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Rite of Passage

Rodanthi Tzanelli

Subject Cultural Studies
Social Psychology » Socialization

Key-Topics ritual

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The term was first used in anthropology to encapsulate rituals that symbolize the transition of an individual or a group from one status to another, or to denote the passage of calendrical time, but soon it was embraced by social scientists from other disciplines. The concept was developed by the Durkheimian anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep in Les Rites de passage ( 1909 ), in which he identified three ritual phases: (1) separation, when the individual or the group is distanced from their former identities; (2) liminality, the phase in-between two conditions (the one from which the individual or group departs and the one which they will enter); and (3) re-aggregation (or incorporation), the final stage in which the individual/group is readmitted to society as bearers of new status. Because for van Gennep rites of passage belong to sacred time, they are formalized and strict in their performance. The initiate(s) are placed in symbolically subordinate positions vis-à-vis those who have been initiated (elders, married, mothers) and have to go through elaborate “trials” (isolation, humiliation, fasting) before they are accepted back into the community. Van Gennep's theory was subsequently implemented in different human sciences (anthropology, sociology, history) and influenced two renowned twentieth-century symbolic anthropologists, Victor Turner and Mary Douglas. In The Ritual Process ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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