Rituals of the Family


  • Mark Auslander

Document type: Encyclopedia Entry

Appears in: Work and Family Encyclopedia

Year: 2002


  • Culture
  • Family
  • Gender
  • Identity
  • Roles


  • Anthropology


Although anthropologists have studied ritual since the discipline’s inception, there is little consensus as to the definition, organization, consequences or ultimate efficacy of ritual action. Most would agree that ritual is a highly structured and prescribed form of action, in which actors tend to deny the ultimate authorship of their acts, ascribing their motive force to an external authority (be it the gods, the ancestors, law, or tradition) and in which participants understand themselves to be in a context significantly different from ordinary life. The internal structure of ritual is often characterized by intensive repetition, reversibility, severe restrictions on improvisation and accessibility, strict regulation of bodily comportment and emotional expression, marked distinctions in the time and place of performance, secrecy or elaborate control over perception (as in masking or the use of esoteric or archaic language and other restricted codes), the use of highly meaningful words and objects, and the simultaneous deployment of multiple (and usually multisensory) channels of communication and expression, often including music and dance. Yet many activities that would be generally recognized as “ritual” do not exhibit many of these characteristics, and some actions sharing many of these qualities would not necessarily be classified as “ritual” in the strictest sense.

Link:Ritual_of_the_Family encyclopedia