Anthropologist Victor Turner made a huge contribution to anthropology by reintroducing the concept of "liminality" into the anthropological discourse. Turner was concerned with understanding cultures on the basis of dynamism and disorder, seeing society not as a "thing" but rather as a dynamic and dialectic process. Tuner conceptualized culture as a constant struggle between structure and anti-structure. Turner's work on liminalty draws from Van-Gennep's triadic model of the Rite of Passage, which he elaborates to include other cultural phenomena. Van Gennep described the process of shifting from one social status to another in three stages: 1. The luminal stage in which the individual is secluded from society and is under constant supervision.
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From the s through the early s, the classic structural functionalist view of rites of passage was challenged and revised. The charge was led by the British anthropologist Victor Turner, who acknowledged the contribution of structural functionalism to the study of rites of passage and of the broader category of ritual while pointing out its limitations.
In his study of African rites of passage, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure , Turner revealed the drama and flux of everyday social life and highlighted the agency of rites in effecting social change , which he considered to be their fundamental role. Rites enable participants to experiment with alternative social relations or to invent new ones. Participants in rites of passage may also engage in role reversal. Among the Ndembu people of Zimbabwe, for example, the crown-elect takes on the role of a commoner.
Turner understood ritual and social structure to stand in a dialectical relationship. Ritual, including rites of passage, emerges in response to structure and its limitations. Structure has the positive quality of organizing a society so it can meet its material needs, yet it also draws distinctions between human beings.
Although structure is a basic human need, according to Turner, so are directness and equality. Turner supported this thesis with another example from his study of the rite of passage for newly elected Ndembu kings.
The rite in which the crown-elect, en route to his elevation as king, assumes the role of a commoner includes ritual humiliation. He is stripped of his royal stature and given lowly status before he is exalted. Humiliation serves to remind the future king that his office is designed to serve the people and their common needs rather than his own self-interest. The social and ritual authorities who are concerned with maintaining the status quo often attempt to control rites of passage, which proscribe social statuses and identities in the face of changes and crises that may alter or challenge the standing social order.
Many scholars who emphasized the functional significance of rites of passage tended to reduce them—and religion in general—to their social utility; others gave primacy to it. These reductionist approaches, according to some critics, often minimized or ignored the significance of the symbolic content of religious rites of passage and of religion itself. The development of religious studies as an academic discipline in the early 20th century helped to draw attention to the existential and philosophical significance of religious beliefs and symbols for adherents of religions.
Scholars of religious studies have emphasized the symbolic content of religious rites while examining belief systems and other symbolic dimensions in historical and social contexts. These scholars of religion approach religious belief and experience as phenomena that have significance and are worthy of study in their own right. In their attempt to understand religion from the point of view of practitioners, some scholars have undergone ritual initiation into the religious community or group that is the subject of their study.
Some contemporary scholars of religion have attempted to reinvent rites of passage for the many individuals who feel that the established religions of their societies do not address their needs. The American ritual theorist Ronald Grimes, who founded the interdisciplinary field of ritual studies, has attempted to transcend detached scientific analysis by encouraging individuals to cultivate rites of passage and other rituals that would address existential crises in their own lives and enable them to discover personal meaning.
Grimes created new rites for his own life and encouraged his university students to do the same; most reported that the new rites were more effective than traditional rites in helping them come to terms with life-changing events. Rite of passage. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback.
Introduction Nature and significance Classification of rites Life-cycle ceremonies Ceremonies of social transformation Ceremonies of religious transformation Other ceremonies Symbolic aspects of ceremonies A representative example Primary rites of passage Birth rites Initiation rites Marriage rites Death rites Theoretical perspectives Structural functionalism Victor Turner and anti-structure Later theories.
Load Previous Page. Victor Turner and anti-structure From the s through the early s, the classic structural functionalist view of rites of passage was challenged and revised. Bobby C. Alexander Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The samskara s are transitional rites intended to prepare a person for a certain event or for the next stage in life by removing taints sins or by generating fresh qualities.
If the blemishes incurred in this or a previous life are not…. Admission to the sangha involves two distinct acts: pabbajja lower ordination , which consists of renunciation of secular life and acceptance of monastic life as a novice, and …. Most of the objects noted above have played or still play a role in rites of passage.
Such objects play a secondary role in all such rites, which include rites of initiation, marriage, and death. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! Email address. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice.
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Turner, Liminality and Communitas
The concept of liminality was first developed in the early twentieth century by folklorist Arnold van Gennep and later taken up by Victor Turner. Van Gennep, who coined the term liminality, published in his Rites de Passage , a work that explores and develops the concept of liminality in the context of rites in small-scale societies. He distinguished between those that result in a change of status for an individual or social group, and those that signify transitions in the passage of time. In doing so, he placed a particular emphasis on rites of passage , and claimed that "such rituals marking, helping, or celebrating individual or collective passages through the cycle of life or of nature exist in every culture, and share a specific three-fold sequential structure". This three-fold structure, as established by van Gennep, is made up of the following components: . Turner confirmed his nomenclature for 'the three phases of passage from one culturally defined state or status to another
From the s through the early s, the classic structural functionalist view of rites of passage was challenged and revised. The charge was led by the British anthropologist Victor Turner, who acknowledged the contribution of structural functionalism to the study of rites of passage and of the broader category of ritual while pointing out its limitations. In his study of African rites of passage, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure , Turner revealed the drama and flux of everyday social life and highlighted the agency of rites in effecting social change , which he considered to be their fundamental role. Rites enable participants to experiment with alternative social relations or to invent new ones. Participants in rites of passage may also engage in role reversal. Among the Ndembu people of Zimbabwe, for example, the crown-elect takes on the role of a commoner. Turner understood ritual and social structure to stand in a dialectical relationship.
About: What is Liminality?
Victor Turner. Barbara A. Babcock, ed. New Mexico. Symbol and Conquest: Public Ritual.