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To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  54 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
In this broad-ranging inquiry into ritual and its relation to place, Jonathan Z. Smith prepares the way for a new approach to the comparative study of religion.

Smith stresses the importance of place—in particular, constructed ritual environments—to a proper understanding of the ways in which "empty" actions become rituals. He structures his argument around the territories
Paperback, 202 pages
Published November 15th 1992 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1987)
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Nov 23, 2014 Samuel rated it liked it
In Jonathan Z. Smith’s To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual, the author puts forth a primary topic on a matter of theory: “the issue of ritual and its relation to place.” Smith traces the Christian liturgical year to its Judaic counterpart, the enterprise of Mishnah, and also examines the Tjilpa group of Australian aborigines in order to form his theory of ritual tied to the sacralization of spaces. He focuses primarily on two sites in Jerusalem: the Temple of Solomon (and its rebuilt counterp ...more
Jun 15, 2015 Tim rated it it was amazing
This book's subtitle is Toward a Theory of Ritual and that movement involves the connection between place and ritual. He examines the Tjilpa aborigines in Australia, dismissing Eliade's construction of the sacred around cosmology and the center. Instead the Tjilpa build sacred space by journeying through it. Smith compares that travel (and comparison is central to his argument here) with two Jerusalem "sites." The first is the temple described in Ezekiel (40-48), that mixes the divisions of sacr ...more
Nov 02, 2013 Zacharygs rated it really liked it
Again, nobody does work like J Z Smith, but both of the books I read this week get 4 stars for only hinting (usefully!) at the edges of the theoretical brilliance he brings to bear in Drudgery Divine. You can, in this sense, trace the contours of Smith's thought as he zeroes in on the central importance of Protestant classification as anti-catholic polemic and the protestant creation of "religion" as a category.

Of central importance in this book is his geographic and topographic emphasis, drawin
Amy Lawton
Sep 10, 2014 Amy Lawton rated it liked it
I read "To Take Place" for a graduate seminar called "Religion, Space, and Place." I certainly side with all the other reviewers in recognizing J.Z. Smith's theoretical brilliance and the significance of this work. Although this is definitely not a work of theology, I found Smith's theories to ritual to be understandable in terms of my personal theology as a Unitarian Universalist -- a primary reason why I study comparative religion.

That being said, the book's structure is confusing, even for h
Dec 29, 2007 Greg rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous book! It is so significant as to be required reading for every student of religious studies. In it Smith brings the spatial dimension to analyzing ritual. That is, rituals take place somewhere, and it is the act of demarcating sacred space the makes things sacred. The other valuable contribution is that be blows up the 100 year old notion that rituals are myths acted out, and blows up the 50 year old notion that ritual must be analyzed as "text". Instead, ritual needs to be un ...more
Jun 16, 2010 Beth rated it it was amazing
Can't be a good comparative scholar without knowing your Smith, and this one was AWESOME. He essentially removes the urgency for a sacred "space" by reminding us that it is ritual (such as the liturgical year) that transforms our conception of time. Ritual becomes the sacred, and therefore, sacred space should be viewed as any place where one can practice.
Samuel Brown
Jan 04, 2013 Samuel Brown rated it really liked it
Great fun. Smith remains the best theorist of religion currently writing. Fascinating to watch this protracted boxing match with Eliade and useful to think about the ways in which ritual represents the assertion of difference. Glad I finally got around to reading it.
Miller Sherling
Dec 18, 2011 Miller Sherling rated it really liked it
J.Z. Smith is wonderful at tweaking readers' perspectives. The most noticeable shift (in terms of change/time) I've made in my thinking in my life was from reading him. This was the 2nd of his books I read, not quite as awesome as the first, reviewed elsewhere.
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Jonathan Z. Smith is the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities at the University of Chicago where he is also a member of the Committee on the History of Culture.
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