Doing the Rite Thing


  • Anne-Christine Hornborg


This article aims to show some of the diversity of approaches in ritual studies. Regardless of how rites change form and context, the formalized acts are central components in the life of the individual and society. The rite as a concept as well as identifying the ritual language are important within the field of history of religion but have often been neglected in favour of textual studies and the interpretation of beliefs and doctrines. The rite has sometimes been viewed as merely a medium with which to demonstrate or develop a creed, but a rite can be conducted either with great conviction or without any faith whatsoever, as pure practice. The diversity of rites have prompted scholars to attempt to encompass this human activity in a single definition or instead focus on how the formalization – ritualization – of acts occurs by studying the context and investigating if it yields strategic benefits. My concluding example of new individual-centered rites, in contrast to liturgical rites, shows how the setting – in this case a neoliberal, individualist market society – creates new ritual forms and contexts.