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The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Foundations of Human Behavior) [Paperback]

Alfred Harris , Roger D. Abrahams , Victor Witter Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jan 1969 Foundations of Human Behavior (Book 1966)
In The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, Victor Turner examines rituals of the Ndembu in Zambia and develops his now-famous concept of "Communitas." He characterizes it as an absolute inter-human relation beyond any form of structure. The Ritual Process has acquired the status of a small classic since these lectures were first published in 1969. Turner demonstrates how the analysis of ritual behavior and symbolism may be used as a key to understanding social structure and processes. He extends Van Gennep's notion of the "liminal phase" of rites of passage to a more general level, and applies it to gain understanding of a wide range of social phenomena. Once thought to be the "vestigial" organs of social conservatism, rituals are now seen as arenas in which social change may emerge and be absorbed into social practice. As Roger Abrahams writes in his foreword to the revised edition: "Turner argued from specific field data. His special eloquence resided in his ability to lay open a sub-Saharan African system of belief and practice in terms that took the reader beyond the exotic features of the group among whom he carried out his fieldwork, translating his experience into the terms of contemporary Western perceptions. Reflecting Turner's range of intellectual interests, the book emerged as exceptional and eccentric in many ways: yet it achieved its place within the intellectual world because it so successfully synthesized continental theory with the practices of ethnographic reports."

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The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Foundations of Human Behavior) + The Rites of Passage (Routledge Library Editions: Anthropology and Ethnography-Religion, Rites & Ceremonies) + Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions
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Product details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Aldine; New edition edition (1 Jan 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0202011909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0202011905
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Turner's book is ingenious and erudite, rich in highly stimulating ideas beyond the ability of this review to exhibit... The reader will find this audacious attempt to explain so much well worth his witness." --Theodore Schwartz, American Anthropologist "Professor Turner has written another important book. The general theoretical stimulus of its second half will probably be its greatest attraction. Certainly here is a significant contribution not merely to the 'ritual process' in the narrower sense, but to the understanding of a great deal of the total social process of interaction and interdependence." --P. H. Gulliver, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London "This genial elaboration of his Henry Morgan Lectures delivered at Rochester University in 1966 suggests that Victor Turner is as much at home in the richly symbolic world of the contemporary American scene as he is in that of the Ndembu on which he has written so extensively." --I. M. Lewis, Social Anthropology "'I see in the study of rituals the key to an understanding of the essential constitution of human societies'. Professor Turner is a leading exponent of this view of Monica Wilson... [W]ell-illustrated book." --F. B. Welbourn, Journal of Religion in Africa "The ability to create highly complex and flexible symbolic systems distinguishes human behavior from that of other species... Considering Turner's convincing analysis of the source of religious rites in universal human circumstance, the wonder is not that people continue to create symbolic ritual systems, but that these systems go stale or become perverted, and that people lose belief, often with anxiety, but also with a sense of liberation." --Charles Leslie, Science "The Ritual Process begins with an examination of women's rituals among the Ndembu... [Turner's] theories are enlivened." --Anthony Graham-White, Educational Theatre Journal "These two books of essays by one of the leading students of ritual and symbolism have both a personal and a general interest. Personal in that they illustrate the course and movement of Turner's thought over... ten years and reflect on the world seen more and more in terms of what he calls 'communitas' and non-structural states of being; general in so far as they illustrate wider problems in an anthropology less certain now perhaps than ever before of its degree of inner cohesion, of the nature of its field of inquiry, of the particularity and identity of its methods and theories." --Michael Gilsenan, RAIN (on Turner's books The Ritual Process and Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors) "[A] significant contribution to the newly renascent anthropological concern with ritual... Turner's examination of the semantics of ritual symbols with the help of the native "exegete" should be of special interest to folklorists." -- Peter M. Gardner, The Journal of American Folklore

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
My reading and thinking have always led me back to Turner's work - it is hard to imagine but way back during Turner's years at University lecturing was very experimental - which says alot about his contribution to the field. The lines his work crosses both in athropology, sociology, culture studies, theatre and performance illustrates the breadth the impact of his work has had. Like the previous reviewer I find his writing accessible and there are several journal articles of his especially "performance ethnography" (1984) which are worth a peruse as is this text and other ones available on amazon.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ritual Process 5 May 2011
A modern classic. I learned so much about liminality and communitas. Victor Turner writes very clearly and illustrates his theoretical points lavishly. His ideas should have wide application to numerous human and institutional situations. Highly recommended.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It all starts here... 15 May 2008
By shikimo - Published on Amazon.com
Whether one agrees with him or not, ritual studies as a sub-field straddling anthropology, ethnography and religious studies begins with Victor Turner, and if you want to understand it you need to know this book intimately. Whether or not ritual studies has really moved beyond Victor Turner is a hot topic of debate for those of us who deal with this area of research...but whether or not you need to know him is a given, and it all starts with this text.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding, insightful look at Ndembu ritual 8 Jun 2011
By Christopher R. Travers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Victor Turner is one of the main anthropological thinkers, along with the likes of Claude Levy-Strauss and Mircea Eliade. Unlike other such figures though he speaks deeply on a single culture, the Ndembu in Africa. From this vantage point he discusses ritual patterns both those specific to the Ndembu and those of more universal scope. His thoughts are deep and rich.

There are two important contributions Turner makes to the field.

The first is in the sense of undifferentiated community he sees in the "comunitas" which naturally lies in tension to social structure. This concept is helpful in understanding ideas of liminality and how it is induced and directed in rites of passage according to the van Gennep model.

The second is the notion of antistructure, which is the active challenging of social structures which provides room for creative interplay between society and members of it. This also allows us to interpret ritual as a creative endeavor rather than just a repetition of past patterns.

In these ways Turner moves from the more purely structuralist works of Levy-Strauss and Eliade to a slightly more fluid work, building on structuralism but treating cultures as dynamic, homeostatic systems as opposed to rigid, inflexible ones. In this regard it is not always quite clear whether to treat him as a structuralist or a post-structuralist as he seems comfortable moving between both worlds as it suits him.

This is an important book. I'd highly recommend it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 21 Sep 2014
By Yingxin Ni - Published on Amazon.com
29 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars landmark work 19 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Victor Turner is one of the great names in anthropology and this is a classic work of analysis of social rituals. He takes van Gennep's theories on rites of passage to a new level, examining how different elements of festivals and rites function.
5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anthropology and christian sacraments 20 Sep 2010
By Howard W. Andrews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book by Victor Turner has introduced me to the anthropological aspects of christian liturgy. I found Chapter 3 to be the best part of the book.
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