Re: Mutilation as a legitimate object of inquiry

mike shupp (ms44278@HUEY.CSUN.EDU)
Sun, 14 Jul 1996 16:59:21 -0700

On Mon, 15 Jul 1996, John McCreery wrote:

> > Let's be more specific, and consider some concrete examples of
> > body mutilations/markings:
> > A. Perforation of the ureter in Australian aborigine males
> > B. Removal of the clitoris in African native women
> > C. Circumcision of infant males in Jewish/ANE cultures
> > D. Foot binding, head binding, etc.
> > E. Maori (and other) facial scarring and tattooing
> > F. Tattoos voluntarily acquired by seaman, soldiers, and
> > related groups (outlaw bikers, prisoners, etc.)
> > G. Other decorative mutilations, cultural sanctioned or
> > traditional, such as earlobe piercing
> > H. Flagellation, hair shirts, etc. when self-inflicted
> > I. Role-related castration (eunuchs and singers)
> > J. Mutilation and tattooing beyond usual cultural norms
> > K. Mutiliation as punishment (whippings, amputations and
> > ear lobe cropping)
> >
> > A, B, C, and K and perhaps E are involved with rituals of one
> > sort or another. D, F, G, H, and J are not.
> Then, however, a question for Mike. What are the criteria you are using for
> ritual? My impression is that you have in mind some form of *obligatory*
> *public* ceremony, which makes *private* non-obligatory *choices*
> non-ritual.

A public, or at least observed, procedure. I doubt that circumcision
or public whippings always go by the rulebook. As for castration,
foot binding, and the like... you're generally talking about inflicting
pain on uncomprehending children. However splendid the outcome
of this may be, the process itself is simple violence-- I don't
know of any culture which parades such monstrosities before the
public. The dividing line I see is with private, voluntary, but
commonplace actions such as teen aged girls getting their ears
pierced-- and I recall when this was shocking!-- and soldiers
being tattooed.

At what point does a performance ceased to be stereotypical and
become true ritual?

Mike Shupp
California State University, Northridge