“Ritual technology”

Who would have thought that at a random exhibition on rice farming in a faraway land I would stumble upon what was going to be one of my favourite quotes?

This presents what French anthropologist Georges Condominas calls ‘ritual technology’ (1986) within which ritual and technology cannot be separated in order to produce the expected yield. Each tool and energy input are inextricably integrated into each task that withdrawal of either would generally result to a reduced production output.

As soon as I returned, I looked up the original source. Here is the passage.

When we look at people’s cultures from the inside, it is seen that they — ritual and technology — cannot be separated. To take once more the example of the Mnong Gar, religious activities associated with plant cultivation are indissolubly integrated into agricultural tasks. […]

Previously, I referred to these rituals under the category ritual technology (Condominas 1980). But I do realize that the expression may not be very appropriate because what I talk about really covers only an aspect of a bigger category — the notion of work.

(Condominas, G., 1986, ‘Ritual technology in Mnong Gar swidden agriculture’, in I. Norlund et al. eds., Rice Societies: Asian Problems and Prospects, pp.28-29)

Once again, you know what they say: serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.

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