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Rituals, Performatives, and Political Order in Northern Europe, c. 650–1350

Edited book
Authors Wojtek Jezierski
Lars Hermanson
Hans Jacob Orning
Thomas Småberg
ISBN 978-2-503-55472-3
Publisher Brepols
Place of publication Turnhout
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Language en
Keywords rituals, ritual theory, ritual practice, middle ages, feast, festivities, performance, norther europe
Subject categories Social Anthropology, History


This multidisciplinary volume draws together contributions from history, archaeology, and the history of religion to offer an in-depth examination of political ritual and its performative and transformative potential across Continental Europe and Scandinavia. Covering the period between c. 650 and 1350, this work takes a theoretical, textual, and practical approach to the study of political ritual, and explores the connections between, and changing functions of, key rituals such as assemblies, feasts, and religious confrontations between pagans and Christians. Taking as a central premise the fact that rituals were not only successful political instruments used to create and maintain order, but were also a hazardous game in which intended strategies could fail, the papers within this volume demonstrate that the outcomes of feasts or court meetings were often highly unpredictable, and a friendly atmosphere could quickly change into a violent clash. By emphasising the conflict-ridden and unpredictable nature of ritual acts, the articles add crucial insights into the meanings, (ab)uses, and interpretations of performances in the Middle Ages. In doing so, they demonstrate that rituals, far from being mere representations of power, also constituted an important mechanism through which the political and religious order could be challenged and transformed.

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