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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Ritual, Community, and Conflict

Some of the greatest atrocities have been caused by groups defending or advancing their political aspirations and sacred values. In order to comprehend and address the wanton violence of war, terrorism and genocide, it is necessary to understand the forces that bind and drive human groups.

This five year programme of research investigates one of the most powerful mechanisms by which groups may be formed, inspired, and coordinated: ritual. Studying how children learn the rituals of their communities will shed light on the various ways in which rituals promote social cohesion within the group and distrust of groups with different ritual traditions.

Qualitative field research and controlled psychological experiments will be conducted in a number of troubled regions (including Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Nepal, and Colombia) to explore the effects of ritual participation on ingroup cohesion and outgroup hostility in both general populations and armed groups. New databases will be constructed to explore the relationship between ritual, resource extraction patterns, and group structure and scale over the millennia.  These interdisciplinary projects will be undertaken by international teams of anthropologists, psychologists, historians, archaeologists, and evolutionary theorists.