2023 Society for Anthropological Sciences Carol R. Ember Book Prize - Dimitris Xygalatas
Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living introduces an important much-needed, ethnographically informed cognitive science of rituals. Among other things, the book offers a common cognitive and cultural outline for understanding how Rituals reflect a synthesis of cognitive and cultural concepts. Professor Xygalatas writes from the point of view of science and from the thick attentivee perspective of the pexperienced participant observer that makes anthropology significant. This book suggests how meaning itself is reproduced in every day live. Meaning gains its value in the paradoxical (but deeply true) truth that it in itself is not articulable. Xygalatas describes rituals from many different parts of the world showing that they all have in common a determination by individuals to reproduce the ritual sequences of behaviour as accurately and devotedly as possible and further that the meaning lies in the doing linked, perhaps to Whorf’s notion of cryptotypes–a pool of meaning not directly accessible through language alone. “Rituals” is anthropology at its best.