Rites of passage incorporate any kind of change of status in the society, ranging from the social to physical ones. They may include an attaining a social status, for instance, becoming an adult after being a child. It can also take the form of pledging a fraternity, brotherhood or becoming a nun. The change may refer to the place, social position, condition or even the age. This paper will summarize the prominent points expressed in Kottaks piece of passage rites and will provide their illustrative description in contemporary America. American anthropologist Conrad Phillip Kottak has studied the rites of passage in a variety of societies. He concluded that such phenomenon as vision quests of certain North American populations exemplify the ceremonial events found around the world.
Boys temporarily separated themselves from the society norms as part of a transition from a boyhood to manhood. They withdrew into the wilderness where they learned how to take care of themselves. This isolation offered the boys an opportunity to try drugs as well (Bell, 2003). These activities made them acquire a vision that became the guiding spirit throughout their entire life. Consequently, the solitude transformed them into responsible persons that were recognized as adults at the moment they rejoined their families.
Research of Problem
Cross-examination of data collected by Arnold van Gennep provides a general idea that all the passage rites have three stages. They include separation, liminality and aggregation (Kottak, 1982). The first stage separation is about the detachment of the persons who leave the original place of living or the group.
The second one - aggregation - means the recent entry of the persons who have completed the rites of passage in the society. British anthropologist Victor Turner has focused on the period referred to as margin, indicating the time after the persons quit the one part or condition of passage but have not yet started the next one(Kottak, 1982).
Gennep called it limen that means the in-between era, but Turner used luminal for limen. He made the identification of general liminality attributes analyzing the information collected from some societies. According to his views, liminal persons occupy social positions said to be ambiguous. This is because they never belong to either groups before or after the activities associated with these ceremonial events.
It is crucial to note that persons have to be a part of the next group, place or condition before they exit liminality. Exactly in this period such individuals do not take part in normal societal intercourse since they cannot act in either of the groups. Further Turner emphasizes that liminal periods are demarcated by contrasts with life norms. For instance, the Ndembu people of Zambia have a liminal period for persons who are to become the chiefs (Kottak, 1982). They have to undergo the rites of passage before taking an office. It was during the liminal period that the chiefs previous and next positions were reversed or ignored.
Nevertheless, passage rites, in contrast to chiefs in Ndembu, are collective issue. They involve groups of persons who are facing similar situations (Kottak, 1982). For instance, a circumcision among the boys is a group passage. Boys within a given age are isolated and separated from the normal society. They acquire several weeks training where they acquire some very valuable life skills. They also get the understanding about marriage, proper handling of families, and knowledge regarding their respective societies and how to respect the elders. That is all the information given to them is a part of their transition to manhood. Similarly, football players, soldiers at boot camps and fraternity initiates are considered to be important examples of group rites of passages.
All such persons have similar interests and expected to have a common way of life soon after the passage. The extensive training or acculturalization may refer to the ways of forming the characters expected by the fraternities or next groups (Kottak, 1982).
One more aspect that is worth noting regarding the collective liminality are the commutants. Such experiencing liminality at the same time characteristically forms a community of egalitarians. The social distinctions that had existed before or after have been forgotten temporally. They experience similar conditions and treatment. There can never be like a special treatment since there are expectations that all individuals in this group would consider to be a common denominator. There is a universal expectation that they have to behave alike.
They are subject to similar conditions of training and hardships. Liminality is marked symbolically or ritually via frequent behavior reversals. For instance, those who become nuns have to keep a vow of celibacy. They are never expected to engage in any form of sexual activity.
The boys who get circumcised should immediately abandon a childish behavior and games (Lodew et al., 2005). Married persons should always take responsibility and avoid things that may bring shame to their families. Religious sects surface in the application of liminal characteristics in setting themselves apart. Their aim is to differentiate themselves from what the collective societal members do. For instance, the requirements of becoming a member of such sects include humility, poverty, equality, sexual abstinence, and obedience. The aspects of events, settings, and persons get communicated via attributes of liminality that sets groups or sects apart are extraordinary. They happen outside a regular or normal space, and time.
Conclusively, Turner focuses on these social ritual functions, passage rites and their role in establishing permanent or temporary solidarity. The passage rites are performed differently in various societies. They are vital part of many cultures as they usher new members into various status. They also incorporate three stages: separation, luminal and aggregation which are equally important and interconnected. During the separation stage the persons are being isolated from the rest of the society. The next - luminal stage refers to the in-between period of time and marks the beginning of the next one. The last aggregation stage depicts the process of incorporation into new groups. All of them play a great role in peoples life.
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