Playing with frames of reference in veneration rituals: Fractal dynamics in encounters with a Muslim saint
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Kreinath, Jens. 2019. Playing with frames of reference in veneration rituals: Fractal dynamics in encounters with a Muslim saint. Anthropological Theory
Paradigmatic shifts in anthropological theory shaped the ways in which play and ritual are conceptualized. By demarcating these shifts, the argument is made that an analysis of both play and ritual must start with the possibility of choice as distributed among participants who engage in play and ritual as forms of social practice. Taking the dynamics of framing in play and ritual and the patterns emerging in social interaction as a point of departure, the configuration of ‘fractal dynamics’ is introduced to relate play and rituals as emerging through recursive processes of framing social interaction. Based on ritual of saint veneration among Arab Alawites in southernmost Turkey, it is argued that not only are forms of ritual interaction among devotees at pilgrimage sites playful but also that ritual interactions of devotees with the saint are a form of existential play of chance and disguise. By taking into account the myth and social cosmology that institutes such rituals of veneration and interaction with the saint, it is concluded that these rituals of veneration and interaction with the saint as a non-human agent play with frames of reference. This is done in similar ways like when the saint acts as a trickster or symbolic type and is perceived by devotees as playing with their perception through disguise and simulation. The reconfiguration of play and ritual through ‘fractal dynamics’ does not only explain the changing dynamics of social configurations in religious interactions with non-human agents, but it also helps to account for probability and choice -- and simulation and disguise -- in social situations that border the religious and mundane.
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