Rituals exist as a result of the actions of specific people or institutions; we recognise those rituals because they are engrained in our cultural customs as much as they are ordained by law. The resulting rituals not only reinforce the beliefs or values of these specific communities, but simultaneously define these group identities. Victor Turner describes rituals as ‘social dramas’ that allow any given culture to maintain a balance between structurally enforced norms and personal autonomy; the medieval carnival with its Lord of Misrule, for example, permitted a short period of topsy-turvy, upside-down role-play in popular culture, to ensure social hierarchies and authority were obeyed and enforced during the rest of the year.
Mary Ann McGrath states that there are four basic factors that form the ritual arena: the ritual artefacts (costumes, food, or decorations), the ritual script (written or oral), the ritual norm (a model or an example), and the ritual meaning (the reason or importance). However, where one or more of these basic factors are missing, questions arise as to the efficacy and stability of the ritual, leading to the subversion of the old ritual and invention of the new. This has led Stanley J. Tambiah and Richard Schechner – amongst others – to consider the performativity of rituals; the circumstances of the creation of ritual, the intent of the ritual performers, and the behaviour of the ritual witnesses. As the melancholy Jacques declares, “All the world’s a stage/ And all the men and women merely players;/ They have their exits and their entrances;/ And one man in his time plays many parts” (AYLI 2:7).
We are seeking submissions from a range of disciplines relating to the arts, culture or social sciences that consider the topic of RITES & RITUALS for issue 17 of FORUM. Submissions may relate to, but are not limited to:
The call for papers has now closed. Postgraduates interested in submitting an article to FORUM are encouraged to sign up to the mailling list to receive further calls for papers. This issue will be published on Friday, 6th December, and will coincide with the launch of our new website. For further information, or to attend the launch event, please email