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

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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.