An Embodied Theory of Meaning Conceptualizing Recognizability in the Practice of Ritualizing in a Pluralistic Context

  • Eva Mud

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


In the contemporary Western context, pluralism can be understood as a normative social practice that implies an active, respectful approach to differences. For the practice of ritualizing, creating (re)new(ed) rituals, it is argued in this thesis that pluralism creates two main challenges: inclusion and alienation. Both relate to the recognizability of the ritual. On the one hand, the modern Western world lacks a common symbolic language, which can make people feel alienated from the ritual meaning. On the other hand, there is an increase in multicultural, interfaith rituals, for which cultural, religious, spiritual, and interpersonal sensitivity is needed from professionals such as celebrants, chaplains, and families to be inclusive. This synthesizing theoretical study aims to be a building block for conceptualizing the notion of recognizability in rituals. The theory of embodied meaning by Mark Johnson (2007) is discussed and related to the embodied dimension of rituals. Based on this, recognizability is conceptualized here as consisting of three main elements: a representation of the familiar, a connection to the embodied dimension of meaning, and the ability to identify meaning easily. In the context of ritualizing, this refers to the chosen symbols, creating a sense of completion between past, present, and future within the ritual, invoking participants’ memory and emotion, and overall creating coherence from a place of authenticity.
Date of Award14 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCarmen M. Schuhmann (Supervisor) & Joanna Wojtkowiak (Supervisor)


  • ritualizing
  • professional ritual making
  • pluralism
  • recognizability
  • embodied meaning

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