Re-Placing Ceremony and Ritual

Date:25 April 2008
Time:9.15am - 4.00pm

Re-Placing Ceremony and Ritual

'Ceremony' and 'ritual' seem remote from secularised public policy and popular discourse but they have never been so central to everyday life. In social and human sciences, ceremony and ritual are no longer the special domain of the Other. They are present in the workplace, the marketplace, leisure, the arts and academia, as well as structures of religious and ethnic culture. Yet the meaning and significance of the two practices remains elusive. Permanently disappearing and reappearing, ceremony and ritual demand reinvestigation: from historical and multi-disciplinary starting points. Our symposia will consider ritualised practices in ten specific disciplinary, temporal and spatial contexts in order to explore how such practices are re-placed across time, space, and across the boundaries of cognate human sciences. We hope that such comparisons will create new understandings of how and why these phenomena continue to operate in the present and will do so in the future.

We will begin in the meeting on 25 April by reopening the discursive frame within which ceremony and ritual are understood. As historical phenomena, as artistic practices, as religious media, as disciplinary structures and as disorderly fields of resistance, ceremony and ritual demand a widened epistemological base, moving beyond that offered in the social sciences. Though we embrace anthropology and sociology in our projects, we add the perspectives of other disciplines: History, Literary Studies, Musicology, Theatre Studies, Management and Organisation Studies, and Criminology. We warmly welcome others interested in ceremony and ritual, from any disciplinary perspective to join the two symposia. By addressing theoretical assessments of ceremony and ritual, we seek to develop a model that accounts for the empirical nature of these practices, past, present and future, and to develop creative approaches that provide experiential laboratories of ceremony and ritual.

Chronologically, we will compare work across three periods: medieval (Twycross, Jotischky), early modern (Appelbaum, Findlay, Mullett, Oakley-Brown) and modern (Costea, Measham and Moore, Harris and Lavery, Venn). The trans-historical dimension of the programme will allow participants to learn how ceremonies and rituals are in touch with the past and the future, re-sited and recited in response to present social and individual experience. As living phenomena, they are apparently bound up with the human condition per se. But they are also subject to manipulation by forces understood to be de-humanizing or excessively disciplinary. By comparing examples from medieval to contemporary society, we will investigate what may turn out to be thought-provoking similarities and differences in conceptions of subjectivity, ritual form, and communal experience. Where has the Euro-American configuration of ceremony and ritual come from? Where is it today? These questions will be addressed in projects ranging from medieval monastic practices to the management of work and leisure in an increasingly secularised, corporate culture.

Topically grouped, our research interests explore place and space (Twycross, Jotischky, Mullett, Oakley-Brown, Findlay, Costea, Venn, Harris and Lavery), performance (Twycross, Findlay, Harris and Lavery, Venn), secularisation (Mullett, Costea, Venn), violence (Appelbaum, Findlay, Oakley-Brown, Mullett), the workplace (Findlay, Costea), and leisure (Measham and Moore, Venn). Our trans-situational dimensions offer opportunities to research these topics collaboratively and with others in the University and beyond. Mobility characterises rituals of pilgrimage, crusade, tourism, bar-hopping and the experimental spaces of theatrical and musical performance. We will discuss how physical, spiritual, secular and artistic journeys have been routed through, and rooted in, both space and time. Conversely, the fixed locations of city, performance arena, workplace, concert hall, and nightclub will be studied as places marked, mapped and sacralised by ceremonial practice and ritual memory. Each of us will investigate how these practices are tied to power and the administration of social order or its deliberate subversion: we explore the troubling cross-fertilisation between force and form, violation and recuperation, in collisions of violence and ritual occasion. Investigators will work with each other and with visiting speakers and performers towards a rethinking, and indeed a re-placing of the ideology of ceremony and ritual.


Prof Michael Mullett (History)

Prof Andrew Jotischky (History)Prof Meg Twycross (Medieval Lit)Prof Alison Findlay (Renaissance drama)Dr Robert Appelbaum (Early Modern French and English Lit.)Dr Liz Oakley-Brown (Early Modern English Literature)Prof Gerry Harris (Theatre Studies)Dr Carl Lavery (Theatre Studies)Dr Edward Venn (Music)

Dr Bogdan Costea (Work Organisations and Management)Dr Fiona Measham (Sociology, Criminology)Dr Karenza Moore (Sociology, Criminology)

Visiting Scholars:

Dougal Shaw (Cambridge)

Hendrik Schulze (University of Heidelberg)

Re-opening Ceremony and Ritual

Institute for Advanced Studies

Meeting Room 2-3

Friday 25 April 2008

From 9.15 Coffee

9.45-10.15 Introduction of participants and research areas

Questions and issues to consider

10.15-11.15 Kathleen Ashley (University of Maine)

'Anthropologists Speaking of Ritual'

11.15-11.30 Break - Coffee / Tea / Juice

11.30-12.15 'Improvising Ritual on the Pilgrimage to Santiago' (Kathleen Ashley)

12.15-12.30 questions

12.30-1.30 Lunch

1.30-2.30 Axel Klein (University of Kent)

"Arrested liminality - problematic drug use as a failed process of initiation"

2.30-2.45 Tea

2.45-3.45 Robert Segal (University of Aberdeen)

'The Shift from Action to Belief: The Course of Modern Theories of ReligiousRitual'

3.45-4.0 Hendrik Schulze, 'RitualDynamik' at Heidelberg University

4.00 Conclusions so far and new questions

7.00 Dinner in Lancaster (probably at the Sun Cafe)

Directions to the campus and the Institute for Advanced Studies can be found on the web:

If you would like to attend or require further information, please contact Alison Findlay



Second Symposium (proposed date 9 June)

Felicia Hughes-Freeland (Swansea) - anthropology ritual in media and performance

Edward Muir (Northwestern, Chicago) - History - ritual in early modern europe

Christina Pössel (University of Birmingham), political ceremonial, behaviour and gesture - still to confirm availability.

Who can attend:Anyone
  • Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA)
  • The LICA Building, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK