Statue of André Hazes in Amsterdam

Last week we used weddings as a lens to look at the private-public continuum in rituals and what effect where they lay on this continuum can have on their construction.  This week we moved more towards the public aspects of ritual through looking at media and publicity surrounding two specific funerals, those of André Hazes and Sir Ed Hillary.https://i1.wp.com/www.chesslerbooks.com/eCart/catalog/n/NZ$5BillPaperSigned.jpg

Brigitte used Irene Steng’s 2009 article, Death and disposal of the people’s singer: The body and bodily practices in commemorative ritual, to address the relationship between public media and ritual.  The article surveys Hazes’ death through trying to understand his body and its portrayal in the rituals surrounding his death.  It also discusses the way his death began a new negotiation of modern death and funeral rites.  Steng discusses Hazes’ living body in terms of his public identity as a celebrity and his role in the social life of Holland, then his dead body as something that creates tension between the need to dispose of it and the desire to commemorate it, and finally she discusses the disposal of his body through cremation and the public and private dispersal of his ashes.

In addition to walking out of the lecture thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve got to get my hands on that article’ you should have also been thinking about the processes through which new rituals emerge and the ways they can be used to display one’s own social standing (think of his fans and his wife) and the social standing of others after their death.  You can never fully escape Bourdieu.

Here’s the clip that Brigitte used to introduce you to Hazes

On Friday we watched a clip from Sir Ed Hillary’s State Funeral that was a contrast to Haze’s public memorial ceremony held in Amsterdam Arena.  Hillary’s funeral was held in a church and was somber throughout.  But the public aspects of his celebrity persona were clearly visible – the private representations of him as an individual were present, but somewhat more difficult to spot.

Brigitte followed this up with a reminder powerpoint about political rituals, below.

Other writers mentioned in class:

Chris Rojek’s writings on celebrity

With a few exceptions, this course has predominantly focused on public aspects of ritual.  This week we were trying to build a bridge between the public, highly visible side of rituals and rites of passage and the more personal, private aspects of rituals.

Brigitte’s presentation on Renato Rosaldo’s Culture & Truth: The remaking of social analysis aimed to highlight a shift in ritual studies. Using Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage as a specific example, she highlighted the role emotions can play in ritual life – the emotions of the Ilongots as well as the emotions of the anthropologist.  Many ritual studies focus on a bounded event – it is easy to observe and it has a noticeable structure.  Rosaldo says that ritual studies should also follow the accompanying emotions – the experience of death is a much larger event than the ritualised funeral.  The argument was made that one shouldn’t just read rituals as a text; one needs to read between the lines as well in order to glimpse what it feels like to be someone who has to confront the emotional side of a ritual event such as death.  This would begin the process of thinking about rituals in terms of open ended human processes rather than bounded events.

The presentation also provided some insight into the confusing process that is fieldwork and ethnographic writing – I bet more than one of you have felt a little of this in the past two weeks while going through your fieldnotes and writing up your essays!

Baptism, another life crisis ritual, was used as an accompanying example to the discussion of Rosaldo and the ritual of death in Friday’s lecture.  You discussed what some key elements of life crisis rituals are, ie, acceptance into group, providing context and meaning for unavoidable biological change.

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You also discussed the somewhat paradoxical role rituals can play in times of life crises.  For example, in the instances where the ritual itself is dangerous or life threatening (you specifically mentioned female circumcision and the exorcism story currently in the media), generally additional ritual precautions are taken to ensure safety.  Although, as Nixxta points out regarding Morini’s article in this week’s reading, perhaps it is the pain involved in these rites that is the key factor rather than the danger/safety relationship??

We watched a clip from Lehel Laszlo’s 1996 film, Baptising Ceremony in Bánhorvat. Thinking about the film ethnographically will be good practice for the upcoming test.  Specifically consider that you should be able to describe what happened in the clip: what did you see & what didn’t you see, which people are featured prominently, what do you think the filmmaker was trying to achieve?

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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