Top of page
Skip to main content
Main content

Ritual, Religion, and Meaning


Humans are suspended in webs of meaning they themselves have spun; we call these webs "cultures".  Cultures are grounded in sets of ideas, beliefs, and commitments concerning the meaning, value, and purpose of existence and about the sort of cosmos we inhabit. 

Cultural anthropology tries to describe and understand these systems of meaning, represented in rituals, myths, religions, arts, and other forms of expression that each culture produced. 

We study how religion both enables social cohesion while also being deeply involved in social conflict, and how ritual behavior is central to healing and coping with the inevitability of disease and death.  We consider how religion is performed, whether in everyday life or in more formal rituals and ceremonies, and how culture represents, reveals, and enacts those basic concepts and conflicts that make us who we are, both in our own culture and in the many other cultures around the world.

Sa'ed Atshan Headshot
Sa'ed Atshan
Associate Professor
Anthropology 218A
Bruce Knauft Headshot
Bruce Knauft
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor
213 Anthropology
Melvin Konner Headshot
Melvin Konner
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor
106 Anthropology
Robert A. Paul Headshot
Robert A. Paul
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies
208 Anthropology
Michael G. Peletz Headshot
Michael G. Peletz
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor
220 Anthropology