Workshop: Exploring Ritual in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean

Exploring Ritual in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean:
Performance, Texts, and Material Culture

When: 16 May 2014, 9:30 am
Where: New York University

 From the organizers:
“Ritual” is a key category in the religions of the Ancient Near East and the Aegean, as in all parts of the ancient world. However, it is also an extremely problematic one, that has sparked much debate in recent decades. There is little agreement among modern theorists of religion even on how the term “ritual” itself should be defined, and whether religion is necessarily part of it. The aim of this workshop is to explore the nature of ritual in ancient societies, looking at a number of key questions, including:Evidence: what problems are posed by trying to reconstruct ancient rituals from the surviving sources – texts, iconography or material culture? Are textual and iconographic records always or ever an authentic or complete record of what was actually done?

Performance: how should we understand the notion of “performance” in the context of ritual? Does it always imply an audience? Does it imply communication, and of what sort? To what extent can rituals be said to approach the status of drama?

Interrituality: How are rituals related to each other? Do rituals refer to other rituals? In what ways are ritual patterns reflected or refracted in literary texts? To what extent do ritual-memes pass from one culture to another, and why?

Those who wish to attend the conference should register in advance. Please see the workshop’s website for more details.