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Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


The list below shows Durham University research staff who are members of IMEMS. Click the member's name to see a more detailed biography and department.

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Publication details for Dr Peter J. Collins

Collins, P.J. (2005). Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Ritual. Journal of Contemporary Religion 20(3): 323-342.

Author(s) from Durham


‘Ritual' has long been a key concept in anthropology and many ‘rituals' have been identified, described, and interpreted. In most cases, those interpretations have been generated and presented by anthropologists. Occasionally, however, the interpretations of participants themselves are presented and can be equally multifarious. These sets of ways of looking at ‘ritual' may or may not overlap. In this paper, I present thirteen ways of looking at one particular ‘ritual'—the (British) Quaker meeting for worship—and suggest that ways of looking are sometimes shared by academics and adepts. I conclude from this, firstly, that we are likely to produce an impoverished understanding of social phenomena when we ignore the interpretations of protagonists and, secondly, that to eschew a multivocal appreciation of ‘ritual' will result in an unnecessarily crude representation of social life