5.1 Anthro and Me

Anthropology: Socialization and Rites of Passage
 Up to this point we have looked at Socialization mainly
from the viewpoint of psychologists and sociologists.
 Anthropology also has important contributions to our
understanding of Socialization.
 Anthropologists focus on differences in socialization
from culture to culture and their effects on the
 Beliefs
 Rituals
 Expectations based on gender, social class, race
 Acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and attitudes
 Rites of Passage
 Two men holding hands in public indicates that they are
equals and friends
If my father dies, it is best that my mother marry my uncle
Family compatibility is more important than romantic love
when choosing a marriage partner
Fat women are more desirable than thin women
Homosexuals should be allowed to legally marry
A tattoo indicates that you are a responsible adult
The best way to gain status in society is to give away a lot of
material goods
Family and parental wishes should always be more
important than personal desires or needs
 How many ceremonies can you think of that are
intended to be helpful in life transitions, such as birth,
death, coming of age or adulthood?
 A ceremony, ritual or event that marks a change in life
or status.
 Commonly: birth, adolescence, marriage and death
 But a large variance in HOW these events are marked
 For example, after a death:
 Canada – funeral last for a few hours, maybe a wake
 Maori – large gathering of extended family for a week or
more to give speeches, celebrate, and mourn
 Judaism – immediate family sit shiva, which lasts for a
week, and mourners are not supposed to work or attend
 Rites of passage exist to help individuals move from
one stage of life to another, reduce stress, create
emotional bonds, and strengthen the fabric of society.
 Common Canadian rites of passage – how do we
celebrate the following? Which is most important?
Reaching puberty
Religious initiations (bar/bat
First date
Driver’s licence
Graduating high school
Drinking alcohol
First sexual experience
Moving from the parent’s home
Graduating from postsecondary
Getting a job
Getting married
Buying a home
Having children
 Amish rumspringa – begins when Amish youth turns 16
 Not subjected to church’s rules about behaviour until they are
 Youth go into the world and experience – rumspringa ends
when a youth agrees to be baptized and thus to take up the
responsibilities involved with being an adult member of the
Amish community
 Aborigines of Australia – expected to be alone in the
wilderness for several days, with no food or drink, seeking
guidance from the spirit world (often a vision quest)
 Kikuyu of Kenya – initiates live together in a special
dwelling for a year
 Receive special instruction from elders and perform specific
 Indicate a transformation from child to adult
 Occur at a specific point in life
 Male rites of passage are more common than female
 Can be painful and traumatic, especially in societies
that engage in warfare regularly
 Often involve: scarification, beatings, fasting, genital
mutilation, tattooing, and intimidation through threats
and stories
 Hardships thought to strengthen boys and help turn
them into
 Often the transition from childhood to adulthood revolves,
for girls, around first menstruation
Rites often include instruction in the responsibilities of
womanhood – often focused on being a wife and mother
Ex: Debutante ball – ‘coming out’ into society and exposure to
potential marriage partners
Ex: Jewish bat mitvah’s at 12
Ex: Mescalero Apache – all girls who have had their first
menstruation in the past year gather, don ceremonial dress,
are blessed by singers, relatives and friends, participate in
songs, dances, and historical stories
What are the differences in attitude and gender roles between
the rights of passage? How are the rituals different?
 Often a part of rites of passage
 Tattoos, piercings, scarring
and branding
 In NA, become a way to express
 Scarification – an age-old practice (originally from
Africa) that is part of the rite of passage into adulthood
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mz1vaTeUSY
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGsWIbdNCBQ
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bIse151gzU
 Tattoos were once seen as a sign of deviance. Do some
people still feel this way? Is there a difference in
opinion between generations about where and when
tattoos are acceptable.
 Graduating, finding a job and becoming financially
independent are all Western rights of passage
 But, with changes in the job market, schooling (postgraduate) can extend well into a person’s 20’s
 With high unemployment and the number of students
graduating with large student loans, some studies say
that Western nations don’t hit adulthood until as late
as 35.
 More people have also been delaying leaving the family
home (student debt, no jobs, saving, etc.)
 http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episode/generation-

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