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Project Area A


The symbolic significance of rituals in the representation and manifestation of cultural tradition is indisputable and frequently documented. However, for a long time, the primarily theoretical interest in the "expressive character" of rituals has led to a neglect of the detailed analysis of the ritual actions. It was not only the deeper insight into the competence and significance of rituals borne by the performative media and the performing agents that fell short. We also know very little about their transformative role in contexts marked by political alterations, religious pluralisms and cultural changes.


The research projects subsumed under project area A can rightfully claim to be countering these shortcomings of the former research on ritual. The potential for gaining cross-project insights is especially high, since the subprojects, although featuring different circumstances and theoretical approaches, are coalescing in their research on action-specific aspects. This prompts us to expect differentiated yet comparable statements about the change of rituals as well as their impetus for change.


The Scientists investigate the dynamics and effectiveness that rituals provide for the staging and transformation of socio-cultural identity, insofar as their targeted research on performative effectiveness treats the following aspects:

  • transfer and appropriation of rituals (see A2 and A4),
  • ritual negotiation of regional, ethnical, nation-state identities (see A2, A4 and A8),
  • ritual constitution of social authority (see A9), and
  • performative media (see A4).

All these aspects show specific contact points with other projects.

The scientists do not only specify forms of ritual proceduralization and diversification of normative traditions in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Japan (lead by either local, folk-religious or "modern" modifications or by intra- or interreligious transfer). It is rather the specifically examined issues of "the relation of script and performance", the "change of ritual in the context of modernity", the "tension between high and folk traditions" as well as the "various religious traditions" and the relation between "ritual and acculturation" that mark the specific options for connection with the other subprojects.