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Awkward Rituals

Sensations of Governance in Protestant America

Awkward Rituals

Sensations of Governance in Protestant America

A fresh account of early American religious history that argues for a new understanding of ritual.

In the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War, there was an awkward persistence of sovereign rituals, vestiges of a monarchical past that were not easy to shed. In Awkward Rituals, Dana Logan focuses our attention on these performances, revealing the ways in which governance in the early republic was characterized by white Protestants reenacting the hierarchical authority of a seemingly rejected king. With her unique focus on embodied action, rather than the more common focus on discourse or law, Logan makes an original contribution to debates about the relative completeness of America’s Revolution.
 
Awkward Rituals theorizes an under-examined form of action: rituals that do not feel natural even if they sometimes feel good. This account challenges common notions of ritual as a force that binds society and synthesizes the self. Ranging from Freemason initiations to evangelical societies to missionaries posing as sailors, Logan shows how white Protestants promoted a class-based society while simultaneously trumpeting egalitarianism. She thus redescribes ritual as a box to check, a chore to complete, an embarrassing display of theatrical verve. In Awkward Rituals, Logan emphasizes how ritual distinctively captures what does not change through revolution.
 

Table of Contents

Introduction
1 Uncomfortable Rites in Early Republican Freemasonry
2 Conventional Behavior in the American Bible Society
3 Involuntary Association in the American Seamen’s Friend Society
4 The Head and the Hands in Catharine Beecher’s Domesticity
Epilogue Awkward Ritual, Once More with Feeling
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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