Productive Anxieties and the Awfulness of Failed Ritual

Michael David Kaulana Ing

in The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199924899
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980437 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

Productive Anxieties and the Awfulness of Failed Ritual

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This chapter explores the anxiety associated with the uncertainty of vulnerability (i.e., the notion that ritual success is contingent on agencies beyond the control of an individual ritual agent) and the anxiety associated with the need to vary from the successful rituals of the past. It explains how Confucians coped with the dissonance between an understanding of ritual where ritual served to construct an ordered world, and their experience with ritual as it sometimes failed to bring about such a world. It demonstrates that the anxiety associated with notions of dissonance and vulnerability functioned “productively.” In other words, the anxiety associated with the inevitability and ambiguity of ritual failure, as well as the anxiety associated with the contingent nature of successful ritual, generated a profoundly meaningful series of opportunities valued for their creative and therapeutic power.

Keywords: anxiety; vulnerability; ritual failures; Confucians; ritual success

Chapter.  11440 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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