Publication details [#31783]

Koster, Jan. 2003. Ritual performance and the politics of identity: On the functions and uses of ritual. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 4 (2) : 211–248.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This article presents a theory of ritual, based on the notion of “territory.” Ritual performance encompasses a set of techniques to affect the identity of participants: away from individuality and by communal demarcation of a symbolic territorial model in space or time. The form of ritual is seen as autonomous, i.e. as relatively independent of meaning; the elements can be integrated into both religious and secular settings. Whilst Ritual is claimed to be relatively harmless with respect to the symbolic territories of designated “sacred spaces”, it is considered dangerous under conditions of “overflow”, when the elements of ritual are brought into public space. The harmful secular religions of the past two centuries are discussed, culminating in a plea for the separation between Ritual and State.