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Perniola`s account in Enigmas is a further elaboration of what is fully articulated earlier in Ritual Thinking in connection with the various forms of seduction, simulation, and transit. Thinking enigma is ritual thinking by its attending to transit, this moment in which the same becomes the same by virtue of difference. Difference, then, is enigmatic and highly seductive. Pyramids are seductive, Jurassic Park is seductive, deferred action is seductive. All these simulations are felt, sensed, experienced. Art and its seductions are no longer concerned with truth (as Heidegger had insisted), but with the production of the beautiful (as Plato through Kant had stressed) and the mimetic without re-presentation of objects. Art and its seductions are images that are sensed (felt) and, a as Perniola elaborates even further in Of Sensing, The Sex-Appeal of the Inor­ganic, and Art and Its Shadow; they form the enigmatic link between the human and things. ”We are witnessing a strange inversion: humans are becoming more similar to things, and equally, the inorganic world, thanks to elec­tronic technology, seems to be taking over the human role in the percep­tion of events”

Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions by Catherine M. Bell (Oxford University Press) From handshakes and toasts to chant and genuflection, ritual pervades our social interactions and religious practices. Still, few of us could identify all of our daily and festal ritual behaviors; much less explain them to an outsider. Similarly, because of the variety of activities that qualify as ritual and their many contradictory yet, in many ways, equally legitimate interpretations, ritual seems to elude any systematic historical and comparative scrutiny. In Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions, Bell offers a practical introduction to ritual practice and its study; she surveys the most influential theories of religion and ritual, the major categories of ritual activity, and the key debates that have shaped our understanding of ritualism. Bell refuses to nail down ritual with any one definition or understanding. Instead, her purpose is to reveal how definitions emerge and evolve and to help us become more familiar with the interplay of tradition, exigency, and self- expression that goes into constructing this complex social medium.

While the activities we think of as ”ritual” can be found in many periods and places, the formal study of ritual is a relatively recent and localized phenomenon. When made the subject of systematic historical and comparative cultural analysis, ritual has of­fered new insights into the dynamics of religion, culture, and personhood. At the same time, it has proven to be a particularly complicated phenomenon for scholars to probe‑because of the variety of activities that one may consider ritual, the multiplic­ity of perspectives one may legitimately take in interpreting them, and the way in which defining and interpreting ritual enter into the very construction of scholarship itself.

In contrast to an earlier work, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, which addressed specific theoretical issues concerning the dichotomy of thought and action in ritual theory, this book is meant to be a more holistic and pragmatic orientation to mul­tiple dimensions of the phenomenon of ritual. 1 It provides a fairly comprehensive depiction of the history of theories about ritual and religion (part I), the spectrum of both ritual and ritual‑like activities (part II), and the fabric of social and cultural life that forms the context in which people turn to ritual practices‑and even to ritual theories (part III). In continuity with the earlier book, however, this study brings a particular perspective to these discussions, namely, the position that ”ritual” is not an intrinsic, universal category or feature of human behavior‑not yet, anyway. It is a cultural and historical construction that has been heavily used to help differentiate various styles and degrees of religiosity, rationality, and cultural determinism. While ostensibly an attempt to identify a universal, cross‑cultural phenomenon, our cur­rent concept of ritual is also, and inevitably, a rather particular way of looking at and organizing the world. The import of this particularity is one of the concerns of this book. While sections of part III extend some of the theoretical arguments raised in Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, for the most part, this study is also a broad applica­tion of the methodological suggestions raised there.

To anyone interested in ritual in general, it becomes quickly evident that there is no clear and widely shared explanation of what constitutes ritual or how to understand it. There are only various theories, opinions, or customary notions, all of which reflect the time and place in which they are formulated. This complexity is portrayed in the organization of this book. Traditionally, comprehensive surveys of a topic lay out their subject in either of two ways: as a narrative telling of the ”story” of the topic or as an analytic ”inventory” of the topic`s subtopics. This book attempts to take a third course by presenting the fluidity and confusion, as well as the consensus and commonsense, that have shaped so much of the way we have talked about ritual. Therefore, instead of approaching ritual as a clear‑cut and timeless object of scrutiny, the following chapters focus on how a variety of definitions and constructed understandings of ritual have emerged and shaped our world. As such, this presentation recognizes that any discussion of ritual is essentially an exercise in reflective historical and comparative analysis.

While each of the major sections of this book plays a role in constructing the overall argument about ritual, they also organize the issues and data autonomously in terms of three distinct frameworks. Part I, Theories: The History of Interpretations, presents a roughly chronological ordering of the most influential approaches to defining and explaining ritual behavior. It begins with theories concerning the origins of religion and then depicts the emergence of various schools that have developed distinctive perspectives for analyzing ritual. While far from exhaustive, this account tries to highlight the significance of ritual to most of the important understandings of religion and culture. This account also suggests that the history of theories contains only limited instances of any progressive development and refinement of the idea of ritual. To a great extent, multiple and even mutually exclusive perspectives on ritual continue to coexist due to fundamental indeterminacies that attend the identification of ritual, on the one hand, and historical changes in the projects of scholarly analysis, on the other. Nonetheless, to provide as much clarity as possible, there are three special sections that present extended ”profiles” of specific rituals that have been much studied by the preceding theoretical schools. These profiles give readers the opportunity to compare and contrast how different theoretical approaches have actually interpreted particular rites.

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