The Private Life of Public Ritual: Interaction, Sociality and Codification in a Jewish Orthodox Congregation

Iddo Tavory

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This article develops an account of the relationship between codification, interactional achievements and forms of sociality in the context of religious worship. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a Jewish Orthodox community in Los Angeles, I argue that an important part of what makes public worship situations compelling is how they interactionally highlight individual participants' lives, creating pressures to engage in predictable forms of sociality. This argument is then developed in two contexts: (a) "information gaps" encoded in the structure of daily Orthodox prayer, and; (b) the religious requirement to pray with a quorum of ten adult men. Through these examples I argue that codified aspects of public ritual give rise to variations that participants may understand to highlight individual lives. In many situations, public worship is compelling precisely because it actually individualizes participation. As these interactions are predicated on a codified structure, they provide "institutional fingerprints" for the construction of specific patterns of sociality. An appreciation of this aspect of public worship provides grounds for a broad comparative agenda, focusing on the relationship between codification, interactional patterns and forms of sociality within, and beyond, religious contexts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)125-139
    Number of pages15
    JournalQualitative Sociology
    Volume36
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 2013

    Keywords

    • Codification
    • Ethnomethodology
    • Interaction
    • Judaism
    • Religion
    • Ritual

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

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