It’s the final blog…

•June 3, 2009 • 1 Comment

With the final lecture today I thought I would upload my final blog for the course *tear*… I have really enjoyed Ritual and think that the blogging has been a really great means of connecting all the lectures, assignments and readings together. Has been a good way of making me look at life through the eyes of an anthropologist and finding links with the course work to both everyday and special/unique events. 

I’m glad the test is going to be on a wedding, because all of the readings about death/funeral rites/disposal were kinda getting a bit depressing 😉 And yay for being open book!!

Here is a little excerpt i found on line about marriage rituals… may or may not have general info you want to use for the test but thought I’d link it in case anyone was interested.

Good luck to all for the test and any other exams!

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Anthropology is everywhere

•May 26, 2009 • 3 Comments

The lecture today kinda made me think of two things. One – Susan Boyle. I don’t think anyone hasn’t seen clips of her on youtube or the news yet (if you haven’t here you go). Won’t go into too much detail cos it’s a bit off topic… Like Andre Hazes is ‘the people’s singer’, Susan Boyle can relate to anyone who is looked down upon for dreaming something big and daring to go for it despite what people say/think of her. I also think Susan’s story highlights the superficial features of ‘celebrity’, which could be a whole separate blog altogether!

The ‘death and disposal’ article also reminded me of when Princess Diana died. ‘The people’s princess’ and the events surrounding her death and funeral had such a strong public reaction that most people can probably remember what they were doing at the time – I know I can and I must have been about 10 or 11 years old! Being royalty also put a lot more focus on her, it was of more interest to the wider world than Andre Hazes, but there were similar aspects in both cases: the flowers, a public ceremony, television broadcast etc. It must have been really hard for her sons having to deal privately with their mothers death in the spotlight of the public. I found this short summary of events and there are many parallels that can drawn between Hazes and Diana. Her death impacted on the whole society – shops were shut, banks and entertainment venues closed, and counsellors even reported that people were coming to them grieving as if Diana was part of their own family. Interesting example of the private/public connection in the rituals of death, disposal and funeral rites.

In Anth310 we were told that it would be a worthwhile task to try and see everything through the eyes of an anthropologist for a month, noting down things in a journal. Doing these papers have done this to me anyway – just about everyday something anthropology related pops up that can be linked to lectures/assignments/readings…anthropology is everywhere! It’s cool though, makes you think. Hopefully this comes in use for the test next week, eeek!

Happy studying everyone, hope it’s going well!

Weddings of the 1930’s

•May 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Weddings of the 1930’s was an interesting read… especially since everyone around me seems to be getting engaged at the moment, making weddings a hot topic 🙂

The generosity factor is something I think is still found in weddings today. Features of the wedding, eg. flowers, reception etc are something that are marvelled over if they are particularly extravegent, and this is seen in a lot of the society weddings of high profile couples/celebrities etc. It seems the competitive aspect is still active, things like the cost, the size/value of the ring, honeymoon location are all mentioned in magazines covering such events. Lots of people I know are taking out personal loans to be able to have the wedding of their dreams, but I just wonder how much of it is actually what they ‘want’ or what society has made them believe they want/think they ought to have…

There seems to be a sort of ‘no expense spared’ mentality, you only have one wedding (well, that’s the intention anyway) so the couple and their families want the day to be as special as possible. Sort of related to this, I read an article about NZ girls and their first school ball the other day which was talking about how the recession has affected how much people spend on it. And they had a break down of one girls budgets which was over $1000… and how she was going to be forced by her parents to (shock horror) reuse jewellery and shoes she already owned for this years one (the spray tan was still allowed tho ;))… in thinking back to my school balls I can totally identify with this. Girls would be talking about their dresses weeks in advance and where you were getting them from (chain stores were a no no) etc, and although this is on a much smaller scale than a wedding it still shows the importance that wealth (or expression of wealth) has in our society, even among the young.

This article was also a really good example of liminality and the rites of separation. It showed clearly too, the roles of men and women in society at the time (eg. where the women were segregated from the singing and dancing to show their ‘passive femininity’ p67), don’t see that happening in the modern wedding! We have a more developed idea of the private (we don’t have a ‘mattress ceremony’ nor do we really mind whether or not the bride is a virgin). Still, the idea of weddings being public rituals is very relevant today, we are interested in what other people do, especially in high profile cases (eg. Christine Rankin) – people feel that they have the right to pass judgement because of the public nature of the event.

Initiation Rites

•May 12, 2009 • 2 Comments

Kinda relieved that the Anzac assignment is out of the way now… but I really enjoyed writing it up. I got a lot out of it personally, even if the focus was about political ritual and the collective:) It was cool to go to the ceremony and think about the issues on a deeper level.

Initiation and Rites of Passage: to me this has always been a somewhat foreign idea. I thought that I didn’t have any, was always grateful for not having to go through some of the rites that some cultures have when mentioned in the news etc. Then when reading about the initiation rites among the Portuguese boys and seeing how they developed from a lack of adult-guided initiation I realised we do. In some ways those boys don’t seem unlike NZ boys at that age, my brothers get up to a bit of ‘rampaging’ now and again, though on a less destructive scale!

The reading by Morinis states that the rites of initiation have been argued to:
1. accomplish the transition from youth into adult status
2. express a statement of the importance of the individual to the group
3. release or channel the psychological stress of changing roles
4. ease the social stress of changing roles
5. contribute to the development of prized virtues like courage and forebearance
6. educate youths into the secrets and techniques of adulthood.

Thinking back to high school years I realised that there are heaps of self imposed initiation rites that many of us would experience… things like experimentation with alcohol/drugs/sex or the in-group/out-group drama we see played out. These actions may simultaneously express an individuals importance to their group, release psychological and social stress, show courage (being the ‘first’ to do something seemed to put people at a different level/make them ‘cooler’) and also information would be passed down from the older to the younger members in the group. I think it is really interesting that growing up has certain hurdles and stages that everyone must pass through regardless of where they are born and what their culture defines for them. Even at university, when people are officially classed as an ‘adult’ (we can drink/drive/vote/get married etc) there is a huge amount of juvenile behaviour observed, we go through some of the same initiation rites we have already experienced all over again. Perhaps because we do not have specified rites, there is nothing to specify (aside from age) when we have passed the transition stage?

And even if we did have these rites, who is to say that these children are grown up? It’s almost just a label – in the circumcision of an Arunta boy: “you have done well, you have not cried out (…) you are a proper man”… but is he? Is he mentally, emotionally, physically and socially equipped to be an adult? Or is it one step of many in the period of transition, thus an empty title?

I don’t think I could ever subject my children (or anyone, for that matter) to some of the painful initiation rites described in the readings, or those we have seen in the course so far, but it’s hard to say how I would react if I was raised in a culture for which this was the norm. After all – it’s incredibly easy for some of us to be swayed by the crowd, it is never easy to be the odd one out or to know that you are perceived as being ‘different’ to everyone else. Is the pain of some of these rites worth the positive rewards of the new social life it will bring? For many it appears to be so…

What are people’s thoughts about this?

Thoughts on this weeks reading

•April 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I found the May Day reading this week had a lot of contrasting ideas when compared to the ritual of ANZAC day in NZ. Aspects of the May Day parade can be seen as an artificial construction put upon the people by those in authority, with no authentic meaning in the lives of the communities that attend. ANZAC day, however, is very much about the personal meanings to the individuals who take part and the differences in the sequence of events highlights this.

I guess the main thing was the ideas that the parade and event as a whole portrayed (or tried to portray) under Communist rule: the structure of the event, the banners/flags and the patriotic emphasis, the attempt to showcase a ‘perfectly egalitarian society’ (despite the deliberate ordering of citizens by occupation), the length (6 hours anyone?!). Seemed to be a horribly constructed ritual with underlying intentions, and this is especially highlighted with the death of Stalin, and the consequent changes that this brought: a less structured event, more informal ‘celebratory’ feeling. This was also displayed in the festival that followed the parade; the two events seemed to have no connection – Mach points out the the parade was a routine, whereas the festival is simply a chance for people to enjoy themselves.

Then we have the ANZAC parade: while still structured and ordered (eg. the music, marching, speeches, prayer etc), it is each individuals choice to attend. The focus of the parade is similar in that we are ‘one’ society, united in our feelings about war and desire to remember the fallen, but the focus is not patriotic and we are not united for the sake of appearances or because the government enforces it upon us. The parade is structured for those in it (eg. the returned soldiers, family members, girl guides etc all have their positions) but the majority of the people there are observers rather than participants.

The official part of ANZAC day had quite an emphasis on the religious – where as the lack of representatives of the church in the may day parade is seen as conspicuous (religion is a private matter concerning only the individual) ANZAC has prayers/readings/hymns which all are invited to be a part of (whether they do or not is up to them).

The events following the parade also differ – the May day festivals are a chance to forget the parade and the festivities directly oppose the formality of it – but the ANZAC morning teas at various Marae’s and RSA’s are a somewhat sombre affair, there is certainly no partying!

Mach states that a common feature of state rituals is that in time of relative social peace they become routinized and that people are not aware of the ideological significance of their behaviour. In Stalin years – participation in the events was compulsary, whether you agreed with or even understood the ideology behind it or not. ANZAC is probably not a routine for most of NZ unless there is personal meaning involved – ie. there is no one to make you go, therefore you probably don’t attend unless you can identify with the ideals or have some personal links to the history of the war it represents. This is especially shown in the resurgence of young people choosing to attend in recent years.

If you managed to get to the end of this, I’m sorry I didn’t mean for it to be so long!! Have a great weekend everyone, hope all the assignments are going well! 🙂

ANZAC Link

•April 25, 2009 • 1 Comment

Just thought I would add one more to the list of links on peoples blogs…

This one is cool because it has a very brief rundown of the main ideas/symbols/associations of ANZAC and then a whole lot of additional links to other websites below (I recommend the history of poppy day on the RSA website!)

4am is very early!

•April 25, 2009 • 3 Comments

Who else froze?! I couldn’t feel my fingers by the end!! But found it to be such an incredible, moving experience. Just thought I would type up a copy of the ANZAC statement  in case anyone missed the dawn service today or didn’t grab a program… such powerful words…

The ANZAC Statement: The Vice-President of Wellington Returned Services Association

“At this hour on this day, ANZAC received its baptism of fire and became one of the immortal names in history. We who are gathered here think of the comrades who went out with us to battle but did not return. It is fitting that we should keep this dawn vigil together in rememberance and gratitude. We feel them still near us in the spirit. We wish to be worthy of their great sacrifice. Let us, therefore, once again dedicate ourselves to the service of the ideals for which they died. As the dawn is even now about to pierce the night, so let their memory inspire us to work for the coming of the new light in the dark places of the world.”

Having attended my first ever dawn service I was surprised at the number  of religious references made throughout the ceremony. You don’t hear it so much these days, yet there was prayer, the national anthem, hymns. I wonder if it is to do with the lack of ‘need’ in the Western world: we really can survive on our own, the world is at our fingertips,  we’re completely self sufficient, dependant on no one. Yet in times of trouble people often turn to something bigger than themselves, or draw comfort from knowing they don’t have to work it all out and that someone else is in control. Whatever religions/beliefs/opinions/attitudes  people have personally, it’s interesting to see how the public of NZ come together as one, and appear a united front (even though hardly anyone seemed to be singing no one objected to it being carried out). The formality of it all was also quite noticeable and somewhat foreign to me, probably because the most structured events I have been to is church services or high school assemblies.

From these vague thoughts I drew the inspiration for my second assignment. Leading up to ANZAC day I had been speaking with people about whether they would be attending a service today, and whether or not they would buy (or had bought) a poppy. What puzzled me is the people who were wearing poppies, but said that ANZAC had very little or no personal meaning to them at all. It seemed to me that the poppy served no other purpose than that of social desirability – almost everyone wears a poppy, therefore they feel to bad/guilty not, or they think that the overall cause is worth spending a couple of dollars but not worth dragging themselves out of bed before dawn to go because no one is forcing them to… Then compare it to political rituals where the leaders/governments do enforce rules and dictate behaviour (seen in almost every ritual we have studied – Korea, Poland, Germany etc) and the differences in the outcome and people’s overall attitudes towards the rituals. Haven’t quite worked it all out yet (any feedback would be awesome), but I really enjoyed the reactions I got from some people and found it a very interesting experience. Definately made me think more about ANZAC day than I have since back in primary school, and I think I have a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made and the long lasting effects the wars had on those both at the front and back at home. 

“We will remember them”.