Program Ritual in Society

Fall Semester (September 2017 - December 2017) [30ECTS]

Unit 1 (September 2017 - October 2017) [15 ECTS]

  • Civil Religion and Civil Ritual [6 ECTS]
  • Doing Ritual Studies: Mapping the Field[6 ECTS]
  • Optional:
    • Hermeneutic Research of Discourse and Visual Images [3 ECTS]
    • Research interview and narrative analysis [3 ECTS]

Unit 2 (November 2017 - December 2017) [15 ECTS]

  • Religious Diversity and Space [6 ECTS]
  • Ethnographic research [3 ECTS]
  • Elective course [6 ECTS]

Spring Semester (January 2018 - July 2018)

Unit 3 (January 2017 - March 2017)

  • Ritual and Tourism [6 ECTS]
  • Ritual and Performativity [6 ECTS]
  • Anthropology and Fieldwork [3 ECTS]

Unit 4 (April 2018 - July 2018)

Master thesis [15 ECTS]



Program 2017-2018

Courses (5x 6EC):

Ritual Studies: Patterns and Persons

Lecturers: Prof. Paul Post and Prof.dr. P.G.J. Post

Though as a separate field ritual studies is relatively new, rituals as such have been studied since antiquity. The quaint and curious customs in the various religions of the ‘Other’ always have generated questions of meaning and origin, and in this course we will offer a panorama of this ongoing project of understanding rituals in all their variety.

Thus, we zoom in on the main authors in the field, operating from respectively anthropology, religious studies, psychology, philosophy and history. The early theoreticians, such as Robertson Smith, James Frazer, and Durkheim have laid the foundations, to be elaborated upon by the generation of Malinowski, Victor Turner, van der Leeuw, Lévi-Strauss, Douglas and Jonathan Z. Smith. Todays’ scholars, like Grimes, Rappaport, Staal, De Certeau, Whitehouse and Stringer in their own way add to the huge legacy of insights in ritual and religion.

As science is not about names, the various concepts that bind these scholars will serve as the thread running through this course. The students will present one scholar standing in this heritage in class, and write an essay on a particular scholar or concept.

Civil Ritual and Civil Religion

Lecturers: Dr. Martin Hoondert

In society we come across rituals that aim at the formation of social cohesion and at the confirmation of (national) identity, whether for the society as a whole or for specific groups within the society. These rituals include top-down national or institutional rituals, commemorations, official funerals, celebrations, the awarding of honours, war memorials, rituals of the court and parliament, and academic rituals.

Ritual scholar Catherine Bell specifies these rituals as ‘political rites’ and emphasizes the role they play in the construction of power. Besides top-down rituals we come across widely accepted, bottom up rituals, such as marches after incidents of senseless violence, the yearly plunge on New Year’s Day and the feast of St Nicholas (the Netherlands) or Thanksgiving (USA). Rituals can lead to a strong sense of community or identity, but they can also lead to fragmented or conflicting identities.

In this course, different types of so-called ‘civil rituals’ will be described and analysed, and related to theories on community and identity formation and ‘civil religion’ (Rousseau, Durkheim, Bellah).

Contested Ritual Space and Religious Diversity

Lecturers: Prof. Herman Beck and Dr. Tineke Nugteren

This course focuses on religious diversity, especially its impact on the use of public space. Special attention goes to emerging ritual and ritual dynamics when space in the city becomes contested, a billboard for self-presentation, or an expression of power politics.

We use the existing discourse on religious diversity, the notions of place, space and locality, and the right to the city. Through various well-selected case studies we explore ongoing identity conflicts as well as the celebration of difference and the proliferation of ritual expression. In doing so, we build up a comparative approach: what dynamics and what strategies are found in the cases of Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist rituals throughout Europe? And how are predominantly secular societies coping with this visible variety of ethnoscapes in the public domain?

Students will work in pairs to present their own case study, receive feedback from peers and professors, and write up a well-argued paper on this.

Ritual and Performativity

Lecturers: Dr. Martin Hoondert and Dr. Tineke Nugteren

This course focuses on rituals from a performative perspective. Performances and performativity can be considered as expression of values, norms and ideas on the one hand, and as embodied, sensual and transformative impression on the other.

A performance is something done, something expressed; it is ritualized behavior conditioned by play. A performance means something, and it effects something. In addition to their social function performances also use the body, the senses, symbols and imaginations to question, create and re-create culture. In our exploration we give central stage to one creative and expressive medium.

This year it will be the film Avatar through which we investigate the various modes, layers and perspectives of a specific imagery and message. The two lecturers will each bring in a particular expertise: theories and methods in contemporary film analysis; the explicit (expression) as well as the implicit (impression) ‘language’ of meaning-making in film; and the impact of sound and light in cultural performances.

Students will select a particular moment or aspect in this film, present it in class, receive feedback from peers and professors, and write up a well-argued paper on this.

Ritual and Recreation

Lecturers: Prof. Herman Beck

Ritual being ‘time out of time’, the performance of rituals marks a definite change in the life of the participants. Many rituals involve travel, taking people outside their daily world, and in many ways travel is part of the ritual or even the ritual itself. Pilgrimage, for instance, is one obvious meeting point between ritual, tourism and recreation. Both tourism and pilgrimage are modern phenomena with deep roots in the past, and both are doing very well in our modern secular age.

Travel has taken on many religious aspects, and pilgrimage takes on recreational forms. As Victor Turner said: “If a pilgrim is half a tourist, a tourist is half a pilgrim.” This course zooms in on the old interaction between travel and pilgrimage, sketches their trajectories, and follows both pilgrims and tourists to their destinations, with in-depth examples from Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere. Ritual and tourism contribute to each other, as in our quasi-religious conceptions of ‘nature’, for instance, and thus combine forces in the joint construction of meaning in a post-modern world. Crucial in this process is the impact these flows of people have on the local host populations, a dynamic that receives ample attention.

The course ends in students writing a travel proposal, with ample scholarly argumentation, that will be peer-reviewed and presented.

Research Skills Modules:

Hermeneutic Research of Discourse and Visual Images

Lecturer: Dr. Maaike de Haardt

Ethnographic Research

Lecturer: Dr. Max Spotti

The course starts with positioning the empirical interpretive / qualitative research paradigm, and more specifically the field of school ethnography, from a historical, epistemological and content perspective.

After that attention is paid to three methods of data collection (conducting observations, conducting interviews and collecting documents) leading to an ethnographic corpus of (transcribed) texts, and to three methods of data analysis, such as key incident analysis (KIA) (international) triangulation of observations and a socio-culturally oriented discourse analysis of interviews. In doing so existing ethnographic corpora are used.

Finally students are taught about the implications of the computer screen for ethnographic practices. Attention is paid to the recent shifts that ethnography has encountered with the development of social media, mobile technologies and more in general people's e-lives. During the course the students write three memos to be collected in a portfolio that is handed in at the end of the course for grading.

Master Thesis (15EC):

The Master thesis track of the Ritual in Society program encourages the students to design an individual research project based on their own specific fields of interests. In this they are closely supervised by the professor whose expertise is most relevant to the domain.



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