Negotiating the Social in the Ritual Theory of Victor Turner and Roy Rappaport

Grant Potts

in Negotiating Rites

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812295
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919390 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

Negotiating the Social in the Ritual Theory of Victor Turner and Roy Rappaport

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The modern social scientific understanding of ritual has both contributed to and been formed by two contested ideas of “the social”: the social as constituted through a structured determinate whole and the social as constituted through an experience of ecstatic union. This chapter investigates the negotiation between these two understandings of the social in the theories of Victor Turner and Roy Rappaport, thereby throwing light on different notions of ritual. The chapter begins by examining these two notions of the social in the precursors to anthropological ritual theory, primarily in the work of William Robertson Smith and Emile Durkheim. The second section then turns to Victor Turner, arguing that this negotiation continues in his understandings of social structure and process and their relation to his concept of communitas. A third section follows that argues Roy Rappaport also manifests this negotiation, occurring between his understandings of a ritual as creating a matrix of ultimate sacred postulates and of trust as the vital force necessary to constitute a social whole. A concluding section addresses the significance of this negotiation for contemporary ritual theory.

Keywords: the social; contemporary ritual theory; communitas; ultimate sacred postulates

Chapter.  6584 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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