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Ritual Change and Social Transformation in Migrant Societies

Edited By Hans-Georg Soeffner and Dariuš Zifonun

Migration involves change of geographical place, social relations and cultural habits. This volume brings together contributions from an international group of scholars including studies of ritual change and social transformation in Singapore, Germany and the US.
In situations of change, individuals as well as social groups mobilize rituals to reaffirm a sense of identity. Usually thinking of rituals as fixed sets of symbolic behaviour, handed down through generations, migration forces a fresh look at rituals: that they are open to change and adjustment as well as means of social transformation. The authors show the challenge of the transformation of symbolic behaviour for those who experience spatial and social change. They emphasise that ritual change is also common when cultures become intercultural.
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The Topos of Cultural Diversity: On the Communicative Construction of ‘Intermediate Worlds’ of Migrant Reality

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1.   Introduction

The participation of citizens of a so-called “migration background” – whether or not they possess a German passport – is generally regarded as one of the objectives of political action at all decision-making levels. Particularly at the local and municipal level, this desire for inclusion and participation of “strangers” in the local community, interestingly, is often closely intertwined with an explicit display of cultural difference. Typical locations of such performances are public social events. These include event formats such as national-historical celebrations, cultural nights, musical events or workshops on specific “culture-typical” practices such as cooking events or dance classes. They are recurring forums of a performative presentation of “strangeness” in our direct proximity. At these events, those who represent the “strange” living “among us” are often invited to present the cultural characteristics of their different origin individually or as part of a group. Especially during the summer months such performances find their open air expression at intercultural festivals within larger cities.

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