Ritual Change in South Asia: Circulations, Transfers, Transgressions

Where: CEFRES, Národní 18, conference room, 7th floor.

Organizers: Cécile Guillaume-Pey (CEFRES & FMSH) and Martin Hříbek (FF UK).

Language: English

A workshop organized by CEFRES and the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, with the participation of researchers from the Heidelberg University (Germany), of University College Cork (Ireland), of Wageningen (Netherlands) and of Charles University.


Panel 1 – Discussant: Barbora Spalová (Assistant Professor, Charles University, Prague)

9:45 AM – Max Stille (Ph.D. student, University of Heidelberg) : Bengali Islamic sermons between ritual and non-ritual frames of interpretation

10:20 AM – Alexis Avdeeff (Maître de Conférences, Université de Poitiers) : Chanting destiny: the commercialization of a traditional “divinatory art”

10:55 AM – Break

11:25 AM – Martin Hříbek (Assistant Professor, Charles University): Animating images of Durga: Art, ritual and technologies of enchantment on the streets of Calcutta


Panel 2 – Discussant: Luděk Brož (Institute of Ethnology, The Czech Academy of Sciences)

2 PM – Lidia Guzy (Assistant Professor, University College Cork): From ritual music to stage, museums and politics. Ritual transfers in Western Odisha, India

2:35 PM – Rhadika Borde (Ph.D. Student, Wageningen University): Politicized rituals of worship: Activist involvement in the Dongaria Kondhs’ worship of the Niyamgiri Mountain in Odisha, India

3:10 PM – Break

3:30 PM – Soňa Bendíková (Assistant Professor, Charles University) : The Kota funeral: change of rituals in time

4:05 PM – Cécile Guillaume-Pey (Postdoctoral research fellow, IIAC, Paris): Drinking letters or talking with spirits? Ritual change in a Sora religious movement


Rituals are not atemporal, infallible devices that always “work” regardless of the performers’ motivations and social contexts in which they are embedded. Rituals are social and historical constructs sometimes considered to be unsatisfying or useless by the participants. They might even “fail” and are then recast, abandoned or replaced. Highlighting the flexibility and polysemy of rituals, recent studies have emphasized the relevance of a diachronic approach that considers the experience of the actors engaged in the performance, how they criticize and reinvent it, and the ways in which they appropriate alternative ritual models.

This workshop aims to investigate the processes of transformation, circulation and transfer of rituals in South Asia. Whether adjusting a “traditional” ritual form in a new social, political or religious context, or integrating new media – writing, audio or video – to diffuse a religious message, the papers will highlight the different ways in which actors reshape their ritual practices and invent new liturgical forms.