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I ask how sensory models are established and operate across different cultures, including their variant ethnographical nuances. This problematises the interplay of the senses whereby sensory conjunctions or amalgams form part of everyday life and ritual practices in many societies, as opposed to the broader compartmentalisation of the senses in Western aesthetics. The chapter compares a range of categories that delineate different senses, as well as the varying modalities per sense. This is accomplished through an investigation of linguistic descriptors of senses as a starting point. How a particular culture names the senses that wield cultural importance is however not merely an exercise in description or enumeration. I analyse sensory nomenclatures in a three-fold manner to unveil the phenomenological epistemology of the senses. First, I engage with the numbers of modalities per sense in order to acknowledge alternate sensory models beyond the hegemonic Romano–Grecian five-sense categorisation. Second, I query the social significance of the nuances of each sense. Third, I raise examples of how two or more senses may be employed synaesthetically. By focusing on cultural interpretations of sensory practices, pairings, and intersections, this approach sheds analytical attention upon everyday orderings of sensory categories and their cultural significance.
This article presents a new approach to understanding ritual: embodied world construction. Informed by phenomenology and a philosophy of embodiment, this approach argues that rituals can (re)shape the structure of an individual's perceptual world. Ritual participation transforms how the world appears for an individual through the inculcation of new perceptual habits, enabling the perception of objects and properties which could not previously be apprehended. This theory is then applied to two case studies from an existing ethnographic study of North American evangelicalism, indicating how the theory of embodied world construction can shed new light on how individuals are shaped by ritual practice.
Chapter 8 articulates a conception of culture, and examines competition as a system of beliefs and practices legitimating the social order. I emphasise the prominent roles of science, games, and sports in formalising and naturalising competition in daily life, thereby legitimating distributions of social power. I push this argument about legitimation further by exploring competition as a form of ritual. While we often think of the modern period as one in which the role of ritual has weakened in social life, domesticated competition in its myriad forms exhibits many of the core features of ritual, such as liturgical form, specialist practitioners, and dramatization of the social order. Understood this way, the systematisation of competition in modern liberal societies suggests a society still legitimated by ritual, albeit of a secular form.
Chapter 1 treats the War of the Morea as a major media event that sheds new light on the relationship between communication and power in seventeenth-century Venice. Challenging the exceptionalist assumption that secrecy was the guiding principle of official policy, wartime culture reveals an active willingness to deploy publicity to boost government reputation and bolster the Republic’s declining ruling class. In considering different information modalities – oral, manuscript, print, ritual – the chapter approaches news as a form of discourse that integrates facts, emotions, and interpretations. As Walter Benjamin noted, news reporting always comes with explanation, a ‘psychological connection’ that is ‘forced on the reader’. Rather than limit the scope of analysis to the mechanics of communication, the chapter critically examines how war news integrated fact and value to justify military action abroad and encourage popular engagement with empire at home.
Sacred or protected values have important influences on decision making, particularly in the context of intergroup disputes. Thus far, we know little about the process of a value becoming sacred or why one person may be more likely than another to hold a sacred value. We present evidence that participation in religious ritual and perceived threat to the group lead people to be more likely to consider preferences as protected or sacred values. Specifically, three studies carried out with Americans and Palestinians show: (a) that the more people participate in religious ritual the more likely they are to report a preference to be a sacred value (Studies 1–3); (b) that people claim more sacred values when they are reminded of religious ritual (Study 2); and (c) that the effect of religious ritual on the likelihood of holding a sacred value is amplified by the perception of high threat to the in-group (Study 3). We discuss implications of these findings for understanding intergroup conflicts, and suggest avenues for future research into the emergence and spread of sacred values.
Language enables us to represent our world, rendering salient the identities, groups, and categories that constitute social life. Michael Silverstein (1945–2020) was at the forefront of the study of language in culture, and this book unifies a lifetime of his conceptual innovations in a set of seminal lectures. Focusing not just on what people say but how we say it, Silverstein shows how discourse unfolds in interaction. At the same time, he reveals that discourse far exceeds discrete events, stabilizing and transforming societies, politics, and markets through chains of activity. Presenting his magisterial theoretical vision in engaging prose, Silverstein unpacks technical terms through myriad examples – from brilliant readings of Marcel Marceau's pantomime, the class-laced banter of graduate students, and the poetics/politics of wine-tasting, to Fijian gossip and US courtroom talk. He draws on forebears in linguistics and anthropology while offering his distinctive semiotic approach, redefining how we think about language and culture.
Intentionally broken “picture” lamps, or Bildlampen, are relatively common at archaeological sites throughout the Roman world. Such lamps typically exhibit a missing central discus. The discus itself – called a lamp “medallion” – often survives, too, and represents further evidence for deliberate lamp breakage. This article explores picture lamps with missing discuses and lamp medallions as a distinct and identifiable artifact group. It also surveys the possible reasons behind their intentional breaking. The work additionally identifies selected findspots where the lighting vessels were broken in rituals, with a special focus on the Shrine of Apollo at Tyre, and examines whether lamp breakage reflects individual choice or collective behavior. In an effort to understand how Roman picture lamps were deliberately broken and the lamp medallions generated for rituals, breakage experiments – drop, impact, puncture, and hammerstone – were conducted on accurate museum-made replicas of Roman picture lamps.
Chapter 4, “Ritual Assemblies and the Geopolitics of Zhou Expansion” acknowledges that the early Zhou kings conducted several major, state-level events that combined individual ritual techniques into narrative sequences depicting various potential ways of relating to their political project. This chapter examines how the royal house deployed such events as part of an integrative strategy of ritual suited to the geopolitical environment of the early Western Zhou period.
Chapter 3, “Recognition, Reward, and Patronage under the Zhou Kings” offers a deep analysis of three ritual techniques that provided a framework for soliciting and maintaining support through the distribution of rewards and prestige. It shows how changes in these ritual manifestations of patronage reframed the ideology of membership in the Zhou state, deemphasizing personal allegiance to the Zhou king as individual warrior in favor of a vision of service to the royal house qua state in all its aspects.
The Conclusion to the work summarizes the new perspectives on Zhou ritual that emerge from this analysis. Western Zhou royal ritual, it argues, offers a case study of how ritual continues to shape ideas of self and belonging long after its performance. The book thus stands as an argument for the indispensable role of material-cultural theory in ritual studies.
Chapter 1, “The Politics of Shang Ritual under the Zhou” explores how the early Zhou repurposed ancestral-ritual techniques of Shang provenance to support their quest for legitimacy and lend focus to their efforts at building a new, shared identity.
Chapter 6, “The Ethic of Presence” synthesizes the fine-grained analysis of the previous chapters with a broad-based, quantitative study of royal depictions and provides a general theory of the role of inscribed bronze vessels in the formation of the Zhou state. Drawing on theories of subject–object entanglement, the chapter captures how the ancestral cult and its accoutrements facilitated both the dissemination and the appropriation of royal ideology, helping balance interests within a shared Zhou interaction sphere.
Chapter 2, “The Ritual Figuration of the Zhou Kings” examines the surviving records of a few rare but important ritual techniques that posed symbolic arguments about the relationship of the Zhou king to the social order and the natural world. The details of their implementation, as the chapter shows, reveal an effort to refigure the Zhou kings as qualitatively different from their contemporaries, with a special relationship to the natural world and its products.
The Introduction to the work outlines the history of the study of Western Zhou royal ritual, describing its role in early Chinese and early imperial governance and noting how it came to dominate the historical memory of the Western Zhou period. It then explains the book’s commitment to describe Western Zhou royal ritual from a historically embedded perspective, relying on sources contemporary to the rituals themselves. It explains the advantages and pitfalls of working with bronze inscriptions – the bulk of these sources – and presents a methodological framework for understanding inscriptions through the modern frames of actor-network theory and ritual studies.
Chapter 5, “Reading the ‘Ritual Reform’” shows that the period of ultimate diversity in Zhou royal ritual gave way to a systematic effort to naturalize royal authority and create a new identity for the king. In the process, the chapter tests one of the most influential theories about Western Zhou ritual against the records of ritual in the bronze inscriptions.
This chapter examines the rituals and ceremonies that took place in court spaces, especially the salutatio, and state ceremonial involving the court, such as the rituals that grew up surrounding imperial accessions. Particular attention is given to the development of the salutatio, to the spaces in which this ritual was staged, and to the management and ordering of courtiers during it. Also examined are the forms of greeting given to the emperor: the imperial kiss in the Principate, and adoratio in the Tetrarchic period. The chapter argues that ceremonial involving the imperial court functioned as a performance of the socio-political hierarchy of the Roman state and an acknowledgement of that hierarchy by its participants. Although grounded in routine and tradition, these ceremonies were subject to negotiation by emperor and subject, and this process of negotiation was sometimes responsible for long-term developments in ceremonial practices.
This chapter unpacks questions of judicial compliance in autocratic regimes. On what basis can we assume that judges will dutifully execute the autocrat’s agenda? What can autocrats do to ensure that judges do cooperate? To answer these questions, I focus on the obstacles African autocrats confronted in the postcolonial period when they attempted to use courts for repressive ends as well as the strategies and tactics they used to overcome them. I find that postcolonial autocrats faced a trade-off in judicial design: Professionalizing the judiciary restricted who was eligible to serve on the bench. Facing a shortage of locally qualified jurists, autocrats instead recruited judges from abroad. Drawing on a variety of archival sources, I show that African and British officials worked together to expand the supply of judicial candidates across the British Commonwealth, which not only undermined the power of indigenous African judges but also helped cultivate more compliant courts.
This chapter generalizes patterns of judicial and extrajudicial repression in cross-national context. Using original archival data on regime threats and coup plots in postcolonial sub-Saharan Africa, I provide statistical evidence that patterns of punishment adhered to strategies of repression as predicted by the main theory: Insider elites were significantly more likely to go to trial; outsider elites were significantly more likely to face extrajudicial repression. I also explore variation in judicial and extrajudicial repression outcomes.
This chapter evaluates the mechanisms of political trials in autocratic contexts. Focusing on Kenya since independence, I explore when and why judicial strategies of repression were used to punish regime insiders. My analysis specifically examines how the spectacle of a sedition trial was used to restore confidence in the autocrat when regime cohesion was under strain. Using careful process tracing and rich archival documents, I provide evidence that political justice helped restore obedience and dissuade dissent when the autocrat’s authority was contested.
This chapter develops a theory of judicial repression to explain when, where, and why autocrats use courts to punish rivals. My central claim is that judicial punishment enforces obedience where power is contested. By invoking the proceedings of court, autocrats show the consequences of defying authority through judicial spectacle, displays which can enforce obedience and dissuade dissent. I argue that this process is particularly useful when confronting threats to regime cohesion. I then explain how the effectiveness of this strategy requires a cooperative judiciary and explore what measures autocrats can undertake to minimize the risk of judicial rebellion.