Ritual, Media, and Conflict

Ritual, Media, and Conflict

Ritual, Media, and Conflict

Ritual, Media, and Conflict


Rituals can provoke or escalate conflict, but they can also mediate it and although conflict is a normal aspect of human life, mass media technologies are changing the dynamics of conflict and shaping strategies for deploying rituals. This collection of essays emerged from a two-year project based on collaboration between the Faculty of Religious Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and the Ritual Dynamics Collaborative Research Center at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. An interdisciplinary team of twenty-four scholars locates, describes, and explores cases in which media-driven rituals or ritually saturated media instigate, disseminate, or escalate conflict. Each multi-authored chapter is built around global and local examples of ritualized, mediatized conflict. The book's central question is: "When ritual and media interact (either by the mediatizing of ritual or by the ritualizing of media), how do the patterns of conflict change?"


Ronald L. Grimes

Rituals can provoke or escalate conflict. During the U.S.-led war in Iraq, suicide attacks, beheadings, and so-called surgical bombings were both ritualized and mediatized as strategies for legitimizing violence. Al Jazeera reported widespread outrage in the Middle East when Saddam Hussein was executed during Eid al-Adha, the holiest day of the year, a time when many Muslims, especially Sunnis, were making the hajj pilgrimage. the execution ritual clearly conflicted with other rituals. Even in Europe and North America, where many supported the execution, smuggled video images of it were experienced as expressions of bad taste or bad judgment, since Saddam Hussein’s apparent dignity seemed to undercut the image of him as a villain.

Rituals can also mediate conflict. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995–2004) and Northern Ireland’s Healing through Remembering Consultation (2001–present), and the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2009–present) have employed ritual as a means for fostering reconciliation in the aftermath of violent conflict. in 1992, To Reflect and Trust, a ritualized form of storytelling initiated by Don Baron, brought together children of Holocaust survivors with children of Holocaust perpetrators. Currently, processes based on the Arab-Islamic practices of sulh (settlement) and musalaha (reconciliation) are emerging.

Anecdotal examples, however, are insufficient. There is a pressing need for case studies disclosing ritual’s ambiguous role in public life. Even though ritualization marks the human life cycle and suffuses . . .

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