Ritual Sovereignty and Ritual Policy - Some Historiographic Reflections

Kulke, Hermann

In: State, Power, and Violence. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2010, pp. 603-626 (Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual ; 3)

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The year 1980 witnessed the publication of the two seminal books by Burton Stein on the Segmentary State in medieval South India and by Clifford Geertz on the Theatre State in nineteenth-century Bali. Whereas in previous decades the debates on rituals and the state in India and "Indianized" Southeast Asia had been dominated by the endeavour to define royal cults and "ancient Indian kingship from the religious point of view", as known from the title of J. Gonda's famous monograph, the concepts of the segmentary and theatre states contain (at least partly) radically new definitions of the nature and function of royal rituals. Stein invented and defined "ritual sovereignty", a kind of state ideology of the Great Kings (maharaja)of South India, as fundamentally different from "actual political control" exercised by numerous Little Kings, and Geertz reduced the pre-colonial kingdoms of Bali to an arena for the performance of royally sponsored mass rituals. In view of the sometimes heated debates on these concepts, the present panel "Rituals and the State in India" and its contributions attempt a re-evaluation of the nature of kingly rituals on the "imperial" as well as local level and their relationship with state formation and the state in India. My introductory historiographic reflections about ritual sovereignty and ritual policy are primarily a critical evaluation of the definition of state rituals in Geertz's theatre state and in particular of Stein's concept of ritual sovereignty and its important modifications. The issue at stake is the question whether royal rituals are mere cultural-ideological performances or also a means of an intended ritual policy to legitimise and enhance political control and power.

Document type: Book Section
Version: Secondary publication
Date Deposited: 1 September 2017
Faculties / Institutes: Miscellaneous > Individual person
DDC-classification: Geography and history
Controlled Subjects: Indien, Staat, Ritual, Herrschaft, Geschichte
Uncontrolled Keywords: Herrschaftsritual, Politik / Ritual Sovereignty, Ritual Policy
Subject (classification): History and Archaeology
Countries/Regions: India
Series: People > Schriften von Hermann Kulke
Volume: 133