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Ritualcide is the systematic destruction or alteration of traditional ritual practices and their sequencing. Rituals have a prescribed form, source, and sequence that include sacred objects, places, times and seasons, music, dance, texts, songs and words, and mediators (such as monks, spirit mediums, religious leaders, and traditional healers). Ritualcide is not necessarily linked to genocide, but genocidal priming may gain a handhold when regimes tamper with collective tradition and leave inhabitants vulnerable and/or susceptible to spirit-based harm and angst. Herein ancestral pathways for intimate connection are often disrupted.
The term ritualcide was coined by Peg LeVine in Love and Dread in Cambodia: Weddings, Births and Ritual Harm Under the Khmer Rouge, which emerged from an eight-year ethnographic study into Khmer Rouge weddings and Cambodian ritual history before, during and after Democratic Kampuchea. The definition was expanded in 2015 when LeVine continued research at the Shoah Foundation, Center for Advanced Genocide Research. In October, 2016, ritualcide was introduced at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in conjunction with Khmer Rouge activity between 1975 and 1979; when LeVine gave expert witness, she suggested it was a "crime against culture". She has shown how ritual loss complicates the aftermath of trauma for the living and the dead, and ruptures the cosmological order that binds ancestors. Also, without access to reliable, traditional ritual sources, collective fear and vulnerability increase for survivors. In genocide and Holocaust studies, ritual restoration holds relevance for recovery by survivors and ancestors, and their collective sense of protection and cultural continuity.
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