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Ritual: What It Is, How It Works, and Why

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What It Is, How It Works, and Why

Robbie Davis-Floyd and Charles D. Laughlin

Foreword by Betty Sue Flowers

322 pages, 19 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-80073-528-6 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (September 2022)

ISBN  978-1-80073-530-9 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (September 2022)

eISBN 978-1-80073-529-3 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2023


“This book provides a fascinating introduction to ritual while offering innovative heuristics (e.g., ritual drivers, entrainment, symbolic penetration) to interpret how ritual effectively works…Highly Recommended.” • Choice

“This book is ultimately a fantastic resource for those who desire for an enriched, holistic understanding of ritual in society (both past and modern). Due to the book’s rich literature review and clear definition of ritual it would be ideal for any undergraduate classroom, non-academic interested in understanding ritual, and professional scholars.” • Anthropological Book Forum

“One could say that this is a "ritual omnibus"—a text that takes us on a journey into the different scales and dimensions of ritual, and ultimately encourages its readers to rethink their understandings both of ritual and of society.” • Ruy Blanes, University of Gothenburg

“This book is the go-to resource for anyone seeking a holistic, modern understanding of the human phenomenon of ritual. Robbie Davis-Floyd and Charles Laughlin not only assemble information and insights from a panoply of anthropologically known societies, but also enrich their discussion of ritual’s power from their own personal life experiences. The results are exciting and potentially lifechanging.” • Megan Biesele, President, Kalahari People's Fund


Designed for both academic and lay audiences, this book identifies the characteristics of ritual and, via multiple examples, details how ritual works on the human body and brain to produce its often profound effects. These include enhancing courage, effecting healing, and generating group cohesion by enacting cultural—or individual—beliefs and values. It also shows what happens when ritual fails.

Robbie Davis-Floyd is Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Anthropology at Rice University, and Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology. She is the author of many books including Ways of Knowing about Birth: Mothers, Midwives, Medicine, and Birth Activism (2018, Waveland).

Charles D. Laughlin is Emeritus Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His many books include Communing with the Gods: Consciousness, Culture and the Dreaming Brain (Daily Grail, 2011), which explores the anthropology of dreaming and recounts his experiences as a practitioner of Tibetan dream yoga.

BLOG: Talking Ritual with Robbie Davis-Floyd

Subject: Anthropology (General)SociologyAnthropology of Religion


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