D-Day Commemoration

•June 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Today was the 65th anniversary of D-Day; the day the Allies began the invasion to take back Normandy in Northern France. This was the last anniversary that veterans will attend at many national war memorials around the world due to the dwindling number of veterans that remain. Participation in these political rituals by those who the ritual was ‘instigated’ for is ceasing because of the difficulties the veterans have in attending such services now, being that they are all in their 80’s and 90’s. In the news tonight however, like ANZAC day services there still appeared to be a substantial number of younger people at the national war memorial where the memorial service took place. The military and the veterans all turned out wearing their medals and recalling past memories much as they do on ANZAC day. Red roses were placed on the Tomb of the Unknown warrior and speeches were made. However, worldwide this commemorative ritual will be changed from this year onwards as the presence of veterans at the services will reduce dramatically as they no longer take on an official role in the service.

Marriages

•June 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Considering we have looked extensively over the last two weeks at wedding rituals in the modern Western world, I thought it might be interesting to contrast this with other cultures and their marriage rituals as well. The Nuer of East Africa view marriage and weddings as important rites of passage that everyone must go through. If a man dies and is unmarried, a woman will be found who will go through a marriage ceremony and ‘marry’ his ghost in what are called ‘ghost marriages’. These are said to occur almost as frequently as traditional marriages between a living male and female. When these types of marriages occur, a donor is found to provide the women with children and the children are socially recognised as belonging to the deceased man’s ‘ghost’ and not the biological father. The ghost marriages are very much socially accepted and are a common part of the Nuer culture, they are ‘legally binding’ within their societies. Western marriages and weddings require wedding licences that must be obtained before a wedding ceremony can take place. Within our society it would be impermissible to marry a deceased persons ‘ghost’, and no marriage would ever be considered binding if a wedding ceremony were to take place between a living person and a deceased persons ‘ghost’.

The Future of Ritual

•June 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The article on ‘the future of rituals’ provides what I feel is an important insight into the varying forms of rituals and the difficulty of analysing and defining rituals as they apply in different circumstances. Schechner contrasts the nature of rituals in the animal kingdom with rituals performed by human populations. Towards the beginning of the article he discusses the ‘dancing bee’, and what he is referring to is the way in which bees have been observed to move around the hive in certain synchronised routines, in semi-circles, at precise angles, and of precise distances. Through analyses of these routines it has been found that the dances the bee’s perform are the way in which bee’s communicate with one another. The dance is performed on angles in relation to the sun’s position and show other bees the direction of the food, the breadth of the semicircles they move in provide information about how much food is there, and the length of the lines they walk detail how far away the food is. The author argues that there is an innate evolutionary/biological need for humans and animals alike to have rituals and that they are a necessary part of the survival of both animals and humans. We perform rituals as a means of displaying and reaffirming our culture, we need rituals to survive.   

The author also questions whether rituals that act out scenes of violence make the society less violent overall for their ability to ‘tame’ the violence by reserving violent tendencies specifically for these rituals. I watched a documentary last night that followed a group of American men who were part of a real life fight club in which, once a fortnight they all got together and fought each other with their fists, weapons, and any items they could get their hands on. They claimed they did this to overcome the stress they had in their lives and their fears that if they didn’t release the violence they felt inside them they may end up lashing out at inappropriate times and hitting their bosses, co-workers, or their families. To prevent hurting others, the men perform or act out violent forms of aggression in a ritualised way that does not disrupt social order and values/expectations.

Tangi

•June 5, 2009 • 1 Comment

Now the test is over it is time to catch up on some of the other readings I managed to skip over during the past 12weeks.

I thought this article provided a really lovely glimpse into the Maori culture. It is nice to read that the arrival of Europeans did not have a huge impact on every aspect of the culture and that this long standing mourning ritual has endured where other cultural rituals have, over time accommodated due to the growing multiethnic nature of New Zealand as a nation. The Tangi still remains a significant symbol of cultural identity and provides a strong sense of cultural pride in a long standing tradition that has survived acculturation. It is an important ritual that simultaneously reaffirms Maori identity in the fact that it is entirely governed by Maori cultural desires and beliefs and there is no European influence into the ritual, unlike other areas of social life in which the arrival of Europeans necessarily led to the change in aspects of the Maori rituals. I really like how Sinclair discusses the pre-liminal, liminal and post-liminal phases of the Tangi, the gender roles, and the ideological beliefs surrounding the ritual. The author is very keen to emphasise the Tangi as a means of cultural distinction between Maori and Pakeha and to emphasise that many important aspects of Maori ideology and cultural history have survived the historical European efforts for the accommodation of Maori rituals.

Japanese weddings

•June 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’m finally getting time to catch up on the readings I missed and have just finished the Kobe Palace Japanese weddings which I found a very intriguing article. The whole concept of having everything required for the wedding under one roof is quite cool, from the dresses, the ceremony, the reception, flowers, jewellery store, make-up and hair studio, even the wedding gifts, where the couple simply have to select what they want from the options and they have an instant wedding planned. I think it is great that the Palace caters to different sectors by offering Buddhist ceremonies and Shinto ceremonies as well as traditional Japanese style or Western style weddings. The author does however portray the reality of how these weddings are very much ‘produced’ and ‘manufactured’ on a mass basis with such strict time schedules that allows for little individuality in weddings, as a result many of the weddings are identical and have very few aspects that are distinct to each couple. I think that while it is a great concept to have everything in the one area, and would definitely save a lot of time planning an elaborate wedding, and I imagine is much cheaper to do it this way. However, by having their weddings at Palaces such as this, the couples lose much say in the event and have little control in the wedding proceedings and their ‘special day’ is virtually identical to everyone else’s.

Queen’s Birthday

•May 30, 2009 • 2 Comments

Considering this is Queens Birthday weekend, I thought I would take a look at this political ritual. It is a ritual practiced every year since 1748 and yet means very little to New Zealanders other than the fact that we all get an extra day off work, and the Queens Honour Roll is presented. In New Zealand it is always celebrated in the first weekend of June giving the public the Monday off. In the UK however, it is usually celebrated on the first Saturday of June (despite this not being her real birthday), reasoning said to be that June weather is usually better than the weather when the monarchs birthday really is, which allows for a more public display and performance. In the UK ritual performances such as the Trooping of the Colours Parade attract huge crowds and it is televised around the world. The parade itself is a highly choreographed performance that is performed every year with the public now very aware of what is happening at different times and knows exactly what to expect. The Queen rides past the troops in a horse-drawn carriage to ‘inspect’ her troops which acts a symbol for her appreciation for them while gun salutes are sounded from the Tower of London as the public’s mark of respect for the Queen.

Andre Hazes

•May 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I found today’s lecture on Andre Hazes really insightful. I think it contrasted well with the reading on Bartok’s funeral we had in week 7. It is interesting to consider the ways in which Hazes was treated with such an elaborate funeral, the expansive media coverage and the number of people that attended the funeral and gatherings associated with it. As Brigitte mentioned, many fans of Hazes and his music were of the working class. He was a definite celebrity, but also seen as very much as ‘one of the people’. This is, to me an important distinction between the treatments of the death of Hazes as a ‘national icon’ in Holland, and of Bartok’s re-burial in Hungary. The media circus that surrounded Hazes funeral and the number of people who laid flowers for him and dressed as he did is indicative of the large following he had in Holland and the rest of the world. In contrast to this, when we consider Bartok’s re-burial in Hungary, the move was not primarily driven by the people’s desire to have his body back in Hungary, but was orchestrated by the government and those in high social and political powers. Susan Gal argues the re-burial “is best understood as an attempt by intellectuals speaking in support of a morally and organisationally weak state to make claim for much needed credibility by symbolically aligning the state with the figure of Bartok.” It was the people high up who saw the bringing home of Bartok as a way in which they could unite the nation over a national icon, whilst also portraying themselves in a positive light. Political desires dominated the motives  behind the elaborate funeral procession for Bartok, while a more pure desire to remember and celebrate the life of Hazes and remember him as ‘one of the people’ was enough motivation for the people of Holland to want to have an elaborate funeral for Hazes.