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Must-Have-Read: Catherine Bell, Ritual: Perspectives & Dimensions

Update 18 February: We have reached the maximum number of participants. New registrations will be placed on a waiting list. 

  • Teaching staff: Dr. William Arfman
  • Course description: The study of ritual practices brings one to the heart of what actual lived religion is all about. It is in ritual that beliefs, bodies and objects collide to create framed religious experiences. It comes as no surprise then, that BA programs in religion studies generally include an introductory course in ritual studies in the first year. In most cases, such a course will feature some chapters from Catherine Bell’s seminal work Ritual: Perspectives & Dimensions. Sadly, having to consider the academic level of these first-year students, the only chapters that end up being read are those on ritual characteristics and ritual categorization. This course intends to introduce advanced students to what they have been missing out on: one of the most thorough and critical considerations of the origin of ritual as a concept, of ritual density and ritual reification and above all: of ritual change.
  • Material: Catherine Bell, Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions (New York NY: Oxford University Press 2009). E-book and hard copies are available at university libraries.
  • Course objectives: This Must-Have-Read contributes to an advanced understanding of the sub-discipline of ritual studies within the field of religious studies.
  • Learning goals: The participant is able to
    • explain, and comment on, Bell’s central concepts, such as ritual density, ritual reification and ritual transformation;
    • assess which of Bells perspectives is most useful for studying a particular problem or case study;
    • apply one or more of Bell’s perspectives to a personally selected case study in a critical manner.
  • Assessment methods: active participation (minimum 75% viz. 3 out of 4 meetings) and completing the NOSTER Preparation and Reflection Assignment for Must-Have-Reads (available in due course, to be submitted before 5 June 2021). Participants can choose to write a paper for extra credits (deadline to be announced).
  • Teaching methods: Interactive group discussion on case studies and pre-prepared reading questions.
  • Place: If circumstances allow, the first meeting will take place onsite (location to be announced). Subsequent meetings: Zoom.
  • Dates: Four of five sessions in April and May 2021. April 9: 11-14 / April 16: 11-13 / April 30: 11-13 / May 14: 11-13 / May 28: 11-13
  • Credits and workload: 1.5 or 3 EC / 42 or 84 hours. For 1.5 EC this consists of: attending four sessions (9 hours, with an optional additional fifth session), reading 318 pages of literature (32 hours), and completing the NOSTER Preparation and Reflection Assignment for Must-Have-Reads (1 hours). For an extension to 3 EC, the student will select additional literature for approval and write a paper on a case study of choice.
  • Admission: Open to all, with a preference for (Re)MA students. A maximum number of 20 participants applies to this course.
  • Registration: If you wish to participate in this course, you will need to register before 1 April 2021. Once you have created a personal account on this website and have logged in, you can register for this Must-Have-Read by clicking the green ‘Register for this item’ button on the right. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you are unable to attend, please inform the NOSTER office as soon as possible and before 1 April 2020 at the latest.
  • Costs: Participation is free for (Re)MA students and PhD candidates registered at NOSTER or any other research school in the Humanities. The cost to other (Re)MA students and PhD candidates is €150. For more information about membership and costs, click here (for students) or here (for PhD candidates).


  • 09 Apr 2021 11:00-14:00
    Onsite meeting, location to be announced.
  • 16 Apr 2021 11:00-13:00
    Hosted on zoom.
  • 30 Apr 2021 11:00-13:00
    Hosted on zoom.
  • 14 May 2021 11:00-13:00
    Hosted on zoom.
  • 28 May 2021 11:00-13:00
    Optional extra meeting hosted on zoom.
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