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On the Margins of Ritual and Experience

Issue: Vol 1 No. 2 (2017)

Journal: Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/isit.33808


This article will explore the importance of shared experience to those participating in interreligious and intercultural exchange. It will argue for the importance of this shared experience, even if the meaning-giving frames of the experience are not shared or held in common. It reflects my experience as Founding Director of CEDAR —Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion, a global NGO devoted to learning how to live together with difference. The program has been in existence for 14 years and has informed some of my more scholarly work on ritual. It is often assumed that sharing ritual action between different religious groups involves, by definition, sharing a frame or creating a new frame of shared meanings which would then embrace both, thus creating a new entity. In the process the difference and de ning aspects of each religion would be lost or, at best, relegated to the background. The problematic nature of this approach can be felt in Christian-Jewish meetings when Christians propose that we all now, “pray together” and the Jewish participants become – more often than not – extremely uncomfortable. In opposition to this approach, and relying on the evidence gathered from over a dozen years and more than 15 programs devoted to “living together with difference” I will argue for the possibility of shared experience without necessarily sharing meaning. I will make a claim for the possibility of constructing some degree of trust and solidarity on the basis of a shared past, rather than on shared meaning and the possibilities this entails for connecting disparate groups and individuals as they learn to “live together differently.”

Author: Adam Seligman

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