This seminar will explore the contention that ritual is essential to resistance in our times, and that the frequent foreclosure of ritual in Protestantism and under capitalist regimes, especially when it is extended to left politics, has cost us more than we can afford in terms of resilience and repotentiation. Ritual has inherently conservatizing formal properties and functions. It operates through established canons and codes, it defines social and gender boundaries, it addresses economic imperatives and it grounds a number of forms of authority and subordination. But it also has the potential to free desire from captation, to increase solidarity, to make hierarchy explicit (and therefore permeable) and to invoke agencies and transformations beyond the sovereignty of the individual self, including those of animals, ancestors and spirits. The ancients called ritual the school of ethics. It is also—or can be—the school of politics and a major resource for social and cultural change.
Facilitator: Cleo Kearns works in the fields of continental philosophy, anthropology and religion. She is the author of two books T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions (Cambridge UP, 2008) and The Virgin Mary, Monotheism and Sacrifice (Cambridge UP, 2018). Her current research is on theory of religious sacrifice from Durkheim to Lacan and on contemporary global shamanism. She teaches classes on shamanism, comparative religion, literature and philosophy both online and onsite and is currently a Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College.