ritual


The New York Times has a story on the Explorers program, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts. Historically, the group has trained America’s youth to be police officers and firefighters.  Now they are being trained to confront terrorist threats and illegal immigration issues.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”

Explorers ready to enter a building taken by terrorists, in an exercise.

As a blood-spattered hostage, played by Yajaira Barboza, 15, lay wounded, Explorers searched the building for her shooter.

Dave Holletz, of the Brawley, Calif., police department, entered after the Explorers had killed the last hostage-taker. "Forget the injured, forget the dead," Mr. Holletz advised the Explorers. "Accomplish your mission: terminate the shooter."

(all photos from NYTimes article)

The article is a stark contrast to Alves’ article in your reader about Portuguese coming of age rituals.  Reading the two together should highlight the various ways youths are socialised into roles associated with adulthood, and also how historically situated these rites of passage can be. Edo12 and K.Ro have good summaries while RitualMand brings a personal perspective to the discussion.

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This week began with a discussion on the public and private aspects of marriage and weddings and then turned to a discussion of when marriage could be described as political.  You discussed the most recent example that has appeared in the NZ news –  Christine Rankin being appointed to the Families Commission and the ways her history of multiple marriages has become public fodder in the debate around her appointment.

This segued into Bourdieu, rites of passage as political events and symbolic capital.  The powerpoints are below.  We watched a clip from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and analysed it in terms of Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus.  We also discussed ideas of individualism, specifically the reflexive individual and self identity as a project, in terms of Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and Scott Lash.

The clip from class begins at minute 6:

This week’s lectures highlighted two very different rituals, Hauka spirit possession and Cypriot weddings, but both examples brought our attention to the relationship between a ritual embedded in a society and the ways that cultural change can be reflected in this space.

On Tuesday, Jean Rouch’s Les Maîtres Fous showed an example of spirit possession rituals in West Africa after French colonial contact.  What did it mean that these rituals had clearly changed since colonial contact? Why had the pantheon of inhabiting spirits become colonial characters? Catherine posed several alternatives, with links to relevant articles and books –  Was it simply a reaction to colonial power structures?  Was it a way for rural migrants to cope with their new chaotic, urban environment?  Was it a response to the dramatic/traumatic rupture of traditional power structure?  Was the mimicry of colonial characters and protocol a form of appropriation or was it a form of resistance?  Or does the ritual spirit possession signify something that falls in between these two poles – is it a claim to membership within a white, colonial society where they are considered inferior?

Friday’s lecture on Cypriot weddings revealed the ritual weddings being considered in a new way alongside changes in Cypriot society.  As Cyprus finds itself facing increased levels of  ‘globalising processes like Westernisation’, in Argyrou’s terms, he argues that weddings, because of their very public nature in Cyprus, should be seen as a rite of class distinction rather than solely a rite of passage.  MoanaGirl ties this into this week’s readings on Packaged Japaneseness and relates it back to our earlier discussions on inventing tradition.  See Brigitte’s slides, below, on Tradition and Modernity in the Mediterranean: The wedding as symbolic struggle by Vassos Argyrou, for more on Cypriot weddings.

And in case you missed the hintin the lecture today, the next three lectures will be very helpful

for preparing for the end of the semester

Thanks to Catherine for giving a lecture on the Hauka on Tuesday!  Your readings from Week 4 should have provided good background for her discussion.  Her powerpoint slides are below, followed by some of the readings she mentioned.


Further readings

Frantz Fanon Black Skin, White Mask

Bhabha, Homi 1994 Of Mimicry and Men: the ambivalence of  colonial discourse. In The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge Pp. 85-92

Ferguson, James 2002 Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the “New world society” Cultural Anthropology 17(4):551-69

Taussig, Michael 1993 Mimesis and Alterity: a particular history of the senses. New York: Routledge

Stoller, Paul 1994 Embodying Colonial Memories. American Anthropologist 96(3): 634-48

Stoller, Paul 1995 Embodying Colonial Memories: Spirit possession, power & the Hauka of West Africa. New York: Routledge

Just in case you missed it Jean Rouch’s Les Mtres Fous (The Mad Masters) is available on youtube in three parts.


Following up the film we watched in class last week, the latest edition of Visual Anthropology Review has a film review of Koriam’s Law and the Dead Who Govern.

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Here are the powerpoint slides from Tuesday’s class on The Invention of Tradition.

You may want to further peruse Hobsbawn & Ranger’s book on google books – the library’s copies are already on loan.   There were also two other sources mentioned in class that you should follow up:  Maurice Halbwach’s On Collective Memory and an article on ANZAC Day from the NZ History website.

If you want to explore more media on ANZAC Day, Colin James’ article takes a look at the changing meaning surrounding ANZAC Day and the relationship it has with Waitangi Day.

The Telegraph has a photo feature entitled The World’s Weirdest Festivals, including the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea and the Wife Carrying World Championships in Finland. 

The world's weirdest festivals

The world's weirdest festivals

Keep in mind that these festivals will be as unexotic to these participants as ANZAC Day is to us.

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