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Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Order of Retrieval

Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 105

Under the sub-heading, 'The Order of Retrieval', Jan Assmann addresses why ritual is necessary. Writing something down and so archiving it off-line in long-term storage does not make it automatically available to everyone in a society.

With cultural texts that are designed not for a single act of reception, like a message, but for virtually endless acts of retrieval, it is not sufficient to store the texts. Storage is merely the precondition of their retrieval. Provision must be made for the act of retrieval. This problem takes quite a different form in the oral tradition than in literate cultures ... Festival and ritual are typical forms in which societies without writing institutionalise the expanded context of cultural texts.

Off-line means precisely that: off-line. And out if sight, as the old saying goes, is out of mind. Without ritual to retrieve and rehearse cultural memory and hence identity, it will simply stay off-line, an interesting but irrelevant curio sitting silently on the shelf unless triggered in some way.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:00am Comment Comments: