Call for Papers Jubilee Edition Yearbook for Ritual and Liturgical Studies

16 November 2021

To celebrate the thirty-year anniversary of the Institute for Ritual and Liturgical Studies in 2022, there will be a jubilee edition of the Yearbook for Ritual and Liturgical Studies on the topic of Ritual Techniques: New Openings in Ritual and Liturgical Studies. Contrary to our regular edition, the jubilee edition will appear in print! We invite you to contribute an article to this special jubilee edition. Deadline is 1 April.

Ritual Techniques: New Openings in Ritual and Liturgical Studies 

In this jubilee edition, we aim to sketch new directions in the study of contemporary and historical ritual and liturgy. We will explore how to think about what rituals do, what they make possible, and how. So, instead of probing what rituals mean, or their significance in a secular or post-secular society, we ask ourselves how rituals can be fruitfully explored as Ritual Techniques. How can rituals be fruitfully explored as techniques, i.e., operational processes involving work with things and symbols which entail both “know-how” and “know-that”? Practices-with-things both regularize and habituate the body’s movements, on the one hand, and can provide a basis for new spaces for perception, communication, and cognition on the other.

We invite scholars working across disciplines in different fields, cultures, and periods to contribute an article to this jubilee edition. You are also kindly invited to join an expert meeting on this topic, online on 20 January

Theoretical background Ritual Techniques

The rise of German media theory in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, associated with the names Friedrich Kittler,  Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Bernhard Siegert, among others, responded critically to discursive and psychoanalytic modes of analysis of culture.  Kulturhistorsche Medienanalyse proposes the replacement of the dominance of “text”, “understanding”  and “meaning” in cultural analysis with what Gumbrecht termed “the materialities of communication” (Gumbrecht 1988, 919). This critique entailed a number of shifts (Siegert 2015, 2–3):

-       from Foucault’s historical a priori to a technological a priori;
-       from a concern for the representation of meaning to the material and technological conditions of representation;
-       from a concern regarding the priority of the written (or the oral) to an analysis of the material conditions of the practices of communication
-       from ontology and from hermeneutics to an historical analysis of material practices
-       from asking “what does this mean”, to asking “how does it work” or what are the material conditions that enable it to work, in a way that processually shapes the possibility of meaning.

“Cultural techniques” (Kulturtechniken) are an important unit of analysis in this theoretical approach. They have been defined as “concrete sets of practices, knowledge, and skills enabling work with things and symbols, habituating and regularising the body’s movements, and expressing themselves in everyday, fluid practices” (Krämer & Bredekamp 2013, 271). Grides, typewriters, doors, registers, and even Communion have all been analysed as cultural techniques. As Siegert writes: “Humans as such do not exist independently of cultural techniques of hominization, time as such does not exist independently of cultural techniques o time measurement, and space as such does not exist independently of cultural techniques of spatial control” (Siegert 2015, 9).

The theme of this volume draws inspiration from these developments. On the one hand, since at least the twelfth century, Christian theology has explored ways in which a (sacred) thing can do what it says (signum efficax); and recent scholarship has problematised assumptions of inefficacy in what it is that we mean when we use the word “ritual” (e.g., Sax, Quack & Weinhold 2010). On the other, media theory’s eschewal of all too neat distinctions between first order technologies and second order symbols, its argument that the human is not the only subject of culture, and its proposal that we attend to operational chains that both shape the media that they generate, and also destabilise and deterritorialise cultural codes, symbols, sounds, and images, has clear resonances and implications for the analysis of religious ritual and liturgical objects, texts and practices, as they evolve from the past, in the present, and into the future. 

Bibliographic references

Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. “Flache Diskurse.” In: Materialität der Kommunikation. Ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1988. 914–23.

Kittler, Friedrich A. Discourse Networks, 1800/1900. Trans. Michael Metteer and Chris Cullens. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990.

Kittler, Friedrich A. Unsterbliche. Munich: Fink, 2004.

Kittler, Friedrich A. “The World of the Symbolic: A World of the Machine.” In: Literature, Media, Information Systems: Essays. Ed. John Johnston. Trans. Stephanie Harris. Amsterdam: OAP, 1997. 130–46.

Krämer, Sybille and Horst Bredekamp, “Kultur, Technik, Kulturtechnik: Wider die Diskursivierung der Kultur.” In: Bild, Schrift, Zahl. Ed. Sybille Krämer and Horst Bredekamp. Munich 2003. 11–21. Translated and revised as: Sybille Krämer and Horst Bredekamp. “Culture, Technology, Cultural Techniques: Moving Beyond Text.” Theory, Culture & Society 30 (2013): 20–29.

Maye, Harun. “Was ist eine Kulturtechnik?” Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung 1 (2010): 121–36.

Sax, William, Johannes Quack, and Jan Weinhold. Ed. The Problem of Ritual Efficacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.                

Schneider, Manfred. “Luther with McLuhan.” In: Religion and Media. Ed. Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. 198–215.

Schüttpelz, Erhard. “Die medienanthropologische Kehre der Kulturtechniken.” Archiv für Mediengeschichte 6 (2006): 87–110.

Siegert, Bernhard. Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real. Trans. Geofrrey Winthrop-Young.

Siegert, Bernhard. Passage des Digitalen. Zeichenpraktiken der neuzeitlichen Wissenschaften 1500–1900. Berlin: Brinkmann and Bose, 2003.

Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey. “Cultural Techniques: Preliminary Remarks.” Theory, Culture and Society 30 (2013): 3–19.

Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey. “Krautrock, Heidegger, Bogeyman: Kittler in the Anglosphere.” Thesis Eleven 107 (2011): 6–20.

Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey. “Mensch, Medien, Körper, Kehre: Zum posthumanistischen Immerschon.” Philosophische Rundschau 56 (2009): 1–16.


 The deadline for submitting articles is 1 April.  Please note:

  • articles should not normally exceed 8,000 words in length, including any notes
  • articles are to be anonymized by the author prior to submission
  • editorial and bibliographical instructions are found in the journal's style sheet
  • manuscripts - if written in a language that is not the author's mother tongue - must be corrected at native speaker level before submission
  • illustrations (provided that they are free of rights) may separately be sent along
  • summaries of dissertations (normally published in the language of the thesis) should not exceed 5,000 words and should not contain any notes or illustrations

If you are currently preparing a submission to our journal, we kindly ask you to give us a heads up, simply by sending an email to

More information about the journal
View the call for papers for the 2022 regular edition


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