Spaces of Ritualization: An Analysis of the Ritualized Discourses of Coming Out Ceremonies in Contemporary Judaism

By Evan Radford.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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This paper addresses the issue of agency as it pertains to religion and how it perpetuates particular gender norms while at the same time, the people of a religion engage with and thus manipulate those same gender norms. Through an analysis of coming out ceremonies performed by LGBTQ-identified Jews in contemporary Judaism, I take up the issue of agency and make the following argument: through their performances of coming out ceremonies, LGBTQ-identified Jews engage with, deconstruct, and reconstruct particular historical gender norms of Judaism in order to create spaces where they can consolidate their subject positions within their contextual social locations, thus signifying agency.
In analyzing particular coming out ceremonies in Judaism, I draw on arguments made by Louis Althusser, Catherine Bell, Judith Butler, and Bruce Lincoln so to treat these ceremonies as rituals, and thus, following arguments made by Lincoln, treat ritual as a mode of discourse. In combining these scholars’ works, I make the case that synthesizing their arguments allows for a more rigorous analysis of ritual whereby, said analysis not only deconstructs the subject positions of ritual (i.e. coming out ceremonies), but also reveals the agency that the actors of a ritual have while performing it and consolidating their subject positions within it.

Keywords: Queer, Coming Out, Jews, Interpellation, Discourse, Ritual, Identity, Agency, Spaces

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.213-222. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 720.158KB).

Evan Radford

Graduate Student, Division of Humanities, Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada