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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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Social scientists have long shown an interest in the patterns of social order that emerge in countries and regions in which migrants make their new homes. Today’s societies and their social structures are defined by the coexistence of characteristics associated with nation-states as well as ‘world society’. These patterns of social order are, on the one hand, the product of migration, on the other hand they have an effect on the conditions under which societies process the experience of migration.

Put differently, modern societies do not constitute closed entities. International patterns of migration, electronic mass media, consumer goods and not least interwoven global economic production have in broad sections of societal life put into question the division of the world into nation-states. On the other hand, there has been an observable persistence of institutions related to nation-states, as well as national patterns of perception and interpretation. For example, within the educational system and in the entire field of social security, no institutional alternatives have emerged that would be able to take on the regulatory and executive function of the nation-state. Collective senses of belonging and of solidarity (so-called ‘collective identities’) are also, despite all political efforts to mold transnational orientations, primarily tied to the nation. Just as the simultaneity of manifestations of the nation-state and ‘world society’ cannot be ignored, it is also clear that they appear in entirely different combinations and that quite different new forms of social structures have resulted from their mutual interaction....

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