The Problem of Ritual Efficacy

Paperback | January 29, 2010

EditorWilliam Sax, Johannes Quack, Jan Weinhold

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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, andbiblical 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 closerlook 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, theauthors 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 thequestion makes any sense at all.This path-breaking interdisciplinary collection will be of interest to readers in anthropology, history, religious studies, humanities and the social sciences broadly defined, and makes an important contribution to the larger conversation about what ritual does and why it matters to think about suchthings.

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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, andbiblical studies.For "modern" people, the very...

William Sax is Professor of Anthropology at the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg. Johannes Quack is Lecturer of Religious Studies and Anthropology at the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg. Jan Weinhold is Research psychologist at the Collaborative Research Centre at the Institute of Medical Psycho...

other books by William Sax

God of Justice: Ritual Healing and Social Justice in the Central Himalayas
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Kobo ebook|Jan 2 2009

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 6.1 × 9.21 × 0.51 inPublished:January 29, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195394410

ISBN - 13:9780195394412

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Table of Contents

1. William S. Sax: Ritual and the Problem of Efficacy2. Claus Ambos: Ritual Healing and the Investiture of the Babylonian King3. Gerd Theiseen: Jesus and his Followers as Healers: Symbolic Healing in Early Christianity4. Peter Dinzelbacher: Healing Rituals in the Mediaeval West5. Paul Toebelmann: Excommunication in the Middle Ages: A meta-ritual and the many faces of its efficacy6. Janice Boddy: The Work of Zar: Women and Spirit Possession in Northern Sudan7. Elizabeth Roberts: Ritual Humility in Modern Laboratories: Or, Why Ecuadorian IVF Practitioners Pray8. Howard Brody: Ritual, Medicine, and the Placebo Response9. Johannes Quack: Bell, Bourdieu and Wittgenstein on Ritual Sense