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Models and Mirrors: Towards an Anthropology of Public Events

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Models and Mirrors

Towards an Anthropology of Public Events

Don Handelman

340 pages, figs, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-165-3 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (October 1998)

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"Handelman's work expands our understanding of symbolic practice. [It is] particularly profound for the analysis of ritual but those in other fields inside and outside anthropology will discover a wealth of insight and fruit for the nourishment of their own ideas and research."  · Semiotica

"This set of well-linked essays is the work of a mature scholar concerned with devising a theory and method for the cross-cultural analysis of public events of what some would call rituals.Models and Mirrors is dense without being obscure, reflective without being self-obsessed, up todate - containing sophisticated discussions of play, performance, uncertainty, and hegemony - without being trendy ... intellectually invigorating."  · Journal of Anthropological Research

"... stands out as a major achievement and an important contributions to the study of the theory and practice of rituals ..."   · Journal of American Folklore

"... Handelman has here succeeded in suggesting an empirically reflexive, judiciously postmodern idiom of analysis that resuscitates concepts of system without imposing authoritative closure."  · American Ethnologist

"Astounding comparative breadth. Berghahn Books is to be commended for reissuing at an affordable price the most challenging theoretical work on ritual written in the late twentieth century."  · Religious Studies Review


Ritual is one of the most discussed cultural practices, yet its treatment in anthropological terms has been seriously limited, characterized by a host of narrow conceptual distinctions. One major reason for this situation has been the prevalence of positivist anthropologies that have viewed and summarized ritual occasions first and foremost in terms of their declared and assumed functions. By contrast, this book, which has become a classic, investigates them as epistemological phenomena in their own right. Comparing public events - a domain which includes ritual and related occasions - the author argues that any public event must first be comprehended through the logic of its design. It is the logic of organization of an occasion which establishes in large measure what that occasion is able to do in relation to the world within which it is created and practiced.

Don Handelman is Sarah Allen Shaine Professor of Anthropology & Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in 1971. He has been a Fellow of the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Collegium Budapest: Institute for Advanced Study, and the Institute for Advanced Study at The Hebrew University, and the Olof Palme Visiting Professor of the Swedish Social Science Research Council. His field research has been in the Great Basin, Newfoundland, Israel, and Andhra Pradesh. He has written extensively on ritual, play, expressive culture, and bureaucratic logic and the modern state, and is the author of Models and Mirrors: Towards an Anthropology of Public Events, Berghahn Books, 1998; Nationalism and the Israeli State: Bureaucratic Logic in Public Events, 2004; and with David Shulman is the coauthor of God Inside Out: Siva's Game of Dice (1997) and Siva in the Forest of Pines: An Essay on Sorcery and Self Knowledge (2004).

Subject: Theory and MethodologyCultural Studies (General)


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