Re: Rites of Passage

Robert Snower (
Thu, 15 Aug 1996 15:08:47 GMT

Shannon Adams <> wrote:

>Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax wrote:
>> Shannon Adams wrote:
>> > High School graduation. Initiation into frats. Signing of divorce papers.
>> > Funerals, just had to say it again ;) I guess another question is do these
>> > rituals have the same kind of mystical effect (this is coming from Victor
>> > Turner so don't flame me) and personal and religious affirmation of status
>> > (Eliade) that seem to be essential to these events.
>> > Can anyone see my biases yet ;)
>> No problem with having biases and being honest about them. Just be prepared
>> for testing against realities. Mysticism is a darned hard thing to put
>> a finger on, I will say, but if you approach hunter/gatherer and horticultural
>> societies as you might theology, you can develop a history of ideas about
>> a particular society. Sorting out the threads makes life very interesting
>> for the anthropologist. Have a good time! :)
>> > > Regards,
>> > >
>> > > Joel

>Maybe this isn't valid anymore;) but what I did was ask the native is it was
>a mystical experience (of course using native terms etc.) Most of them
>volunteered this information without my asking anyway. Isn't that the point
>of ethnography? To get as much of the native's point of view as possible?
>(prepare for a flame war;) I tend to have slight postmodernist leanings (OH
>NO! I admitted it) so I don't think to can escape the perceptions of the
>ethnographer (I guess I am a full blown postmodernist because I honestly
>feeling that NOTHING is objective). But there can be some communication of
>the native's perpective. And if the native sees it as a
>mystical/religious/life defining experience then it is a
>mystical/religious/life degining experience, right?

The native does not see it as a mystical/religious/life defining
experience. It just turns him on. A fix. He may invent some story,
just to give cachet to his fun. Like he read in the American Medical
Journal it would make his warts go away. It is just like when a
person looks at a work of art. It either turns him on, or it doesn't,
and the reason he gives is invariably irrelevant.

However, there ARE valid reasons. It is just that they are not easy
come. That's where pomo goes wrong.

Best wishes. R. Snower