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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Patricia A. McAnany and E. Christian Wells

Ritual economy is a theoretical approach for understanding and explaining the ways in which worldview, economy, power, and human agency interlink in society and social…

Abstract

Ritual economy is a theoretical approach for understanding and explaining the ways in which worldview, economy, power, and human agency interlink in society and social change. Defined as the “process of provisioning and consuming that materializes and substantiates worldview for managing meaning and shaping interpretation,” this approach forefronts the study of human engagement with social, material, and cognitive realms of human experience. This chapter explores the theoretical roots of ritual economy and how they are expressed in this volume's contributions, which ground the discussion in actual case studies applied to both capitalistic and noncapitalistic settings across a number of different cultural contexts. By knitting together two realms of inquiry that often are sequestered into separate domains of knowledge, ritual economy exposes for analysis how the process of materializing worldview through ritual practice structures economic behavior without determining it.

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Patricia A. McAnany

The most powerful and effective forces of hierarchizing are those that naturalize difference so that it is beyond dispute and something to be tacitly accepted. In the…

Abstract

The most powerful and effective forces of hierarchizing are those that naturalize difference so that it is beyond dispute and something to be tacitly accepted. In the Classic Maya world, this “social speciation” was materialized and naturalized through a complex web of ritual practice, deity emulation, enhancement of body aesthetics, and the fabrication and possession of hypertrophic goods. The architecture of Classic Maya royal courts broke with an older Maya residential pattern of accretional construction filled with ancestral burials in order to materialize more effectively social difference, to provide space for exclusive ritual performance, and to showcase the highly valued and gendered labor of textile production. Such instruments of authority are “weapons of exclusion” that can be wielded to fend off assaults on hierarchy. From this perspective, informed by the ritual economy approach, the profound transformations of the 9th century in the Maya lowlands are considered an assault that was not defendable.

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Jeremy A. Sabloff

This chapter summarizes and discusses the volume's contributions toward developing a theory of ritual economy. To move ahead, an appropriate analytical vocabulary must be…

Abstract

This chapter summarizes and discusses the volume's contributions toward developing a theory of ritual economy. To move ahead, an appropriate analytical vocabulary must be developed and tested. Useful concepts explored in this volume's chapters include “materialization,” “provisioning,” “consumption,” and “transaction,” as well as more specialized terms, such as “ritual mode of production,” “meta-power,” and “liturgical economic allocations.” Future work should consider breaking down analyses into those that deal with ritual economy as it reinforces existing socio-political structures versus those that deal with the transformative qualities of ritual economy. Additionally, future work should examine the “ritualization of materiality,” by drawing sharper distinctions between political economy and ritual economy, and by linking the ritual economy approach to material engagement theories.

Details

Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Abstract

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Susan M. Kus and Victor Raharijaona

In the first millennium AD when international trade brought silver coins to Madagascar, they were melted down for jewelry or cut into pieces to meet the needs of…

Abstract

In the first millennium AD when international trade brought silver coins to Madagascar, they were melted down for jewelry or cut into pieces to meet the needs of small-scale local trade. The Merina culture of the highland interior saw in the original uncut silver coin an image of completeness and perfection. Such coins became obligatory ritual offerings acknowledging the sanctity of the sovereign. “Ritual economy” is brought into fine grain relief when pieces of “all-purpose money” are used in ritual prestation and when markets become a symbol of morality indexing political legitimacy. Today traditions of the highlands have co-opted the royal offering of “uncut coins” for local ritual purposes and local ritual specialists engage in symbolic assaults on “all-purpose money.” This chapter draws upon Merina royal oral traditions, ethnohistoric accounts, and contemporary ethnographic work with Betsileo ritual specialists to argue that the poetic and the syncretic necessarily enter into discussions of the economic.

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Alan R. Sandstrom

Nahua ritual specialists of northern Veracruz, Mexico, portray spirit entities by cutting their images from paper. Paper cutting is an ancient craft in Mesoamerica that…

Abstract

Nahua ritual specialists of northern Veracruz, Mexico, portray spirit entities by cutting their images from paper. Paper cutting is an ancient craft in Mesoamerica that traces back to the pre-Hispanic era. The impetus to materialize the spirits in this way is the result of the highly abstract and pantheistic nature of the Nahua religious system. In pantheistic thought, the cosmos itself is the deity and all apparent diversity can be seen as different aspects or manifestations of a seamless sacred unity. The Nahua ritual specialist places the paper figures on elaborate altars where he or she dedicates special offerings to them. The fundamentally economic nature of Nahua ritual exchange is revealed – with the aid of ritual economy – through examination of multiple factors: the symbolic meanings of sacred chanting and altar construction, the role of religion in constituting Nahua ethnic identity in the face of domination by mestizo elites, and the ecological context that renders life precarious for indigenous horticulturalists of this region of Mexico.

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Abstract

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

Rhoda H. Halperin

This chapter explores the “moral meanings” that intersect with economic realities in the context of a Cincinnati community school located in a diverse working-class…

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This chapter explores the “moral meanings” that intersect with economic realities in the context of a Cincinnati community school located in a diverse working-class neighborhood. The focus is on informal support systems for kids that require adults to expend considerable resources on community children. These practices grow out of a ritualized community ethos of “doing whatever it takes.” Work, gifts, food, and housing are all tied to an informal economy embedded in a grassroots social movement that is based on a strong commitment to taking care of community children. Beyond job descriptions, and, in many instances, in spite of them, community people go the extra mile. There is a sense of commitment and morality, tied with notions of doing what is right, and with taking care of community children, broadly conceived as working-class youth. The goal of this agenda is to bring kids up to speed in the face of poor public education and class and race discrimination. From a ritual economy perspective, the community school materializes the values and beliefs of the community and, at the same time, shapes the community's worldview.

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

E. Paul Durrenberger

This chapter uses ideas from the ritual economy approach to discuss the political ecology of ritual feasting among Lisu highlanders and Shan lowlanders of northern…

Abstract

This chapter uses ideas from the ritual economy approach to discuss the political ecology of ritual feasting among Lisu highlanders and Shan lowlanders of northern Southeast Asia and medieval Icelanders. The audience for Lisu feasts is fellow villagers all of whom are engaged in limited competition for prestige to insure equality among households. These reciprocal feasts use a considerable portion of the annual value of each household's production. Among Shan the audience is non-reciprocating Buddhist monks and non-reciprocating fellow villagers to validate positions in the social-political hierarchy in terms of Buddhist merit. The feasts use a relatively small portion of any household's annual production. Among Icelandic chieftains, the audience was followers and potential followers to validate claims to chieftaincy and could initially use only a fraction of the annual production of a chiefly household, though as the source of revenue changed from household slaves to renters, and wage workers and competition for land developed, the ritual dimension of chieftaincy became exaggerated and used an increasing portion of revenues as there were fewer and fewer increasingly powerful and combative chieftains.

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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Book part
Publication date: 6 May 2008

E. Christian Wells and Karla L. Davis-Salazar

This chapter examines the historical relationship between Honduran Lenca worldview and how ecological resources are managed through ritual practice. The way in which the…

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This chapter examines the historical relationship between Honduran Lenca worldview and how ecological resources are managed through ritual practice. The way in which the Lenca conceive of the biophysical environment is an active process of meaning-making that takes place through their interaction with the environment. The Lenca codify this relationship in the compostura, a complex set of ceremonial performances linked to economic practices that mediate human needs and desires with those of the ancestors who animate the landscapes surrounding households and communities. Through an examination of contemporary, historical, and archeological cases in western Honduras, this chapter explores how ritual economy shapes, and is shaped by, environmental worldview.

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Dimensions of Ritual Economy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

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