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The Problem of Ritual Efficacy

Sax, William S. [u.a.] (Hrsg.):
The Problem of Ritual Efficacy / ed. by William Sax, Johannes Quack and Jan Weinhold. - New York [u.a.] : Oxford University Press, 2010. - ix, 193 S. : Ill. - (Oxford ritual studies)
ISBN 978-0-19-539440-5
US$ 99,00 (Hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-19-539441-2
US$ 29,95 (Paperback)
DDC: 390

How do rituals work? Although this is one of the first questions that people everywhere ask about rituals, little has been written explicitly on the topic. In The Problem of Ritual Efficacy , nine scholars address this issue, ranging across the fields of history, anthropology, medicine, and biblical studies.
   For "modern" people, the very notion of ritual efficacy is suspicious because rituals are widely thought of as merely symbolic or expressive, so that - by definition - they cannot be efficacious. Nevertheless people in many cultures assume that rituals do indeed "work," and when we take a closer look at who makes claims for ritual efficacy (and who disputes such claims), we learn a great deal about the social and historical contexts of such debates. Moving from the pre-modern era-in which the notion of ritual efficacy was not particularly controversial-into the skeptical present, the authors address a set of debates between positivists, natural scientists, and religious skeptics on the one side, and interpretive social scientists, phenomenologists, and religious believers on the other. Some contributors advance a particular theory of ritual efficacy while others ask whether the question makes any sense at all. [Verlagsinformation]

Contributors. vii
1. William S. Sax: Ritual and the Problem of Efficacy. 3
2. Claus Ambos: Ritual Healing and the Investiture of the Babylonian King. 17
3. Gerd Theissen: Jesus and his Followers as Healers: Symbolic Healing in Early Christianity. 45
4. Peter Dinzelbacher: Healing Rituals in the Mediaeval West. 67
5. Paul Toebelmann: Excommunication in the Middle Ages: A meta-ritual and the many faces of its efficacy. 93
6. Janice Boddy: The Work of Zar: Women and Spirit Possession in Northern Sudan. 113
7. Elizabeth Roberts: Ritual Humility in Modern Laboratories: Or, Why Ecuadorian IVF Practitioners Pray. 131
8. Howard Brody: Ritual, Medicine, and the Placebo Response. 151
9. Johannes Quack: Bell, Bourdieu and Wittgenstein on Ritual Sense. 169
Index. 189

WILLIAM S. SAX (*1957) is Professor and Head of the Department of Anthropology at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany. He is the author of several books, including Dancing the Self: Personhood and Performance in the Pandav Lila of Garhwal. Profile page.

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