International Workshop on Contemporary Ways of Understanding Rituals, 2006

International workshop
Contemporary Ways of Understanding Rituals
(functions of rituals, main interpretation techniques, rituals in traditions)
Date:          June 5-6, 2006
Place:         Talas town, Talas oblast, Kyrgyzstan
Language:  English, Kyrgyz, Russian
To introduce the participant to the ritual theory of Adam B. Seligman & Robert P. Weller and apply that to the Central Asian rituals.
The workshop was held in Talas town on 5th – 6th June, 2006. Forty five participants from all Central Asian countries, excluding Turkmenistan, and USA took part at the workshop (see below the list of the participants).
The workshop was facilitated by the specialists on rituals from Boston University (USA) Professor Adam B. Seligman and Professor Robert P. Weller.
The way of conducting the seminar was interactive.  All participants made their valuable contributions into contemporary ways of understanding rituals on the bases of their own investigations and observations.
A simultaneous translation (Kyrgyz-English, Russian-English) was provided.
The workshop had a non-traditional, an experimental model. Chiefly, it is because of the participants’ mixture. We brought together  a) western PD holders and uneducated people; b) scholars, theorists and practitioners, c) undergraduate students and elders, d) connoisseurs of different religious and ethnic rituals, in particular, the experts in Kyrgyz, Russian, Uzbek, Tajic, Kazax, Judaic and Muslim rituals.
The experiment was undertaken in order to search for ways to link the theory and practice; highly educated, refined theorists with life-long, uneducated practitioners, because both of the groups do work in and deal with the same field of the reality. In other words, the meta-goal of the workshop was searching for a holistic approach to world of rituals.
There was a great risk would these very different participants be able to listen each other, would they perceive distinct positions and develop mutually acceptable language.  It took about 3-5 hours to reduce some tension, what I would call “pressure of diversity”.  The structure of the workshop, where discussions were mixed with participatory observation of certain rituals, provided opportunities for informal communication, when participants could share with their scientific or life experiences and emotionally argue.
The powerful positive impact of the sacred sites became tangible during the workshop. Almost all the participants became more tolerant and spiritually relaxed after the visiting and being involved in the rituals on the sites.
There is an essay of the adviser Lena Molchanova below, which describes the atmosphere, advantage and difficulties of a non-traditional workshop in Talas. Aigine also has included some other related essays in the book “Sacred Sites Worshipping in Contemporary Kyrgyzstan”.
Some posters of the groups work:
  • Ritual creates the meaning
  • Ritual points to something that exists outside it
  • Ritual is not necessarily religious (ex: saying thank you or pleas)
  • Ritual creates the society
  • There is no society without the ritual
  • Human existence is dependent on rituals
  • Every social world is subjunctive social world that we create every day
Prepared by Dr. Gulnara Aitpaeva