Co-creation of meaning

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).

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Same questions, different answers?


Preparing a lecture, I have been reading a classic “oldie” on secular ritual. Moore & Meyerhoff (1977) write that religions give answers to questions like “where it all began”, “where is it going” and “what is means” (p. 10). Religious traditions have certain ideas about how the cosmos is “working” and how life is connected by referring to transcendental powers . But how does that work in secular ritual? I wonder whether in secular ritual, aren’t it the same questions that are asked?

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Ritual and fear

On a daily basis we are confronted with fearful events from around the world. The globalization and digitization of our lives lead to an increase in fear through the confrontation with horrifying events every moment we hit the refresh button. Rituals are traditionally cultural tools for transforming fears and insecurities into a symbolic language, which helps to deal with these emotions in a constructive way. However, ritual also increases fear when symbolizing the most dehumanizing acts. The question is: what is the role of ritual in decreasing and increasing fear in our complex society? When is ritual healing? And when does it become a destructive power?

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Language of artists

Last week, our research group went to see this art exhibition on meaning in a global perspective and discussing it afterwards with my colleague Renske we figured: artists can bring these complex topics into such better language than we academics do. Why is that? Perhaps, because the artist does not claim statements about truth, but dares to ask questions instead of looking for answers? And by departing from the human experience and staying close to it, truth is created in the eye of the beholder? Besides, using images other than verbal language, I guess artists have much more communication channels than academics do. I am not sure, but anyway, art helps us think more clearly sometimes and sometimes it makes us more confused. Continue reading

Teaching ritual

Yesterday I had one of the greatest experiences in my teaching so far (I am not sure if my students would agree, I will ask them next week!). I have been developing this Mastercourse on ritual studies for two years now. And I figured that you cannot keep teaching ritual by only taking about it, you have to experience it. Continue reading

Share your work

After reading for the 2nd time (with thanks to Bart<3) I decided that this website should become more dynamic than it’s current static CV-like-self-promotional-space. I would like to share some thoughts, ideas and experiences in relation to my work, such as the study of death-related issues and ritual, teaching psychology and ritual studies and trying to translate these insights into practice. Continue reading