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:

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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