Pierre Déléage, « Toward an Epidemiology of Ritual Chants », Social Analysis 64 (3), 2020, p. 113-144.
This article develops an epidemiological approach to the analysis of ritual discourse, comparing three distinct genres of Amazonian ritual chants: Wayana, Sharanahua, and Ingarikó. The aim is not to identify the inherent properties of chants, nor to establish ideal types of ritual context (initiation, shamanism, prophetism), but to analyze the different factors affecting the stabilization of the heterogeneous elements of ritual traditions. First, I identify the different procedures (order transfer, parallelism, intersemioticity, and inscription) that stabilize content. Then, assuming that the spread of ritual chants depends on an institutional apparatus, I explore the chants’ rules of distribution and the types of legitimizing authority involved. Finally, I show how the combined analysis of these different factors offers us a new way of understanding ritual innovation.