Rituals of world politics: on (visual) practices disordering things

T.E. (Tanja) Aalberts, Xymena Kurowska, Anna Leander, Maria Malksoo

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Rituals are customarily muted into predictable routines aimed to stabilise social orders and limit conflict. As a result, their magic lure recedes into the background, and the unexpected and disruptive elements are downplayed. Our collaborative contribution counters this move by foregrounding rituals of world politics as social practices with notable disordering effects. We engage a series of ‘world pictures’ to show the worlding and disruptive work enacted in rituals designed to sustain the sovereign exercise of violence and war, here colonial treatymaking, state commemoration, military/service dog training, cyber-security podcasts, algorithmically generated maps, the visit of Prince Harry to a joint NATO exercise and border ceremonies in India, respectively. We do so highlighting rituals’ immanent potential for disruption of existing orders, the fissures, failures and unforeseen repercussions. Reappraising the disordering role of ritual practices sheds light on the place of rituals in rearticulating the boundaries of the political. Rituals can generate dissensus and re-divisions of the sensible rather than only impose a consensus by policing the boundaries of the political, as Rancière might phrase it. Our images are essential to the account. They help disinterring the fundamentals and ambiguities of the current worldings of security, capturing the affective atmosphere of rituals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-264
Number of pages25
JournalCritical Studies on Security
Issue number3
Early online date9 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Working Title: Ritual markings and colonial (dis)ordering.


Luisa Lobato’s research for this paper has been funded by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro–FAPERJ. We thank the participants in the EISA PEC Panel (Sofia, Sept. 2019) and Annika Björkdahl, Noe Carnago, Stefano Guzzini, Jörg Kustermans, Aurel Niederberger as well as two generous anonymous reviewers and the editors of CoSS for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this article.

FundersFunder number
Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro


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