Van Gennep’s Rite of Passage Theory

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Wittgenstein ( 1987, p. 14, Chapter I. Introduction ) set a big challenge for anthropology that has yet to be taken up. After reading the Golden Bough, he argues that Fraser made a important error by seeking to infer what things mean. He accused Fraser of non understanding that patterns signify nil but themselves, and that the extent of anthropology could be to specify and work out the practical construction of such undertakings. For the past 50 old ages or so, anthropology has mostly ignored Wittgenstein ‘s comments and has built an anthropology that privileges the perceiver.

It privileges the perceiver because it is merely the perceiver who can read into phenomenon their implicit in socio-cultural significance. It is exactly this kind of reifying reductionism that we find in Van Gennep ‘s ( 1909 ) theory of the rite of transition. Rites of transition present an resistless and hard focal point for the ethnographer: they are configurations of compacted significances removed from the procedure of mundane life. In the writer ‘s ain experience, they are besides some of the most frustrating things to analyze.

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Presented with so many unusual phenomenon, the ethnographer asks, what does this mask mean merely for your source to react with a shrug. This trouble of compacted significance may partially explicate why ethnographers are so speedy to disregard the phenomenon involved in a rite of transition in favor of reading it as a structural procedure. This trouble may besides explicate why, to the full one hundred old ages after it was published, Van Gennep ‘s Rites of Passage theory remains undisputed in the anthropological universe.That said, Van Gennep’s overall constructions has remained unusually adept at fiting up to all the rites people apply to it.

However, there should non be taken as a grade of its success. It one is to remember that the ‘success ‘ of Evans-Pritchards structural-functionalism ( Kuper: 1988, pp. 190-210, Chapter 10 Descent Theory: A Phoenix from the Ashes ) , was more based on the gustatory sensations and cultural paradigms of anthropologists than it was on its correspondence to any ethnographic world.This essay will reason that Van Gennep ‘s phases of rites of transition do so cling to many rites, nevertheless, like Turner ‘s strategies ( 1995 ) , these phases do little to explicate to us the significance of ritual.

In order to make so, this essay will reason, it is necessary to turn to how the phenomenologically experient world of ritual constitutes the societal world of a ritual. To do this statement this essay will concentrate on three rites of transition: Gallic matrimony ritual in Auvergne ( Reed-Dahany: 1996 ) , Yaka mending rites in Zaire ( Devisch: 1998, 1996 ) and refugee experience in Tanzania ( Malikki: 1995 ) .The last illustration proves the most hard for Van Gennep ‘s theory: because though it corresponds to his phases, nil about the experience of refugees would match to the socially stiff classs Van Gennep claims are cardinal to rites of transition. From this illustration, this essay will reason to understand rites of transition we need to see more to the full the relationship of time-out-of-time in civilization.

For until we confront the inquiry of what allows a certain unit of clip to be taken out of the experience of the mundane, we will be no closer to understanding how rites of transition trade with other senses of time-out-of-time. Van Gennep ( 1909, Chapter I The Classification of Rites ) attempts to show a there is a cosmopolitan construction underlying all rites of transition. While there might be physiological, factors involved ( e. g. coming to puberty ) the mechanisms that determined the rites of transition are ever societal, and these societal buildings display a cross-cultural similarity.

Rituals and ceremonials in Van Gennep’s strategy serve the map of vouching one ‘s way through liminal transitory classs as one passes through the phases of separation, passage and reincorporation that he claims are present in all phases of rites of transition. What we can observe about this theoretical account already is that the ritual serves the intent of a unit of causing in a socially determinist theoretical account of society: there is a social demand that ritual fulfils.Because of this functional theoretical account, we are none the wiser as to how a society determines the exact elements of a ritual, or how people experience the rite.

Van Gennep ‘s attack is based on a socially functional theoretical account: though he is far more inclined to acknowledge the power of the person in the societal signifier sui generis than is Durkheim ( Zumwalt: 1982:304 ) . That said, he still claims ( Van Gennep, 1909, p. 72, Chapter Six Initiation Rites ) that in mutilation: the maimed person is removed from the mass of common humanity by a rite of separation which automatically incorporates him into the defined group.His accent here is on the societal terminal procedure: as if it could someway be separated from the phenomenological experience of the hurting.

Therefore, the procedure of scarification that marks many induction rites is simply placed as portion of the logic of societal coherence: followers such a form, it is difficult to explicate the whipping and panic that frequently accompanies induction rites. Indeed, it ignores the cardinal challenge Merleau-Ponty ( 1962, p. 15, Part I The Body, Chapter III The Spatiality of One ‘s ain Body and Motility ) posed when he asked: How can we understand person else without giving him to our logic or it to him? The sphere of phenomenology is closely linked to that of ritual.

Jackson ( 1996, p. 3, Chapter I Introduction ) characterises phenomenology as a undertaking designed to understand being-in-the-world. This effort to understand how inter-subjective experience is constituted is a possible reply to the inquiry Merleau-Ponty airss above how does one understand the other.Characteristically, phenomenology efforts to reply this undertaking by non favoring one sphere of experience or cognition, as none of them can embrace the entirety of the lived experience. Alternatively, it is an probe into ( Ricoeur, 1979, p.

127, Chapter IV The Structure of Experience ) the constructions of experience which proceed connected look in linguistic communication. This is what Merleau-Ponty would name the preobjective. This apprehension of the importance of constructions that escape lingual formalization has besides been portion of the accent of the survey of ritual in anthropology.In Levi-Strauss ‘ ( 1965, pp.

167-186, Chapter Nine The Sorcerer and His Magic ) authoritative scrutiny of north American healing magicians he emphasises how the experience of the healing takes topographic point between the three of patient, magician, and societal organic structure. He besides emphasises the importance in this relationship of the centripetal experience of the magician. However, despite this accent, he is set abouting his analysis from a recorded text, and his accent is on the structural coherence black magic provides instead than its corporal experience.He writes ( ibid: 181 ) : In a existence which it [ the societal organic structure ] strives to understand but whose kineticss it can non to the full command, normal thought continually seeks the significance of things which refuse to uncover their significance.

Alleged pathological idea, on the other manus, overflows with emotional readings and overtones, in order to supplement an otherwise lacking world. The centripetal experience of the ritual as understood by Levi-Strauss is constituted as a means-end relationship to acquire to the coveted end, the averment of the cosmogonic integrity of the societal organic structure.Here we can see the same form of premises about bodily intending we noted earlier in Van Gennep. This accent, a bequest of Durkheim, characteristically means that repeat, frequently the component of ritual that constitutes its definition, is overlooked as window-dressing to the fabulous ‘meat ‘ of the ceremonial which is that which can be vocalised ( and therefore objectified ) .

This bequest can besides be found in the two anthropologists whose composing about myth has defined the field, Van Gennep and Turner ( 1986, 1995 ) .In Van Gennep, cardinal to his impression of ritual as a rite of transition is a sacred-profane dualism, which is besides kept in Turner ‘s strategy, though he besides includes the impression of the fringy or liminal. In this differentiation we can see that both theoreticians merely cover with the relationship between the sacred and profane in footings of societal construction and neglect to cover with these elements interpenetrate in mundane lived world.In a sense, their differentiation is similar to that made by Mauss ( 1993, p.

12, Chapter I The Exchange of Gifts and the Duty to Reciprocate ) when understanding the gift. Mauss claims that the individual for whom the forfeit is performed enters the sphere of the sacred and so rejoins the profane universe, which is separate from the sacred, though conditioned by it. For Turner ‘s early work, and for Van Gennep, rite is the heightened activity in which the sacred-profane universes are mediated between.What is advantageous about these attacks is that they identify ritual as the state of affairs or play par excellence, as an administration of pattern constructed and defined by participants and it is a pattern in which the participants confront the experiential conditions of their being.

However, there are jobs with Turner and Van Gennep’s attacks which parallel that of Levi-Strauss ‘ .In both instances, the accent is on the formal integrity of the societal universe. Kapferer ( 1997, pp. 5-61, Chapter II: Supreme beings of Protection, Demons of Destruction: Sorcery and Modernity.

The Transmutation of Suniyama: Difference and Repetition ) illustrates some of these jobs when analyzing the Sri Lankan suniyama, or dispossessions. While he agrees with Turner that the suniyama constitute their ain space-time, he besides makes clear the extent to which they borrow from mundane life. Rather than seeing declaration and integrity in the suniyama, he notes that the reactualisation of the ordinary universe amid the virtuality of the rite is a minute of intense anxiousness.In the events of the chedana vidiya, the tenseness, he argues, is non merely about the destructive forces of the devil but besides about the re-emergence of the victim in the ordered universe.

One can see in the suniyama that the lived universe is non reducible to classs, despite the efforts at structuration. It is an first-class illustration of what Jackson ( 1989, p. 5, Chapter I Paths Towards a Clearing ) calls adult males ‘ fury for order, and at the same time trespass of that order coupled with an consciousness that the order is ever exceeded by the lived universe.Kapferer refuses to force Manichaean or triadic theoretical accounts onto the Sri Lankan suniyama, and argue for it being a uninterrupted procedure orientated at the damages of societal action.

One of the ways this uncertainness the fury for order and its ambiguity or frailty is manifested is in centripetal experience. It is here that the Durkheimean undertaking is unable to supply a satisfactory analytical model and where phenomenology can supply some enlightening lines of enquiry.None of these lines of enquiry are pursued by Reed-Dahany ( 1996 ) , who illustrates the extent to which Van Gennep can be utilized, and besides the extent to which Van Gennep ‘s strategy laminitiss in its constructionist theoretical account, in her analysis of matrimony pattern in Auvergne. She notes that ( ibid: 750 ) in the early forenoon after a nuptials, a group of single young persons burst into the room to which the bride and groom have retired for the dark and show them with a chamber pot incorporating bubbly and cocoa.

The young person and the freshly wed twosome so consume the cocoa and bubbly together.The participants describe is as something which appears disgusting, and yet really tastes truly good. Reed-Dahany utilises Bourdieu ‘s work on gustatory sensation to demo how this reversal of the established businessperson order at the same time parodies matrimony and businessperson gustatory sensation. Like the illustrations we see in Turner ‘s work, the sacred rite of matrimony here is associated with the inversion of established significances merely for these significances to be of all time more forcefully reinserted after the period of liminal disaggregation.

We can see how such a ritual tantrums Van Gennep ‘s strategy really good: the twosome are segregated from society ( both from each other earlier matrimony, and so from society the honeymoon afterwards ) before being reaggregated. Therefore, Reed-Dahany has no job in understanding the rite of La rotie as a rite of reincorporation in the sense Turner had meant it. Through the partaking of nutrient with the unwed they are allowed to re-enter society, the wet-substance consumed standing in for fruitfulness.Indeed, as Reed-Dahany notes ( ibid: 752 ) Van Gennep himself had commented on these rites in his work on common people imposts in rural France and had pursued much the same decision.

Yet what Reed-Dahany notes is that the focal point for the people involved in the rite are the scatological mention implicit in the ritual: these elements of lampoon of businessperson society that take topographic point at the degree of bodily practices are left unexplained by Van Gennep ‘s strategy, in which any set of symbols is replaceable with another every bit long as they have the same societal intent.This is why Van Gennep has great jobs explicating rites of transition that are non formal. Yet, it is non the instance that rites of transition and other temporal markers must be institutionalised. As Malikki ( 1995, p.

241, Chapter Six Cosmological Order of Nations ) notes: historical consciousness is lodged within unstable inadvertent procedures that are situated and implicated in the lived events and local procedures of the mundane. In her work, Malikki looks at the creative activity of a mythico-history among Hutu refugees who fled the mass violent death of 1972 in Burundi for Tanzania fifteen old ages ago.She contrasts two groups ; the first, populating in an urban environment, deploy their ethnicity and history merely seldom, situationally and relationally, and attempt non to lodge out. In contrast, at the refugee cantonment, the dwellers were continually engaged in animating their fatherland.

Malikki ( ibid: p. 3, Introduction An Ethnography of Displacement in the National order of Things ) notes: The cantonment refugees saw themselves as a state in expatriate, and defined expatriate, in bend, as a moral flight of tests and trials that would finally authorise them to repossess, or animate anew, the fatherland in Burundi.One of the noticeable elements in this building of a mythico-history is the manner in which it internalised exterior classs, and so subverted them. For case, Malikki draws attending to the manner in the powerful discourse of inter-nationalism, refugees are in an equivocal infinite, peculiarly fouling, between national boundaries.

Malikki uses the work of Van Gennep and Turner to understand how the Hutu refugees in the cantonment had turned this liminal infinite into a test of separation, which would authorise them to return.The narrations that people told Malikki were improbably standardised, they functioned, as Malikki notes, as moral lessons, that represented ( ibid: p. 54, Chapter Two The Mythico History ) a insurgent rewording and reinterpretation of [ events ] it in basically moral ways. In Malikki ‘s work, we can see that rites of transition can be lodged in inadvertent procedures and contingent historical events.

Even here, they seem to suit the classs of Van Gennep ‘s categorization. However, one notes that nil about these categorizations explains the manner these forms were so sedimented into a rite of transition that structured and organized pattern.She notes that one of the cardinal minutes in this history is when the refugees arrive across the boundary line in Tanzania, and are able to run into other refugees from Burundi ( at that place appeared to be small widespread national connexions before so ibid: p. 103, Chapter Two The Mythico History ) .

Therefore, corporate effervescence of consciousness, which, as the narrative describes, allowed people to understand the concluding secret of the Tutsi ‘s, was non merely experienced verbally.The displacement of the societal order with pandemonium ( though an ordered pandemonium ) was accompanied by really physical procedures. The fright of chase, the bodily feeling of spasm and hungriness, the sight of cadavers on the route: all these were procedures that the refugees took great strivings to depict to Malikki. The refugees referred to this minute as one of disclosure, and this memory, which must hold in portion formed the societal bond that allowed for the creative activity of the mythico-history, was a soundless history of bodily experiencing and gesture every bit much as it was one verbalised.

If we develop Malikki ‘s apprehension of the similarity between rites of transition and the refugee experience somewhat, there is a parallel between the symbolic decease and metempsychosis in the liminal phase of separation in a rite of transition, usually accompanied by ritual action that provides the integrity of a shared painful experience, and the corporate hurting of that traversing into Tanzania in 1972. These phenomenological bodily experient worlds are non fringy to a group feeling of coherence: instead than societal facets of the rite of transition root from these soundless memories of bodily experience.We will now turn to an analysis of the rites of transition in the Yaka mending cults of Zaire. In contrast to the societal universe of the Yaka, which is patrilinear, femaleness, uterine descent and mediatory functions are cyclical and occupy a homocentric life-cycle ( Devisch: 1996, p.

96, The Cosmology of Life Transmission ) . It is within this contrast that the healing rites takes topographic point. The healing rites are non a aggregation or pity, instead, they are bodily and sensuous, they ( ibid: 95 ) purpose at liberating the novices destiny glade and heightening the lines of force in the wider weave of household.It is non merely in the enation that mending occurs nevertheless, for ( Devisch: 1998, p.

127, Chapter Six Treating the affect by remodelling the organic structure in a Yaka Healing Cult ) it is in the interplay of physical links and individualizing relationships a individual weaves through his female parents lineage with the uterine beginnings of life and the primary and fusional object that the Yaka civilizations in Kinshasa and south-west Congo localise the beginning of serious unwellness, frailty and lunacy.The ritual allows for the metempsychosis of the person, and occurs at the borders ( physical and cultural ) of the society. This re-sourcing of the organic structure is really basically centripetal. For case, in the period of privacy a immature Mbwoolu go organic structure doubles, and go an inscribed organic structure envelope that serves as his interface with the societal organic structure.

It is of import to observe there that the Yaka individuality is structured as an envelope and knot.Harmful things like larceny of black magic are associated with this knot being tied excessively tightly or slackly, inversion of normal bodily maps, such as flatulency or interjection outside of sexual intercourse can be understood as the knot being tied excessively tightly or gently. The individual in this sense is constructed inter-subjectively, distributing outwards in a myriad of exchanges and good formed knots. The transference to the Mbwoolu involves an enacted cosmology where the objects and the novice are covered with a ruddy paste.

Devisch notes that the impression of the individual in these ceremonials is to be found to be located at the skin degree, through a myriad of exchanges. At an early phase in the ritual, the novices and the Mbwoolu statuettes are floated in H2O, and this is the beginning of a procedure that continues throughout the ritual, as the novice ‘s tegument is turned indoors out. In this procedure, the unwellness is displaced onto the Mbwoolu, and his interiors become a receptacle for the power of the mending ritual.The statuettes become a societal tegument to be idealised, socialised and protected.

The importance of centripetal experience in the rite is besides in the minute where the maestro priest-doctor bites off the caput of a poulet and sprays the novices with its blood. Devisch ( ibid: 146 ) besides talks about the importance of the fusional soaking up in the beat and music, so ( ibid ) [ the ] tactile olfactory and audile contacts envelop, and are eventually interwoven into an progressively luxuriant vocalization, by the mirrored regard.By this Devisch is touching to the procedure by which the novice converts the primary fusional object into phenomena of designation by incorporation. In this procedure of integrating the statuette into themselves, all the senses are in usage.

What is notable and first-class in Devisch ‘s work is that while he does on occasion sink into statements about ‘trance-inducing music ‘ , she is clear to underscore that animal phenomenon are non portion of a means-end relationship to bring on the needed consequence, nor are they someway secondary to the ‘meaning ‘ of the ritual.Rather, he emphasises that the centripetal experience is in many respects, the ritual that the experience of being covered in ruddy clay and submerged in H2O and holding your tegument reversed can non be separated from the transference of your unwellness to the statues. What Mauss ( 1993, p. 2, Chapter I The Exchange of Gifts and the Duty to Reciprocate ) was right to underscore when he claimed forfeit was a entire societal fact was that inquiries of forfeit are inquiries of Being first and foremost.

They occupy a topographic point were the societal universe is made and refashion. In Devisch, what is understood to represent the cardinal facets of the Yaka healing cult are centripetal experience. This is really different to the apprehension laid out by Van Gennep and Turner. For while Devisch makes clear that in the Yaka healing cult one is separated from society pending one ‘s reincorporation, he does non let the socially functional account to befog what the ceremonial might intend.

One can see the difference if we contrast Turner ‘s work to Devisch ‘s. For Turner, the performative and centripetal facets of mending map at its normative pole, the pole at which ritual healing is a declaration of societal and emotional struggle. The power of dominant symbols, for Turner, derived from their capacity to distill structural or moral norms the eidetic pole and blend them with physiological and centripetal phenomena and processes – the oretic pole. In Turner, the oretic pole, where emotional and bodily practice is centred, is a given.

For Devisch, this given in Turner ‘s work is a critical job, for it prevents his apprehension that the footing of creativeness in ritual ( 1993, p. 37, 1. 6 Body and Weave: A Semantic-Praxilogical Approach ) is to be sought non in liminality but in the organic structure seen as a surface upon which the group and the life-world is inscribed. We have seen in three rites how Van Gennep ‘s categorization superficially fits the form of behavior.

However, like in the work of Victor Turner, we have seen that Van Gennep can non explicate the item of rites of transition utilizing his system of categorization.In his system, the inside informations of a ceremonial become fringy, whereas for the practioners they are cardinal. To explicate such inside informations we need to prosecute a phenomenologically informed anthropology such as that which Devisch patterns. For if a rites of transition is a chiefly embodied experience, so the organic structure can non merely be a receptacle for societal value instead, one would reason, it can besides be a productive motion, both of significance and of experience;

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