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Dana W. Logan

May 13, 2022

Awkward Rituals

Sensations of Governance in Protestant America

University of Chicago Press 2022

In the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War, there was an awkward persistence of sovereign rituals, vestiges of a monarchical past that were not easy to shed. In Awkward Rituals: Sensations of Governance in Protestant America (U Chicago Press, 2022), Dana Logan focuses our attention on these performances, revealing the ways in which governance in the early republic was characterized by white Protestants reenacting the hierarchical authority of a seemingly rejected king. With her unique focus on embodied action, rather than the more common focus on discourse or law, Logan makes an original contribution to debates about the relative completeness of America's Revolution.

Awkward Rituals theorizes an under-examined form of action: rituals that do not feel natural even if they sometimes feel good. This account challenges common notions of ritual as a force that binds society and synthesizes the self. Ranging from Freemason initiations to evangelical societies to missionaries posing as sailors, Logan shows how white Protestants promoted a class-based society while simultaneously trumpeting egalitarianism. She thus redescribes ritual as a box to check, a chore to complete, an embarrassing display of theatrical verve. In Awkward Rituals, Logan emphasizes how ritual distinctively captures what does not change through revolution.

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