I thought the “Wedding as symbolic struggle” lecture last Friday was quite interesting.  I honestly hadn’t thought a whole lot before about everything that goes into wedding ceremonies, the different meanings they have, and the potential issues they create. It is meant to be a very important day for two people, but I imagine that it’s rarely a picture-perfect event.

I was thinking some about how weddings in various cultures stress different aspects of the wedding. Some consider love and companionship to be the main reason to get married, some weddings are arranged marriages that sometimes happen before the couple even meets, some weddings are public/political statements, some are displays of wealth and power, some are in order to gain legal benefits, some are to legitimize having children, and the list goes on I suppose.

The Vassos Argyrou reading is interesting because he shows how traditional weddings are taking on more and more of the elements of modern westernized weddings, which is all the stuff we usually see in the movies. However, I think it is good to hear that cultures such as Cyprus are retaining at least some of their own traditions and meaning regarding weddings. Weddings are certainly a total social phenomenon, but I think its really cool to see how differently they are ritualized around the world.


Having just finished up the Week 8 reading by Julio Alves, “Transgressions and Transformations: Initiation Rites among Urban Portuguese Boys,” I thought it would make as good a blog topic as any. The study focuses on a unique example of rites of initiation found in the working-class communities of urban Portugal.  It is unique in that the young boys who participate have constructed these rites within their own peer groups and without any guidance or structuring from adults.

Alves describes how nine and ten year old boys perform daring and destructive rampages and then narrate their experiences to their peer group as a way of emerging into manhood. He draws a lot upon the work of Van Gennep and Turner relating to rites of passage and rites of initiation. The boys’ participation in rampages as well as their narrative accounts of it allowed them to increase their power and popularity within their peer group and provided them the opportunity to advance into manhood.

I am impressed at the depth of the analysis Alves undertook which included carefully tracing the verb usage and tone within the boys’ “rampage narratives.”  However I think it would have been interesting had he included more than the two participants whom he refers to in his article.  I found it to be a very interesting article though and an excellent study of a different sort of initiation ritual. It goes to show how such rites can take a variety of forms within different cultures.

After reading David Gilmore’s article and discussing Carnival rituals in class a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make it the topic for a research project for my other Anthropology paper I’m taking,  Resistance and Power. My plan is to focus on resistance and rebellion displayed publicly as rituals of role reversal using reference to the Carnival festivals of Europe and Brasil, Mardi Gras in the US, and maybe one or two other examples. I’m hoping there is enough anthropological research out there to engage in analysis of symbols of class struggle and other forms of resistance which are found and represented in public festivals like Carnival.

Gimore’s article poses a theoretical debate on whether these public ritual festivals are forms of resistance to structure and norms of a society or if they are actually disguised ways of reinforcing oppression. I’ll probably try to draw some more out of that discussion and then support one side or the other.

I’ve found a few good sources so far, other than the Gilmore and the other Carnival reading in the course reader, but if you guys have any other advice/suggestions/ideas I would really appreciate it!

I have had a great interest in the Classics ever since my first Latin class in middle school. During the lecture on Political Rituals yesterday, I kept thinking of an example pertaining to the Roman Empire. The Roman Triumph was perhaps the most sought after and honorable rite for a military commander, politician, or emperor to receive. It was a fairly rare military, religious, and political ritual, rolled into one huge public display of power. I think the politics behind the Triumph outweighed the militaristic and religious aspects of it. It’s main appeal for those to whom it was given, was the visible political power it produced.

Julius Caesar’s Triumph is amazingly portrayed in the HBO series ROME.  Here is the youtube link to Caesar’s Triumph.  There are almost too many symbols of wealth and power to count in just a minute and a half of this video.  Caesar’s bold actions (including this triumphal procession) increased his popularity amongst the Roman masses, but of course led to his downfall at the hands of politicians wishing to uphold the Republic.  But again, since the main point of a political ritual is to display or construct power, I think this is a great example.

So for my observation assignment I decided to observe the tendencies of people taking pictures/photographers down by the Wellington waterfront.  I enjoyed observing a variety of people who took photographs with and without people in their shots, and including different points of interest like the naked statue, the marina, the city center, and the harbour.

I attempted to approach the assignment not knowing or understanding what a camera was used for since the instructions said to not take anything for granted, and I thought that would be a cool way to do it.  However,  I’m not really sure I liked how the report turned out after taking that standpoint. I felt like I spent too much time trying to analyse what the camera was used for instead of the actions and reactions of the people I observed.  Oh well,  it was still a fun assignment and helpful for understanding the wide variety of rituals performed everyday.

For this blog, I thought it would be good to outline a few notes and thoughts from our lecture Tuesday morning on liminality and secular ritual.

-Formatting rites of passage as structure –> anti-structure –> structure, helped me grasp the concept of liminality better. A rite of passage ritual is meant to remove one from the typical setting of society during that liminal phase of action.  The most significant aspect of Turner’s process is coming out of the anti-structure stage back into structured society, but with a new and important status.

-Other characteristics of liminal phase: biological differences are erased (“sexlessness”), duration ranges from fleeting, extended and continuous, passing of knowledge significant to participating in society, and submissiveness

-I was suprised at the long list of similarities between secular and religious rituals which include: enforcement of social bonds, creating a sense of timelessness and tradition, they’re embedded in wider cultural systems, and they both enforce legitimacy of ideoligies

So yea, that’s what struck me as important and interesting from the last lecture.

This is my first time ever posting a blog and I wasn’t exactly sure what I should write about for it.

During our first couple of weeks of class,  I was reminded on a number of occasions of an article I’ve read previously for a couple of my Anthropology classes back at my home university in the USA.  I think it is quite relevant to this course in particular, and especially to how we should approach our upcoming report.  I hope that you all haven’t read it already and find it as interesting/entertaining as I do!

Here is a link to my favorite Anthropology article, written by Horace Miner about body rituals of the Nacirema. They are quite a fascinating group of people 🙂

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