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When comparing the individual projects that play the role of dynamic components within an overarching system – the overall project – we can identify different specific research objectives depending on the selected cultural sphere and ritual institution.


The following overview tries to describe the objectives as detailed as possible:


Proving the dynamics of the respective ritual practice, e.g. as they are caused by external influences, by shifts within the performance itself, by inventions and deliberate re-use of traditional patterns, by rituals transfer and/or change of medium.


Elucidating the socio-cultural dimensions of the meaning of ritual actions with regard to e.g. their function for legitimating power, creating and preserving identity, as well as in their role for the life-cycle, their therapeutic part with crises and their function for maintaining order.


Proving the structuring of space and time through ritual actions (victory monuments and memorials, sacral vs. profane rooms, taboos, life-cycles, calendar and seasons, jubilees, crises and turning points etc.)


Drafting a cross-cultural ritual typology including formal and functional aspects to replace conventional models.


Verifying the behavioral science-based thesis that rituals are always prerational disciplinary instruments aiming to collectively standardize social behavior.

Based on the research of the individual topics, we strive to reach the perhaps most comprehensive objective of the overall project: comparing the processes of ritual actions that contributed and still contribute to the construction and preservation of the respective current symbolic orders in different cultures.


This comparison is not meant to draft a universal grammar of ritual actions. Nevertheless, it draws on the anthropological hypothesis that ritual actions represent an independent type of action differing from other action types. Therefore, all cultural differences must share a common basis. This is an everlasting point in the interdisciplinary dialogue of the involved faculty cultures.



Heidelberg, August 2002