The Hidden Powers of Ritual
The Journey of a Lifetime
348 pp., 6 x 9 in, 52 b&w illus.
- Published: December 12, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
An illuminating overview of the development, benefits, and importance of ritual in everyday life, written by a leading cognitive anthropologist.
The Hidden Powers of Ritual is an engaging introduction to ritual studies that presents ritual as an evolved form of human behavior of almost unimaginable significance to our species. Every day across the globe, people gather to share meals, brew caffeinated beverages, or honor their ancestors. In this book, Bradd Shore, a respected anthropologist, reaches beyond familiar “big-R” rituals to present life's humbler, overshadowed moments, exploring everything from the Balinese pelebon to baseball to family Zoom sessions in the age of Covid to the sobering reenactment rituals surrounding the Moore's Ford lynchings. In each ritual, Shore shows how our capacity to ritualize behavior is a remarkable part of the human story.
Encompassing both the commonly unlabeled “interaction rituals” studied by sociologists and the symbolically elaborated sacred rituals of religious studies, Shore organizes his conception around detailed case studies drawn from international research and personal experience, weaving scholarship with a memoir of a life encompassed by ritual. A probing exploration that matches breadth with accessibility, The Hidden Powers of Ritual is a provocative contribution to ritual theory that will appeal to a wide range of readers curious about why these unique repetitive acts matter in our lives.
“Bradd Shore's highly readable book provides a mine of insights into the nature of ritual gleaned from a lifetime of close observation, participation, and dialogue in a wide variety of cultural settings, from Balinese cremations to the speeches delivered in Western Samoan plazas and from university classrooms to protestant camp meetings.”
Harvey Whitehouse, Fellow, Magdalen College, University of Oxford
“Bradd Shore's The Hidden Powers of Ritual strikes a fine balance between theorizing about ritual and describing its practice in classrooms and homes or on social media. Shore's writing is engaging and personal. He has a perspective on myth and ritual that few other American scholars have.”
Ronald L. Grimes, author of The Craft of Ritual Studies
“Bradd Shore's The Hidden Powers of Ritual is an enjoyable read in which the author weaves anthropological theory and observed practices seamlessly. It has an easy flow and is rich with the author's own direct experiences with public and private rituals from Bali to the State of Georgia.”
Charles D. Laughlin, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Carleton University, Canada