Universitatea „Petre Andrei“ din Iaşi, Facultatea de Asistenţă Socială şi Sociologie ”Petre Andrei” University from Iassy, Faculty of Social Work and Sociology
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3-4 / 2011
Structure and anti-structure in rites of passage
The main objective of this paper is to underline the importance, in any rite of passage, of liminal stages, initially identified by the French anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep and then revisited by the well-known rite specialist Victor Turner. The paper focuses on the idea that people “on the edge”, i.e. threshold people, have ambiguous characteristics, that is, they are neither here nor there, belonging, in fact, to no world. Following the line of thought advanced by Turner, we are provided with two models of understanding human relations: the first is that of society as a system structured, differentiated and often ordered, on political-economical-legal positions; the second model, which can be identified in the liminal period, is that of society as an unstructured or poorly structured ensemble, named communitas. Bearing in mind the abovementioned models, I propose a schematic positioning of the people found in the liminal stage in the state of communitas. I believe that in the proposed model there are some elements of the sociological theory supported by Berger and Luckmann. Thus, we find the idea that every day reality (structure, in our case) keeps its supremacy, even when there are “leaps” to other social realities. Extrapolating, my conjecture is that, in its turn, structure is “superior”, because it is supposed that, when the liminal stage ends, individuals wish to return to a structured world.
Keywords: liminality, structure, anti-structure, communitas, alternations, ritual, rites
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