Perspectives and Dimensions


From handshakes and toasts to chant and genuflection, ritual pervades our social interactions and religious practices. Still, few of us could identify all of our daily and festal ritual behaviors, much less explain them to an outsider. Similarly, because of the variety of activities that qualify as ritual and their many contradictory yet, in many ways, equally legitimate interpretations, ritual seems to elude any systematic historical and comparative scrutiny. In this book, Catherine Bell offers a practical introduction to ritual practice and its study; she surveys the most influential theories of religion and ritual, the major categories of ritual activity, and the key debates that have shaped our understanding of ritualism. Bell refuses to nail down ritual with any one definition or understanding. Instead, her purpose is to reveal how definitions emerge and evolve and to help us become more familiar with the interplay of tradition, exigency, and self-expression that goes into constructing this complex social medium.
  • Oxford University Press; November 1997
  • ISBN 9780195344424
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: Ritual
  • Author: Catherine Bell
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"Certainly the most ambitious and comprehensive introduction to ritual studies yet attempted....[it] will serve well as a text on the study of religion and ought not be consigned to courses focusing exclusively or even mainly on ritual."--Religious Studies Review
"A rich and detailed interdisciplinary analysis of the nature and functions of ritual. Scholars in all fields will profit from this sound and probing study."--Religious Studies Review
"A very impressive achievement....[Bell's] is one of the most interesting and important voices in the field of ritual studies today."--Worship
"Unrivalled for its combination of clarity, scope, and originality. ...a touchstone for any scholar who wishes to write seriously on ritual."--Patrick J. Nugent, Earlham College
"...this is a readable introduction that will no doubt serve as a valuable teaching resource....the author has provided an impressive and valuable study, one that serves a widespread need in the broader field of religious studies, and for that reason is highly recommended."--Journal of Religion