Anyone in the library? Thursday, Jun 4 2009 

Just randomly is anyone in the library and want to meet up to discuss the test??

Weddings Monday, Jun 1 2009 

I found the article on Cypriot weddings very interesting and informative about what a wedding represents other than the unification of two families. The fact it is used to legitimise and reproduce social divisions is certainly not something traditionally associated with such an occassion! Van Gennep’s idea that weddings are the most disruptive due to the fact they involve physical movements and the transfer of property. Also, they signify the symbolic transition of people from one social class to another, marking the transition from adolescene to social adulthood. I found the divisive element to weddings also very interesting, as they determine and fix the privileges of each group. Who was in control also seemed to be an important element of this. The development of such a ceremony here was also interesting, as such a complex ceremony arose.

It would seem that symbolic transition is the main purpose of a wedding and this mainly encompasses trasitioning into an adult, despite one’s age. 

I think the tradition of weddings is very interesting in that it is completely invented as a tradition – it is not legally necessary but is what is socially expected – the big white dress, flowers, champagne, celebration etc. and so it is continued to be done.

The Kobe Princess Palace Wedding Parlour article provided a very different idea of a wedding. Weddings have become far more commercialised, with everything being available under one roof and a large number of weddings being performed daily. This suggests that weddings have sort of lost their special feel and their uniqueness and are more of a mass production. There is certainly a contrast with NZ here, with weddings being held in a variety of places and in different manners. A cultural difference in the manner in which weddings are carried out is apparent here.

Initiation. Monday, Jun 1 2009 

So, going back into the readings a bit to the Initiation rites of the Portugese boys. I found it interesting that in the absence of anything formalised there is still a necessity to mark time passing and pay attention to the the fact they are growing up. That such events are recalled to the peer group emphasises the importance of a larger social group being aware of and involved in such an experience. Impressing your peers with your ‘manliness’ is obvious of great importance here, something seen across a large number of initations across a variety of cultures.

Thinking about van Gennep’s idea that from birth to death, human beings are positioned in various social states, I realised that this probably does make a lot of sense. Although he does mention this on a large scale, involving changes in social status, this can probably apply on a much smaller scale too. People of different ages, maturity levels etc. are all at different stages and although there may be no marker for such changes they are still very much something that we can recognise in ourselves and in those around us.

Rites of passage are ceremonies occuring at times of transition in an individual’s life. On a large scale, this includes things like baptism, wedding etc. Then I started to think about how we do such things on a smaller scale as well, whether it be things like drinking alcohol for the first time, first kiss, first boyfriend and so on that all mark us as growing up within our peer group even if these are not elaborate social rituals, but are definately important in the maturing of a modern teenager.

Turner found that rites of passage tend to reach their maximal expression in small scale societies, which are relatively stable and cyclical, where change is bound up with biological and meteorological rhythms and recurrences. In a society where constantly evolving technology seems to dictate what people believe in, these more static societies would seem to value traditional practices more. They are not seen as ‘outdated’ as can easily occur in societies where theories are constantly being tested, making it harder to keep faith.

Alan Morinis’ article on the connection between ordeal and initiation was interesting and made me think about the number of cultures in which this social transition involved a pain of some sort. He noted that there is no connection between these painful occurences and the pscyological goals and they would happen without this pain. I found the idea that the pain created an emotional connection interesting, especially that this was supposed to make him form a bond with those causing the pain. Hmm. I quite like the conclusion that pain is involved in ritual to prepare one to join a social universe in which whole persons who have not bent to some degree towards the collective will are unwelcome.

Assignment Sunday, May 10 2009 

In the end I just decided to look at the methods used to promote a feeling of unity amongst the people at the Dawn Service (not very original I know!). I decided on this because of the connection I myself felt with the other people there – I mean you all dragged yourselfves out of bed at 5am to come and respect those who have fought and died for NZ in wars around the world. Standing there in silence with so many other people is quite an experience. Aspects of the ceremony such as singing (although no one really did sing), silence, the poppy, a feeling of tradition, talk of what Anzac Day has come to represent and even the language used throughout the occasion (lots of ‘we’ and talk of sacrifice, rememberance, gratitude etc.) do promote unity. I found all this quite interesting really.

Hope all your assignments are going well!

Anzac. Sunday, May 3 2009 

Like I’m sure all of you did, I really really enjoyed getting up before the sun! I even amazingly managed to persuade some friends to come along! I had never been to a Dawn Service before and the thing that struck me was the almost eerie silence despite there being such a large group of people present. The extreme variety of people there was also very interesting, with such an age range present. The people that I attended with were a mixed bunch – different backgrounds, different races and different connections to ANZAC – and that this most certainly reflected across everyone there. It certainly feels although you are part of something when you gather in the morning darkness with other New Zealanders and does provoke feelings of national spirit and togetherness. There is certainly a difference between this event and Waitangi Day, and although there have been protests and such at ANZAC events, I definitely felt the event was more about national spirit and remembering the New Zealanders who died for our country. A part of the ceremony I thought was really nice was when all the veterans paraded past and the crowd clapped for them. It is definitely a day that everyone can feeli involved in by wearing a poppy, attending services or simply thinking about those who died and it is these different levels of involvement that make it relevant across New Zealand as a whole.  

Anyway, I’m a little bit stuck on exactly what I want to focus on for my assignment. I was thinking maybe symbolism and looking at the use of the poppy, flags, wreaths, positing of prominent officials and maybe even the use of uniforms.

Christmas in the Third Reich Sunday, May 3 2009 

The idea of such organisation going into these events is interesting. For most, Christmas is a time to do whatever family rituals you have but the idea of organising everyone into a national ritual was an interesting, but obviously effective, way of controlling and influencing people. Adding new holidays and creating new rituals appears to be another successful way to accomplish a goal, as well as being an extremely useful piece of the propaganda machine.

The breakdown of Christmas also shows the power that outside groups can pose for political parties. Such groups offer comforting and known rituals to people. Altering established rituals for the benefit of one hoping to use this to their advantage is something else very interesting.  The use of ritual to further political agenda is an interesting, but apparently very effective method.

Myth and Ritual Sunday, Apr 5 2009 

I discovered a new concept that myths spring from ritual, with myths being created to explain ceremonies whose origins have been long forgotten. A good example of this is the tale of the women of Lemnos, coming from Greek mythology. The story says that Aphrodite made the women smell bad, their husbands rejected them so the women killed them in revenge. An annual ritual was developed, with each year women separating themselves from the men for nine days, eating garlic and halting family life altogether. After nine days, a feast was held and life resumed as normal. It is clear to see the connection between the myth and ritual here and I thought the concept that myths were created to explain what people had just always done quite an interesting concept. The idea of liminality can also be seen in this tale, with normal life being completely turned upside down during this period. This concept sure does apply to a lot of different situations!

Mass Games Sunday, Apr 5 2009 

After seeing those videos of the mass games held in North Korea I had a look on good old wikipedia to see if there was anything interesting about them on here. I learnt that these events have been used post WWII in Marxist-Lenin countries and the themes of political propaganda here are used to demonstrate the strength, militarianism and unity of the country. Group dynamics are clearly emphasised, with the only individual standing out in any way being the leader.

I had a think about these ideas. Marxist-Lenin countries are commonly led by a dictator type figure. Dictators have a very different hold on power compared to democratically elected leaders. Elected individuals don’t have to flaunt their control and prosperity to the same extent – people voted them into the position and can vote them out if unhappy with their leadership. It is not the same for a dictator, so it is important for a dictator to reaffirm their power and such lavish public demonstrations are a useful way in which to do this. Such events show the leader in the midst of all this celebration and prosperity, something which is useful in securing one’s position within the country and also showing the rest of the world the prosperity of the country. Powerful western countries also typically frown on different types of leadership styles and this can be used as a means of showing these countries that countries run differently can flourish too. However, like Mary said, the interesting part of all this is that not many people outside of countries like North Korea actually see their demonstrations…..

Anth in Everyday Life Sunday, Mar 29 2009 

So, I was watching the new James Bond movie and a section at the beginning of the movie takes place at the Palio in Siena – I love it when things you learn in class pop up randomly!

Palio. Sunday, Mar 22 2009 

What I find interesting about the Palio is the idea that an outsider looking at the event would simply see it as a horse race around a town square. But, having done my readings, it’s easy to see that there is so much more than meets the eye. The fact that the race has been in existence for around 400 years and still holds such deep meaning for the people of Siena is fascinating in itself, as so many other old events are simply considered outdated or just forgotten. The fact that the event remains sacred and the involvement of the Virgin Mary is still a key feature is impressive, rather than just becoming an excuse for everyone to get really drunk.

The many layers of symbolism that would go unnoticed otherwise are really fascinating if you know to look for them: the horse as a female representation of a male dominated contrada, its association to the Madonna and the many male v. female symbols involved.

This event truly creates a change in the everyday/normal life of Siena and it is refreshing to see that the passion is not lost. The notion that an event which completely changes the roles of men and women and divides up the city is the way that the city regenerates itself each year is an interesting concept, but something that definately seems to be working here. Now I kinda want to go and see one of these races in Siena…

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