Antropologicheskij forum, 2021, no. 51


A Review of S. B. ADONYEVA (ed.), RITUALY BEDSTVIYA: ANTROPOLOGICHESKIE OCHERKI [DISASTER RITUALS: ANTHROPOLOGICAL ESSAYS]. St Petersburg: The Propp Center, 2020, 208 pp. (Pervichnye znaki, ili Pragmemy [Primary Signs, or Pragmemes])

Andrey Toporkov

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences
25A Povarskaya Str., Moscow, Russia

Abstract: This collective monograph examines the disaster rituals of the Russian countryside, in particular the rituals performed during epidemics and epizootics, as well as during village fires. The authors use not only published sources, but also their own notes taken during expeditions into the territory of the Russian North-West. Chronologically, the studies cover the period from the mid-17th century to the present, but most attention is paid to data from the mid-19th century to the first third of the 20th century. The book attempts to develop a general theory of disaster rituals using the ideas of Emile Durkheim, Pitirim Sorokin, Victor Turner, and Mircea Eliade. The reviewer notes the value of the empirical material—which is being introduced to science for the first time—but expresses opposition to some of the authors’ observations. In particular, he criticizes the attempt to apply the methodological toolkit developed by Victor Turner in his description of the Isoma ritual of the African Ndembu people to this new material. With this approach, the rites of different peoples are not actually compared to each other, but are characterized together in such a way that the characteristics of one rite are ascribed to another. As a result of this paradoxical meta-description, Vologda rituals appear to resemble the African Isoma, although in fact they have little to nothing in common with it.

Keywords: disaster rituals, epidemics, epizootics, fires, Victor Turner.

To cite: Toporkov A., ‘A Review of S. B. Adonyeva (ed.), Ritualy bedstviya: antropologicheskie ocherki [Disaster Rituals: Anthropological Essays]. St Petersburg: The Propp Center, 2020, 208 pp. (Pervichnye znaki, ili Pragmemy[Primary Signs, or Pragmemes])’, Antropologicheskij forum, 2021, no. 51, pp. 225–236.

doi: 10.31250/1815-8870-2021-17-51-225-236