic relationships with culture, our creation(s), and our creator(s)."--The International Journal of the Psychology of Religion


"Bell provides an illuminating examination of the linkages...between the analytics of ritual and broader conceptualizations of social process....her presentation of "the framework of ritualization" strikes me as one of the most exciting and original contributions to ritual theory I have read in recent years."--History of Religion



Product Details

  • File Size: 893 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199733627
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 30, 1992)
  • Publication Date: January 30, 1992
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005H0CCPO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,121 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher I. Lehrich on February 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
First of all, a little word of warning:
As seems to be generally agreed, Bell's writing style is more than a little dense, and while she in some sense introduces ritual theory, she really assumes you already know a great deal about it. Consequently, the book is simply not approachable unless you have already read most of the works to which she refers. If you've been assigned this for an undergrad class, or a beginning grad class, you have been cheated. Professors, please, don't assign this until people have already read Smith, Levi-Strauss, Durkheim, Frazer, Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-Pritchard, Geertz, Ortner, Bourdieu, de Certeau, Turner, Grimes, and probably Derrida for good measure. This is a wonderful book if you know all that stuff; it's truly painful if you don't.
I first read this when I started grad school, and I hated it. Couldn't see the point, frankly. Bell's criticisms of various theories seemed worthwhile, but as she doesn't really propose a new method in the end, what's the point? So I dropped it happily for a long time.
Then I came back to it, almost ten years later, because I found myself delving very deeply into ritual theory, its history, and its future. Suddenly I saw what Bell is up to, and realized that this thing stands as one of the single most important contributions to the field.
Now how can both be true? Well, here's the short, grossly-simplified version.
First, Bell argues that pretty much all current ritual theory tends to cleave along a fault-line: thought/action is the usual form. That is, people DO ritual, and THINK something else. She then turns to a deconstructive approach, and demonstrates that this is logically nonfunctional. She's right, by the way.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an advanced study in the nature of ritual as both an expression of cultural forms and a mechanism for transmitting and altering these forms. It synthesizes recent post-modern theories and field observations to challenge many past academic ideas about the nature of ritual, even suggesting that "ritual" is not a thing, but "ritualizing" is a practice with certain social and religious aims. It is very technical, and following the author's argument requires a lot of familiarity with the field. Despite the tough going, specialists will find this book brilliant and insightful, and no future theory of ritual will be able to ignore it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some people lack the humility to recognize that just because they fail to understand a book does not mean that the book is not understandable. More's the pity that on these pages they can trash it with impunity. This pearl deserves a beaming five stars any day, rather than the one given to it by several of those it has, in the democratic market place, found itself cast before.

Ritual might be described as the "rocket science" of the humanities, and anyone who has seriously looked into the subject knows that Catherine Bell's studies on it are not only brilliant, but indispensable. This is no less so because she has not attempted to dumb-down a demanding subject that has brought many brilliant minds to theoretical loggerheads.

No, this book is not for the person who wants to walk away with an easy thumbnail definition of ritual. (So if you want a primer on the subject that simplifies it for you, or if you are looking for a "how to" book on ritual, this book isn't for you.)

Yes, this book is a highly serious and learned theoretical contemplation on the subject of ritual in all its complexity. No one has thought more about ritual, or about what other people have thought about ritual, than Bell. The serious student of the subject is deeply in her debt, as major figures in the field of ritual studies readily acknowledge. If you want the clear-headed and nuanced opinion of a brilliant woman who read most everything there is to read on the subject (from the perspective of social theory, that is), then you'll cherish this book as much as I do.

Especially if you have read her other major work on the subject (Ritual), this book is a knockout.
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Format: Paperback
Of the many books I've read in my (admittedly limited) anthropological career, none have had as profound an effect on my understanding of what ideology is or of its relevance to social structure. The book is ostensibly about ritual (or "ritualization," as Bell comes to call it), but I think its relevance extends to ideological discourse or semiosis in general. Most of what Bell has to say about how symbols and ideological themes are exploited by participants in the course of ritualized activities can be extended to semiosic commerce in general. Similarly, the subtle political negotiation which is said to be accomplished through the ritualized manipulation of symbols probably underlies virtually all ideological commerce.
What I love most about Bell's book is its explicit critique of the Gramscian Marxist concept of ideology's relationship to power. Bell offers the rather straight-forward argument, "if your juridical or military apparatus is powerful enough to coerce a subjected group without fear of subversion or recourse, what need have you to whitewash your hegemony with ideology?" Bell makes the Foucaldian argument that ideological discourse does not disguise what needs no disguise, but rather what does; we encounter ideological interaction not when one group's domination of another is impregnable, but rather in cases where neither group can clearly dominate the other without considerable cost or risk, giving way to negotiation and compromise between competing free agents. Ideological discourse shows up in such scenarios because it is through the manipulation of symbols that compromises are rendered tolerable by lending them an aura of cosmic rightness, thereby redeeming the participants' negotiated lots in life and society.
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