Unformatted text preview: Victor Turner Rites of Passage What are "Rites of Passage"? These are rituals in a society that accompany the transitional stages in an individual's life. Birth, puberty, marriage, and death would be good examples. Liminality or the "Liminal Period" Being on the boundary of the social structure of a society. Where are "Rites of Passage" Found "Rites of Passage" are found in all societies but are most common in small group, stable, and cyclical societies where change is bound up with biological, and meteorological rhythms and recurrences rather than with technological innovation. These "Rites" indicate and constitute transitions between different "states" or "stages". By "states" Turner means "a fixed or stable condition" such as legal status, profession, or a rank of a person. Example of "Rites of Passage" One example of a rite of passage may be the swearing in ceremony of new citizens of the United States. The term "state" may also be applied to ecological, emotional, physical or mental condition of members of a society. Arnold van Gennep, the scholar who is influential in Victor Turner's work defined "Rites of Passage" as "rites which accompany every change of place, state, social position, and age." Stages of "Rites of Passage" Van Gennep maintains that rites of transition are marked by three phases: 1. separation (from society) 2. margin ( or being liminal) 3. Aggregation (or return to society) Stage #1: Separation In the separation stage, the individual or group detach from a fixed point in society. Think hippies, flower power, bell bottoms and all the good stuff from the 60's, including James Brown in bell bottoms. Stage #2: Liminality In this stage the actor or individual occupies an ambiguous stage; he or she passes through a realm that few or none of the attributes of the past or the future stages. Hippies lose their radical positions. Stage #3: Aggregation The individuals are brought back into the midst of society thus acquiring a "stable" state in the society. Hippies are now CEO's. Rites of Passage do not only concern life issues such as birth, death, marriage, divorce, acquiring a playstation in your dorm room, etc. They are also about changes in states such as going to war, facing raging fires in your neighborhood, getting elected to a political office, etc. Turner's Focus In this essay, Turner is more concerned about examining "liminality" rather than "separation" or "aggregation" into society. He focuses on "initiation rites" as a ritual phenomena. Turner on "Ritual" and "Ceremony" Ritual is a form of religious behavior associated with social transitions. Ritual is transformative. Ceremony has a closer bearing on religious behavior associated with social states, where political and religious institutions have immense importance. Ceremony is confirmatory. The Liminal Person The person in a state of "liminality" is defined in a complex way. He or she is between two states of "separation" and "aggregation". They are at once classified and not yet classified. Is a 13 year old Jewish boy going through his Bar Mitzvah an "adult" or a "child"? Thus the main point of "liminality" is ambiguity and sometimes confusion surrounding the status of the individual in a society. "Liminal" individuals are usually considered "neophytes" with someone instructing them as their guide. Neophytes and Instructors The relationship between the liminal "neophytes" and their "instructors" is marked by complete authority of the instructor over the neophyte and by complete submission on the part of the neophyte. Neophyte Instructor Relationship Characteristic #1 The neophytes are supposed to be passive in presence of their instructors. Neophyte Instructor Relationship Characteristic #2 The neophytes are being molded, gradually, through making them go through increasingly difficult ordeals. Neophyte Instructor Relationship Characteristic #3 This is done so that they may be refashioned, made new and will be endowed with additional powers to cope with their new station in life. Example: Boot camp, Christian monastic life, fraternity/sorority initiation. ...
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- Winter '08
- Arnold van Gennep, Rite of Passage, Victor Turner, Instructor Relationship Characteristic