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Lecture 5

Lecture 5 - Oct 11.rtf

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University of Toronto St. George
Matthias Koenig

SOC256H1F- RITES OF PASSAGE, OR, TRANSITION RITES October 11, 2011 Lecture 5 OVERVIEW: We will consider... General points about transition rites -What are they? What are they like? What to they do to or for individuals and groups? Who or what is in control? Type of society and transition rites - using death as an example, we consider: how does the type of society affect the social experience of death? How do differences in type of society, and the related differences in death and dying, affect transition rites related to death? - then we consider more general questions: type of society and the number of rites, the kinds of things for which there are rites TRANSITION RITES: WHAT ARE THEY? Your reading 11i, “Rites of Passage,” states: “Rites of passage are highly scripted dramatic performances initiated on the occasion of a change in the life of an individual that affects relationships within a group or between groups.” - You do not just make it up yourself, you fit in with the prevailing social script which had an already settled understanding of what society considers marriage for example. - Ex. In Canada- there is no single way of getting married, some distinguished by religion etc. - Sometimes very specific, every word written out - Sometimes loose - Ex. Nisa- suffered in menstruation in terms of not eating A detailed transition script? When do these arise? We would need institutions and organizations, where people move into a formally defined role in an organization, or where moving into transitional role in organization. Many of our transitional rites are embedded in large organizations. - Scripting requires some kind of social invention that carries the script along from generation to generation, across the full width of a society which usually means it is not done by individual people (true for hunter/gatherer) but by organizations which have ongoing capacities which keep records – most scripted things we can think of are religious transition rites, religious/ funerals/ graduation/ educational institutions have the power to keep those rituals constant… Note that transition rites are “Scripted ” - Part of a society’s or subgroup’s culture - The script may be exact and detailed - E.g. a wedding ceremony may need to include specific elements, and even specific words, to make a “real” marriage - Or the script may be more general and fluid - E.g. Nisa’s menarche rite did not begin in the “right” way, so people rapidly adjusted things; and while the ceremony was going on, people cheated a little by letting her have a small amount to eat = Need the beginnings of farming society and social elaboration Social - It is a very social event, people do not do it alone, it is part of a community, part of a social world. The rite is all about a person making progress via life within social world. Rite focuses on 1 or 2 people but never only about them. It is always also about their relationships to other people which may be changed by big life transition they may be going through. à Transitions are often life events and seen as steps along pathway of life! - Rites concern transitions in individual lives, but usually focus on transitions that affect others as well - People OTHER than the person in transition are important parts of the rite - Often, parts of the rite are all about how the focal person’s ties to others are changing - E.g. the older style of Western wedding in which a father “gave away” his daughter to her new husband - Life course events - concern changes in a person’s life that mark important steps in his or her life course WHAT ARE THEY LIKE? Classic statement: Van Gennep , The Rites of Passage VG was the first anthropologist to compare transition rites of many kinds from many different societies. He really got it all started. He was an “arm-chair” anthropologist, read vast amounts of reports of the many different cultures/societies that western explorers found. Many Europeans, colonists, taken aback by different cultures/practices- thus creating many accounts, VG noticed this transition rite which marked some important transition in life. Not every society has a transition rite for every rite but at least some have some. It is interesting these things are so widespread.  VG thought about the travellers details, and thought there was not much difference beneath the symbolism, he saw a common pattern in which the transition rite mimicked transition itself, BEFORE (person or persons still in old life stage/constellation), DURING (moving from one period to another, liminal period: time of power and danger, not really anywhere in own world, doors to other worlds are open- Ex: Nisa simply waiting for transition to happen, helpless) AND AFTER (enter into new world, recognized)  This 3 part partner is seen in many things- Ex: traditional marriage structure – single couple to be married, and religious official marries couple, marriage is… being presented as husband and wife after marriage complete  Point of transition rite is to mark a transition rite so there must be (1) where you were before (2) the transition- in between time and then (3) there you go, you are now… ex: married  This is a structure one can see in many rites He observed that rites vary incredibly in their details, but all have a common structure: PART ONE: separation phase - symbolizes withdrawal from former life stage or role - e.g. in the !Kung menarche ritual, the girl is leaving childhood; she cannot move or speak; she “leaves” the world by going into a hut PART TWO : transition or liminal phase - symbolizes indeterminate phase, in neither the old stage nor the new - e.g. a !Kung girl stays in her hut for days, NOT doing any ordinary things such as eating, and NOT in touch with men - often seen as a dangerous phase - often made difficult for the person in transition -which makes it more effective as an opportunity for indoctrination - e.g. of ways to behave and things to know in new role to come PART THREE: incorporation phase - symbolizes induction into new social position - e.g. the !Kung girl is washed and dressed up, and emerges out of her hut into the world as a young woman - Many after VG asked many questions about transition rites, like what do they do what is the effect to those involved? = WHAT DO TRANSITIONS RITES “DO” FOR OR TO INDIVIDUALS? - For individuals- this is a powerful experience invoking a lot of culture and emotional and may make person accept and face challenge: » May help, or force the person to accept life changes - E.g. Nisa accepted some of her adult role more after her menarche ritual. It made her think about things, how she was no longer a little girl anymore, made her think of things. She gradually accepted the transition, the power of the transition ceremony made her face the changes and challenges of her home life. - see also reading 11e on the impact of mourning rituals on children, including varying ways that varying practices do or do not help children to deal with losses » May offer a way to express or manage emotions - E.g. funerals are often ways to allow people to express grief, share emotions and support. Allow people to grieve together in a collective way, provide an orderly framework to let people get through a hard time. This can be a way of channeling things. - But rites can also CREATE emotional stress! - As in weddings in which the anxious bride and groom are stressed about how things will go - Sometimes ceremonies so elaborate – people can get anxious about ceremony itself! - Sometimes the rites can be very dangerous- young Ache men with club fights, lip piercing ceremony was disliked because it meant they would have to go into club fights- thus transition rites themselves are sometimes scary - Ex. Drafted to war – scary transition rite that makes you accept reality of war » May recruit supporters -Many transition rites are designed for this purpose- sometimes provide people with wedding gifts to set up nice household, be more practical and give money at wedding = immediate practical support but also implicit/explicit undertaking to continue supporting new couple, graduate etc. in new role - E.g. those attending may bring useful material supports (food, other gifts, even money) - Participants may offer emotional support - And give social recognition and legitimation to new roles such as “widow” or “wife” - E.g. among the Ache, birth customs include the expectant mother’s active recruitment of as many men as possible into father - like roles, to increase the number of the child’s future supporters » May indoctrinate prevailing cultural values (Davis-Floyd especially) -The middle phase is very emotional , not one thing or another- Turner and others argue this is when people are most open to prevailing cultural messages, giving up one thing, ready to take on another thus pretty much nowhere- so often stressed, stress is often amplified, so why do Kung girls like Nisa need to spend days not drinking, eating, moving etc. that discomfort can be part of making her more open to cultural messages people are shouting at her – Floyd applies this to older kind of childbirth - This approach goes back to the classic anthropologist Radcliffe-Brown: rites are persuasive expressions of prevailing culture, so help teach people to conform à E.g. Davis-Floyd (reading 15) describes ways in which modern medicalized births reinforce contemporary value for technology and expertise - Note HOW rites are thought to have these effects - Davis-Floyd describes a very scripted way of giving birth, very social, put a lot of stress on expecting mother, gave her a lot of messages… from importance to going along with prevailing ideology If transition rites are ways powerful culture and values indoctrinated- who decides what culture and value will be in there? – Ex. Kung is simple, everyone decides, everyone has same values and beliefs. But that is not us, we have a very complex society that goes along with our technological development which means more competing ideologies. - Raises some interesting questions: - WHOSE values are indoctrinated? = The more complex the society, the more different subcultures there are likely to be. What social locations have control over the contents of which rites of passage? Examples: à Davis-Floyd talks about medical professionals and their values pushed with birth of a child, only in the hospital though à In terms of graduation? Who indoctrinates values and culture? – Teachers decide how important graduation is... Parents are the important part of the audience and want to hear children do well in the future Question about social change? – In terms of weddings, what changes have we seen in North America? What social changes do they go back to? - Father used to give daughter away at wedding (Christian) – that was when fathers had enormous power over children, especially female (English history) – Women considered property of father, husband etc. - Whether you wear a wedding ring or not – more similar now, prior it was not equal, but now it is more comparable- one person wears the ring and so does the other - Used to be one side of the couple paid for the wedding – now more equal – divided between young couple equally - Post-industrial trend to individualization- people should manage own lives- this is the trend these examples exemplify - In times of rapid social change, like our own time and the recent past, what happens to rites and the values they embody? - E.g. reading 11e discusses some changes in the ways children are or are not involved in funerals - And modern birth practices have changed somewhat since Davis-Floyd originally studied them WHAT DO RITES OF PASSAGE “DO” FOR GROUPS AND SOCIETIES? 1. Help to transmit culture and practices - E.g. see above on indoctrination of prevailing values - includes a form of cultural teaching for those who will go through a transition later - e.g. Nisa had seen many deaths before her mother’s, many marriages before her own first one, menarche rites before her own; and she had not seen but had been near many births before her own first one. - So in every case she knew what she was supposed to do - Nisa’s mother knew when she would die, Nisa went into denial, but it happened as her mother had said- this raises a few important questions: • How did her mother know her time was that close? o Nancy Powell- points out Kung death rates were so high in hunting/gathering societies, many people lost people to death several times a year- happened in public, unusual for people to die alone o People did not die in hospitals like they do today o Thus people knew the physical process of dying in Kung society / hunting/gathering- could identify symptoms etc. - Ex: When Nisa encountered first menstruation –she knew exactly what to do. She knew this because she saw it before, in the small hunting/gathering world/camp where everyone else knows about each other’s transition rites- no one goes through it not knowing. Knowing what you have to do is comforting and manages the stress. 2. Reinforce and realign social relationships - Existing ties are reinforced as people come together to share the rite - New ties are socially recognized and legitimated -e.g. not just the bond between new wife and husband, but also the new kin ties among them and their relatives - All involved, every big transition makes some change in the social fabric so the transition rite is not often mostly for the person making the transition but also those who you know, thus helps decide who to invite… Ex: who to invite to wedding/funeral? = those people who are important to you in some way. - Give and take of reciprocity – helps decide who to invite… parents been to a lot of weddings of certain people, invited to those weddings etc. – underlyi
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