Re: mutilation and ritual

Adrienne Dearmas (DearmasA@AOL.COM)
Thu, 4 Jul 1996 11:46:11 -0400

In a message dated 96-07-03 15:27:30 EDT, dread@ANTHRO.UCLA.EDU (Dwight W.
Read) writes:

> Or, to put it another way, if we think of surface versus deep level, this
> suggests that what is called "ceremony, symbolism and ritual" arises out
> deep structure, which implies that merely copying the surface level (the
> immediately accessible aspect of the ritual such as tattooing) ignores the
> deep structure from which the "ceremoney, symbolism and ritual" derives.
> While it is reasonable to argue that deep structure precedes and leads to
> the form of surface structure, the converse is not true; imitating surface
> structure does not, by itself, lead to introduction of deep structure.
> Viewed this way, the lack of "ceremony, symbolism and ritual" in Western
> tattooing is not unexpected when the tattooing is arising largely via
> imitative behavior. This also implies that trying to introduce the
> "ceremony, symbolism and ritual" by beginning with the surface structure
> not very likely to succeed. And it would suggest that movements such as
> "new age shamanism" should suffer from a lack of significant content
> it is introduced at the surface level of imitation of shamanistic acts.
Exactly! Exactly! The movement is called "Moden Primitives" and these guys
are sundancing (Plains style) with none of the deeper structure of the
ritual. As for tattooing, it was definately imported into the US, but
interestingly enough, there has arisen an independent tattoo culture replete
with rituals and deep culture in the prisons. Some work is being done, but I
don't know if anyone is looking at it in conjunction with the larger picture
of the social conditions within the prison and the circumstances which arose
to provide the inmate with group membership into the prison culture (iow,
what did the person do to get arrested and what led him to do the crime). Can
you suggest any readings on deep/surface structure for me?

- Adrienne