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date: 25 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter asks the question of how rituals contribute to cultural transmission. Scholars of rituals have taken for granted that rituals somehow preserve traditions; however, how they achieve that has remained an understudied problem. The first section outlines the problem of transmission against the background of religious studies and more traditional approaches to rituals. The second section concentrates on what ritual theories tell us about memory and its involvement in rituals, with special attention to Whitehouse’s theory of the modes of religiosity and insights from the cognitive science of religion. The third section reviews important developments in memory studies that allow for a more nuanced understanding of the role of memory in rituals. The fourth section considers the role of actions, artefacts, and epigenetics in ritual transmission. Finally, the chapter concludes by outlining a model of inheritance systems to study transmission in rituals.

Keywords: cognitive science of religion, cultural transmission, embodied cognition, epigenetic inheritance, external memory stores, inheritance systems, memory studies, modes theory, neuroscience of memory

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