A Milestone in Research on Rituals

5 08 2008
The international conference “Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual” organised by the long-term collaborative research project No. 619 (“Ritual Dynamics”) of the University of Heidelberg points up the tensions obtaining between ritual dynamics and the science of ritual and explores new research avenues — 29 September to 2 October 2008
All over the world the University of Heidelberg’s long-term collaborative research project No. 619 on “Ritual Dynamics” (SFB 619) funded by the German Research Foundation is considered to play a pioneering role in the research on rituals. Renowned experts from many different countries and about 500 other participants are expected to attend the conference organised by the Project in autumn of this year. In cultural studies, rituals have hitherto been regarded as displaying an inclination to be rather static. But the explanatory models for the significance of ritual activity proposed by the Heidelberg Project on the basis of a broad interdisciplinary approach paint an entirely different picture. This basic research indicates that dynamics is just as marked an element in rituals as the static features identified so far. At the conference the ground-breaking Heidelberg Project will be presenting its findings to a large body of international experts for the first time.

SFB 619 regards rituals as a vital element in everyday culture. Accordingly, the modernity of a society is reflected very precisely in the mutability of its rituals. SFB 619 has identified this dynamism and vigour of rituals in antique and medieval sources. The new approach geared to the performativity of rituals indicates that rituals are highly creative cultural elements and the meanings they engender are adaptable to the potential provided by globalisation, thus creating values that transcend borders and national and cultural differences. SFB 619 is a pioneer in the investigation of online religions and is one of the first research institutions anywhere in the world to use the internet as a scientific source. The combination of rituals with the new media is likely to be one of the most exciting topics at the conference, where over 270 experts will be speaking in 22 thematic groupings, some of them extending over a number of days.

New aspects like intercultural ritual transfer and ritual agency are up for discussion, recent research approaches like ritual design, ritual economics and scientific rituals will be introduced. SFB 619 intends to enlarge and deepen its interdisciplinary approach. New for many of the disciplines not yet involved in the Ritual Dynamics project will be the opportunity of seeing processes, actions and performative artworks in terms of their “rituality”.

At present there are some 90 scholars and scientists from 15 fields of the humanities and cultural studies involved in the Ritual Dynamics project. Founded in 2002, SFB 619 is the largest integrated research effort worldwide to concern itself exclusively with rituals, their changes and dynamics. It is also one of the largest humanities research projects of its kind in Germany. In its initial stages, the Ritual Dynamics project was selected by the German UNESCO Commission for inclusion among the official contributions to the International Year 2001 of the United Nations with the title “Dialogue Among Civilizations”. SFB 619 was also one of five institutions of the University of Heidelberg to establish the cluster of excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”.

To underscore the societal relevance of research on rituals and to indicate the importance it attributes to the overall educational responsibility of universities, SFB 619 has declared 2008 the “Year of Rituals” and in an adjunct programme at the conference will be addressing itself to the public at large.

The online registration deadline is 8 September 2008. Online registration requests arriving by 14 August will be granted an early-booking discount. Day tickets are available at the conference venue only.

More information
(conference website in English)
(information on SFB 619 and the conference in German and English)

Alexandra Heidle, M.A.
SFB 619 “Ritual Dynamics”
South Asia Institute
University of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330
D-69120 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/548847, fax: 548799

Journalists are invited to address more general inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Public Information Officer
University of Heidelberg

Irene Thewalt

Editor: Email
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