Some time ago, I had the honor of meeting Kenneth Gergen at a round table meeting at my university, discussing the meaning and future of social constructionism. After the meeting I got intrigued by the idea of studying ritual as “transformative dialogue” (Gergen, 2009, p. 191), a concept that I am still working on. Gergen (2009) writes:
“Only in coordinated action does meaning spring to life” (p. 33).
When you study ritual you can only affirm this statement as rituals by all means “necessitate collaboration” (Davies, 2002, p. 229). What makes ritual fascinating most fascinating that it has different layers of meaning “at once” (Moore & Myerhoff, 1977, p. 4). But how on earth can you study these different meanings? It is difficult enough to study “one” meaning through interviewing or survey studies, but many at once? It might become impossible to grasp the true (=experiential?) meaning of ritual by using scientific methods of research, but we can try to come as far as possible. By applying Gergen’s notions of co-action and creation of meaning, we embrace a radically different perspective on human nature. We are not individual A who is interacting with individual B and that have an important relationship AB or C, but we exist only in relational terms. Meaning is by all means co-created. It is not something an individual “thinks about” by herself, but it is something that that we all do together. I have to think about Baumeisters (1991) definition of meaning: this “meaning connects things” (p. 15). In terms of Gergen we can say: meaning co-creates things.