Rules and rituals inform both the quotidian and the extraordinary events of our lives. Our Keynote speakers will launch our investigations into our daily and anniversary practices by contextualizing how rules and rituals—past, present, and potentially futuristic ones—give us reassurance, anchoring us in tradition and identity, or, when violated, create discomfort or even cultural upheavals. Focusing on religious and secular belief systems, extreme performances in the service of tradition, and modes of challenging expectations through the breaking of taboos, we look forward to three thought-provoking presentations.
Jonathan Brumberg-Krauss will deliver the opening keynote on Religion as Rituals, Rules and Taboos on Friday. He will explore the ‘cosmic etiquette’ that can be seen in religious systems, including the ability to ‘do violence’ in setting and observing food rules. Professor Brumberg-Krauss is chair of religion and coordinator of Jewish Studies at Wheaton College (Massachusetts). He has written extensively on meals in Jewish and early Christian tradition and has contributed regularly to the Oxford Food Symposium. The title of his forthcoming book is More Than Kosher.
Dimitri Xygalatas will address Symposiasts on Rituals: Mortification of the Flesh, on Saturday. His fascinating 2022 book, Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living, explores the individual and community value of ritualized activities, especially those that seem harmful, painful and counterproductive. A pioneering anthropologist and cognitive scientist, Professor Xygalatas runs the Experimental Anthropology Lab at the University of Connecticut.
Martin Kullik and Jouw Wijnsma, co-founders of the Amsterdam-based Steinbeisser, will speak on Sunday about their work on the Disruption of Rules and Rituals, focusing our attention on the contemporary table and ways of reimagining our behaviours and relationships through novel dining tools that shatter norms. Steinbeisser, founded in 2009, launched their Experimental Gastronomy Initiative in 2012 in order to bring together renowned chefs and artists “to create cutlery and dishware that celebrates experimentation and the search for new ways to enjoy food”.