a203-11f-17-IdentityRitesOfPassage

One kind of practice that establishes identity is a

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- one kind of practice that establishes identity is a rite of passage : a ritual that marks and produces a change in an individual’s identity - (“rite” is an old-fashioned word for “ritual”; it is not related to “right”) - Examples of rites of passage
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Constructing identity… p. 7 - baptism: transition from virtually pre-human infant in the natural, pre-cultural state to human infant accepted by God and Church - high school graduation, university graduation: transition from student to educated adult - military boot camp: transition from nonviolent, independent-minded civilian to violent, obedient soldier - marriage: transition from independent youth to married adult with responsibilities towards another person and two families - funeral: transition from living person to memory - coming of age: The classic, prototypical kind of rite of passage: transition from childhood to adulthood - quinceñera, debutante’s ball, etc. - bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah - Jewish boys become responsible for following commandments at bar mitzvah at 13 - Jewish girls at bat mitzvah, age 12 - circumscision, as in Saitoti reading - fattening for marriage, as in Simmons reading - idealized pattern of rite of passage - 1. separation from previous identity - 2. transition - liminal state or liminality : state of being between states, right on the line, not in any of the normal categories - often a difficult or uncomfortable state, since the normal cultural rules apply to people in known identities, not to those who don’t fit into any identity - a person in a liminal state is not quite in society or this world - may be more able to experience the supernatural world, as in shamans - people in liminal states are often seen as dangerous, unclean, abnormal - 3. incorporation into the new identity - different rites of passage emphasize different parts of this idealized sequence - Rites of passage often (but not always) involve groups - shared experience of liminality can create strong bonds and group solidarity - membership in the group that was initiated together or underwent liminal experiences together becomes part of one’s identity - African age sets, college graduating classes, military units - Consider how the 3 stages work in some examples: - example: Maasai reading about Tepilit Ole Saitoti - how does this fit with the ideal pattern above? - does it work to create adult identity out of juvenile identity? - Note that a group of boys prepare and go through it together - membership in this group means an intense shared experience - membership in that particular group of initiates becomes a key part of their subsequent identity - preparation is separation from old identity - collecting feathers, wax, honey for beer, etc.
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Constructing identity… p. 8 - three days before, discards all his belongings and is shaved: more separation from previous identity - building tension is also separation, building into a liminal state - sister and others withdraw their support - recently circumcised warriors ritually ridicule him -
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