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1 Introduction to Social Anthropology B Lecture 8 Ritual: “Rites de passage”

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1 1 Introduction to Social Anthropology B Lecture 8 Ritual: “Rites de passage”

2 2 Rites de passage “The terms rites of passage (rite de passage) is associated with the name of Arnold van Gennep, who published the book Les Rites de Passage as early as Through such rites, van Gennep wrote, society reproduces itself. People are given new status without the social structure changing, and the public character of the ceremonies gives the inhabitants an annual reminder of the fellowship, rights and obligations provided by society. Since then, Victor Turner (1967,1969,1974) has developed van Gennep’s perspective further by looking closely into the phases and levels of meaning provided by these rites among the Ndembu of what is now Zambia. A general point in Turner’s studies is that the rites of passage simultaneously function as permitting integration into society and give the participants a mystical experience of oneness with the spiritual world and with the ‘social organism’.

3 3 Rites de passage Turner follows van Gennep in dividing the rites into three phases: separation, liminality and reintegration. Separation is characterised by the individuals or group’s movement away from a fixed point in social structure towards something unknown. When the breach is completed, the agent enters a liminal phase, an ambiguous stage where he or she is in a certain sense placed outside society, ‘betwixt and between’ (Turner 1969) two stable conditions. This puts the actor in a dangerous position. Society runs the risk that the actor refuses to be reintegrated and rejects its values and power hierarchies, while the individual on his or her part risk anomie and social homelessness. Turners writes that in nearly every society, persons in liminal phases are ‘structurally if not physically invisible in terms of his cultures standard definitions and classifications’. (1974 p.232). this difficult and dangerous liminality is necessary to order to ‘clean off’ the earlier statuses of the individual, to make him or her ready to be reborn as a new category of social person. In the final phase in rites of passage is reintegration. During this phase the candidates return as new persons, usually at a higher level of rank. Eriksen, T. H Small Places, Large Issues. London: Pluto, p.124-5

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5 5 Liminal stage Durkheim- Sacred v. Profane; Special :: Mudane Dangerous :: Routine Liminal both very sacred and very evil/bad Can be hidden, secret, polluting Can be at the sacred centre, exposed, conferring grace.

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7 7 Chewa Ethnography Kaspin, Deborah 1999 “The Lion at the Waterhole: the secrets of life and death in Chewa rites de passage,” pp in Henrietta L. Moore, Todd Sanders, Bwire Kaare (eds). Those Who Play with Fire: Gender, Fertility and Transformation in East and Southern Africa. London : Athlone Press.

8 8 “What is the relationship between the ‘wild animals’ of Nyau who perform in public and the corpses and adolescents who are treated in private? The answer lies in the symbolic code which the public dances and private procedures share. Accordingly, men are predators, women are game, sexuality is predation and the spilling of blood whether in menstruation, childbirth or hunting, is the source of death and renewal.

9 9 members.optusnet.com.au/ ~carlsonpa/photos.htm

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11 11 Transition Burial in graveyard ‘home’ of the Nyau Seperation: Nyau predators collect corpse from the women Re-incorperation: Nyau including Antelope and Elephant return meat to the village Ritual Life stage Status One Death Liminal status Journey to the spirit world Status Two Arrival of dead soul in the spirit world Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3 Chewa Funeral Rituals.

12 12 Symbolism of masks

13 13 Transition Seperation:Re-incorperation: Ritual Life stage Status One Single Liminal status Status Two Married Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3 British Weddings.

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19 19 Basic pattern applies to ‘other’ forms of wedding/ marriage: Civil partnership Nuns ‘marrying’ Christ


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