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The Hidden Powers of Ritual: The Journey of a Lifetime

Professor Bradd Shore

Goodrich C. White Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Emory University

An illuminating overview of the development, benefits, and importance of ritual in everyday life, written by a leading cognitive anthropologist.

The Hidden Powers of Ritual is an engaging introduction to ritual studies that presents ritual as an evolved form of human behavior of almost unimaginable significance to our species. Every day across the globe, people gather to share meals, brew caffeinated beverages, or honor their ancestors. In this book, Bradd Shore, a respected anthropologist, reaches beyond familiar “big-R” rituals to present life's humbler, overshadowed moments, exploring everything from the Balinese pelebon to baseball to family Zoom sessions in the age of Covid to the sobering reenactment rituals surrounding the Moore's Ford lynchings. In each ritual, Shore shows how our capacity to ritualize behavior is a remarkable part of the human story.

Encompassing both the commonly unlabeled “interaction rituals” studied by sociologists and the symbolically elaborated sacred rituals of religious studies, Shore organizes his conception around detailed case studies drawn from international research and personal experience, weaving scholarship with a memoir of a life encompassed by ritual. A probing exploration that matches breadth with accessibility, The Hidden Powers of Ritual is a provocative contribution to ritual theory that will appeal to a wide range of readers curious about why these unique repetitive acts matter in our lives.

Bradd Shore is Goodrich C. White Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Emory University. A psychological anthropologist specializing in ritual studies, culture, and cognition, he is the author of over seventy papers and six books. He also served as Director of Emory's Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life for ten years. He was awarded the Society for Psychological Anthropology's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 after having served as its president.

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