capital of liminal state & color of its license plates

Fri, 8 Apr 1994 22:12:32 EDT

has become secondary to, pretextual for, the collective, whatever that means
and pardon the Dukheimianism (but coming up with a substitute for "collective"
or "communal" guaranteed nonmisleading theoretically along with the
accompanying lingoware documentation is 300 lines minimum), participation
in The Ritual Process (Victor Turner, 1967) wherefor the rules of quotidian
*structure* are suspended, *antistructure* prevails whereby the lot of you,
me too, enter a state of mock equality stripping off hempen garments which,
cast into the fire, heighten the altered state of consciousness, *communitas*,
and you, we, perform the rite which I envision as gender-indiscriminate mud
wrestling which, I should hope, is followed by something comparably delightful
to what the Ndembu do after the rivalrous chanting of the merits of each
gender's genitalia. No such luck; it didn't occur to the Ndembu that they
had dirty minds any more than it occurred to the fifteenth-century peasants
celebrating Hock Day that they were committing bondage, which is perverted.

Such is the character of *liminality* or the *liminal state*. Which is
associated with great religious festivals and with revolutions, the two
greatest "highs" known to humanity. Either the sap is rising because it's
the season for fertility rites which, in this Protestantized culture must
be called "the silly season" forasmuch as it cannot be overtly recognized
for what it is. ("In spring the male social scientist's fancy lightly turns
to ideation of sexist objectification; wherefore as penance he intones: I
must Deal With my sexism." - Daniel A. Foss; cited by permission.) Eostre,
whose [pagan Anglo-Saxon] name was stolen by the Church for the holiday
celebrated last Sunday, was a sex goddess, younger and prettier than Freya,
as in Friday, or Frigg, as in [deleted].
Those of you who have witnessed fertility rites you dared not describe
in books for the general reader, including Mike Lieber, who saved it for
his conference paper, "Confessions of a Retrogrouch," should have been onto
what was going on immediately, but nativized instead. Including Mike Lieber;
who can blame him; I would have loved to have mudwrestled naked with Stephanie
J. Nelson, who does indeed write like a beautiful woman. But what of all the
other anthropological womanhood left ungrappled-with? I felt called upon to
drop a [e-]line, on strictly religious-textual matters, to a woman who does
write a tad inhibitedly, but might surprisingly turn into a tiger in the
mud tank, I'll never know.

The only other possibility is the weird ambience which prevails in the
immediate antecedents of a revolutionary situation (the latter usage, peculiar
to Marxists and the CIA, as in "Iran is not now in a revolutionary or even
a pre-revolutionary situation," August 1978, has been preserved for social-
science Eternity by Charles Tilly, in his latest book, European Revolutions:
1492-1992). I remind you of the newspaper headline the day before the Revolu-
tion of 1848 broke out: "FRANCE IS BORED!" There soon follows a period of
fully-fledged *revolutionary liminality* characterized by the *forcible
imposition of antistructure* on the ruling elite's supporters, along with
the corresponding mood of *revolutionary communitas*, as in "liberte, egalite,
fraternite," or in 1968, "The more I make revolution, the more I make love;
the more I make love, the more I make revolution." Closer to home, "An army
of lovers cannot lose." (The orgiastic can readily be inverted into the
abstemious, as in the English Revolution and Commonwealth, 1640-1660.)

Along those lines, I replied to a letter from Tracy Brown, who'd taken
my earlier postings as a personal insult and a caricature of feminism, by
stating that what was contrived to look like a caricature was taken from
the consensus of radical feminist theorists, that I fully believed it, and
that in the event of Upheaval what is now extremist rot will become part of
the new hegemonic discourse as is typical of the social and cultural processes
of social-movement intensification or such as are known to history. Further,
I said that, should Upheaval be in the offing, with my periodicity theory
now become fashionable without my intervention thanks to someone in the Ivy
League (Sidney Tarrow, Cycles of Social Protest, Cornell, 1989). The Magic
Number on everyone's lips, 30 years, is not too far wrong from my own Magic
Number, 31 years, chosen because 31 looks more Scientific than the round 30
and, besides, is Prime.), she deserved a medal by reason that, "someone had
to be Point Woman," and she was the one who went out there and did what she
had to do.

I then listed my own political axioms, the first of which is guaranteed
offensive to any feminist on the face of the globe:
"1. Everyone is equal. Nobody is any better than anyone else."
Given the unprintability of the word *class* in feminist discourse, and
given that no feminist theorist has gone to graduate school just to be no
better than the undocumented child care person, I anticipate no reply. Or,
this might be, but almost certainly isn't, further evidence for the social-
science hypothesis widespread in this building, "There's no point trying to
discuss feminist theory with a woman; she'll clam up like a POW in the Hanoi
Hilton, right, fellas?" Which in the Sociology Department had the curious
result that a graduate course in feminist theory was taught by a non-woman,
Prof Michael S. Kimmel; also, that the avowed leader of the radical feminists,
denouncing Kimmel for "liberal feminism," was a graduate student and likewise
non-woman, Allan Hunter. [Note: I'm not the only showoff in this town.] What
women thought was not Known, in the Professional sense, since never published.

Two suggestions: 1. *Lay off Stephanie J. Nelson*. Now. I choose to read
her appeasement gesture, in "Strategic Obtusity," Wed, 6 Apr 1994 15:16:57
PDT, "The question Dan Foss raises about whether there is a difference between
knowledge and information is an interesting one...," I choose to read as,
"Maybe I can dish it out, but I sure can't take it." As one who couldn't
take what she dished out some months ago, which I won't risk giving anyone
some gratification by telling more about it, I fear the current mud-wrestling
may eventuate in costing her another year for her degree or suchlike psychic
damage, so: Let Stephanie J. Nelson select the mightiest of the warriors who
with most manliness scarred her hide in the virile combat of mudwrestling,
and bestow upon him his reward for this victory, a more joyous entwining of
limbs and so forth, and thus engender peace in this corner of the forest, to
perhaps bring joyous new kin relations to the respective subclans. Meanwhile
the uninvolved subclans will continue to lose warriors, crops, and pigs and
in future prove unable to defend vital pig-lands against the luckier two
subclans, bursting with fecundity, whose Big Man will be none other than
this child born of union of love and war.
The above assumes that Catherine A. MacKinnon is right about this sort
of thing; see Feminism Unmodified, Harvard, 1987.

2. Stephanie J. Nelson, all too often I have in recent times beheld you
in the horrid guise of Tiammat, causer of earthquakes, freeway-destroyer.
When all the time I'd have much preferred to worhip you as Inanna, or at
least High Priestess, since casting tells me you're too short for the goddess
role, which went to the five ten blonde graduating senior whom you must have
seen lying around the USC pool. Inanna was quite a deity, you recall, goddess
of sex, violence, and death; hence was associated with deceit which goes with
the other things, as when, using feminine wiles (had a god done it, it would
have been just underhanded), stole the blueprints for the world from Enki,
engineer of the gods.

If you should remain considerate of me, I herewith vow to you the love
that only a sacrificial animal can have for his High Priestess, and shall
zealously prove the best possible Accompanist to your role as Featured
Performer in whatever takes place in the Great Courtyard before the
ziggurat, both in the preliminary dances and chants of bewildering complexity,
as well as in what follows where you have my blind faith in your deftness,
precision, and exquisiteness of stroke to such refined degree I'll never know
I've been killed. To the great religious rapture of the multitudes of the
Black-Haired People. Aaaaaaaah.

Daniel A. Foss
<sumer for the sumerians!>