Rituals Between Mind and Society

November 4-5, 2021, Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia

We are pleased to announce a new date for our workshop that has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemics.

The workshop is dedicated to the study of rituals and their social functions, with a special but not exclusive focus on cognitive and evolutionary approaches. We encourage empirical and theoretical papers from anthropology, psychology, religious studies, and other humanities and social sciences. Two general topics frame the workshop: 

1. Collective rituals as an instrument of social regulation

  • Social scientists have long been studying complex relationships between collective rituals and many forms of social regulation. Durkheim speculated that collective rituals bond group members and minimize status differences. Conversely, Leach argued that rituals mirror and maintain social inequalities and hierarchies. Van Gennep focused on how rituals transform individuals’ social statuses, and functionalists viewed rituals as mechanisms to redress social conflicts. Recent evolutionary approaches consider collective rituals as adaptive behaviors that promote cooperation. Rituals can create or maintain collective identities and represent “arenas” for displays of group commitment and social norms adherence, among others. 

2. New ideas, challenges, and pitfalls in the cognitive study of ritual

  • Since the inception of the Cognitive and Evolutionary Science of Religion, rituals have been one of its central topics. They were approached from many different points of view, and CSR scholars investigated many different research problems regarding rituals. On the one hand, CSR opened and is still opening new theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of ritual. On the other hand, this also brings new challenges and hidden traps.

Questions addressed by the presenters might include, e.g.:

  • In what particular ways do rituals action foster prosociality, cooperation, or status management?
  • Do rituals contribute to group identity, cohesion, parochialism, or inter-group hostility?
  • What and how is being signaled in a collective ritual?
  • How do rituals articulate or enforce social order and social hierarchies?
  • How and what values and social norms are transmitted through rituals?
  • What is the relationship between social structure and its adjacent ritual system?
  • What are the main differences and similarities between religious and non-religious rituals?
  • How can we use new methods or state-of-the-art technologies in the study of ritual?
  • Are religion and ritual cultural adaptations, by-products, or both? 
  • How can we integrate ethnography, experiment, and computational modeling in the study of ritual and religion?
  • How to connect the symbolic interpretation and the evolutionary explanation of ritual action?
  • Etc.



The workshop will take place in Banská ŠtiavnicaSlovakia (an UNESCO heritage site). However, the workshop is also organized as an online event via Zoom platform for those who cannot attend in person or if COVID-19 pandemics restriction will not allow it.

In person participation is possible only with full COVID-19 vaccination.

Important dates

Date of the workshop November 4-5, 2021
The deadline for abstract submission is September 10, 2021
Speakers will be notified of acceptance by September 17, 2021

Workshop fee:

0 € online partiticpation  
30€ in case of in person participation


If you wish to convene a specialized panel, please contact the organizing team at vladimir.bahna@savba.sk

This workshop is organized by the Institute of Ethnology and Social Anthropology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Social Anthropology, Comenius University, and the Slovak Association of Social Anthropologists

Special issue of Slovak Ethnology

This workshop is thematically related to a special issue of Slovak Ethnology dedicated to the topic of rituals as instruments of social regulation. Please check the  call for papers https://uesa.sav.sk/?q=en/call-special-issue-slovak-ethnology-volume-70-number-22022-topic-rituals-instruments-social