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Taming the Wind of DesirePsychology, Medicine, and Aesthetics in Malay Shamanistic Performance$
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Carol Laderman

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780520069169

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520069169.001.0001

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Words and Meaning

Words and Meaning

(p.297) 9 Words and Meaning
Taming the Wind of Desire

Carol Laderman

University of California Press

The “meaning centered” approach to ritual has come under criticism by such figures as Foucault (1981), who called for a “refusal of analyses couched in terms of the symbolic field or the domain of signifying structures, and a recourse to analyses in terms of the genealogy of relations of force, strategic developments, and tactics,” and Bloch (1974), who believes that the efficacy of symbols in ritual must be located in their nonsemantic, rather than their semantic, content. But one must keep in mind that rituals span the gamut from those in which action dominates (such as mass participation in communal rites) to those performed with words alone, as is often the case in healing incantations. In the Main Peteri, words, reinforced by music, gesture, and props, have the power to heal. Their content, while not the sole determiner of “meaning,” is of prime importance.

Keywords:   language, healing, meaning, ritual, words

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