Disputes over rituals have given rise to major revolutionary movements in human history. This is true for the Protestant Revolution of 16th
century Europe, perhaps the most important revolution in the making of the modern world, but also for the failed Mutiny and Taiping risings of 19th
century in India and China, as well as for the various atheistic Communist revolutions in Asia. These disputes over rituals are often interpreted as “sideshows” of the real
political struggles or as “the hidden registers of resistance”, but in fact, they are really
about the efficacy, rationality, or “sincerity” of certain rituals. Such controversies have immense impact on the values and political orientations of people, as is shown by the rise of vegetarianism and non-violent politics in India. In China and Vietnam, the anti-superstition and anti-cult aspects of repressive authoritarianism have had huge consequences. The repression of certain rituals does not result in the abolition of all ritual. In fact, Protestantism and Communism have come up with their own rituals. This talk will discuss the dynamic of ritual and anti-ritual from an anthropological viewpoint in general, theoretical terms, but will take its examples from India, China, and Vietnam.