16. RITUAL AND POWER (4/05)
Often there is an assumption that whatever ritual does, it is for the good of society as a
whole. Goes with functionalism as form of analysis.
Often ritual romanticized.
For many New Agers, is spoken of in hushed tones: anything
ritual is good.
But we should be ready to see ritual that benefits one party more than others:
Kuna marriage ritual enjoyed by everyone, but reinforcing status quo, which most
benefits senior generation, part of way they dominate junior generation
Often relatively obvious with political rituals:
Elizabethan monarchy great spectacles of power
century, House of Windsor, masters of staging rituals, full-time specialists,
adapted to film and television
Nazis were masters.
Filmed, got great but unscrupulous filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, to
An example of an (unrecognized) contemporary ritual
We have reading from Erving Goffman, on procedures used to bring people into closed
institutions like prisons, monasteries, concentration camps etc. Part of great book,
Q. Why include this here?
The procedures G analyzes are really a form
of ritual, very close to traditional rites of passage, even though those administering the
procedures (except perhaps for religious orders) would probably deny that were a ritual.
Q. What actions strip you of previous identity?
Take away clothes, in many cases name.
Cut hair, important marker of your individuality.
Q. If as Turner says, in middle period one is stripped of all identity, how do we see that in
these procedures? Leave you naked. Do things that reduced you to lump of generic
humanity: depersonalizing photos, disinfect, weigh, fingerprint.
Q. Then how do they build up a new identity?
New name, clothes, etc.
Q. Why is all this so important for those who control total institutions? Because living in
them is such a change, so demanding; challenge to socialize and control inmates.
to do it fast and very forcefully. Obviously not to benefit the inmates but those in
Suggests that rites of passage may be more necessary in some situations than others, for