liminality theory

Victor Turner’s theories of liminality, license and status reversal in calendary ritual, can be understood as follows: the liminality theory is about a ritual that involves an exit from the normal social life into a threshold stage of life where notions of identity, space and time are suspended. Mimetic activities are a part of this ritual. A mythical explanation is therefore given to the structures of the day to day life. Similarly, they are justified and challenged. Luminal entities are thus reintegrated into the community as chieftains. The luminal beings at this point have gained a peculiar status that is both sacred and dangerous. Status reversal, on the other hand, was a ritual that masked the weak in strength (Turner, 5). It demanded that the strong be passive and patient so that they endure the symbolic and real aggression directed to them by those who are structurally inferior. Victor Turner’s theories of liminality, license and status reversal in calendary ritual explain the activities at the winter evening gatherings described in Frank’s article.

First and foremost, liminality is about a threshold. According to Frank, the winter evening parties were a very important medium for the unmarried women in the village to socialize and have their group solidarities reinforce (7). One had to be a woman and unmarried to be able to socialize in these parties. That was the threshold. And then, a ritual of courtship was linked to the winter evening parties. Similarly, rituals of marrieage were a part of these parties. It implies that there was a transition phase involved. As such, the courtships culminated into marriages. This compares to Luminal entities reintegrated into the community as chieftains. The privileges that those who had reached the courtship phase relate to Victor Turner’s theory luminal phase. Not everyone would begin courting. The gatherings were regulated, and peer pressure provided the norms that were enforced. This is much a kin to the liminality phase where the luminal entities were justified and challenged.

The status reversal was a ritual that masked the weak in strength. It demanded that the strong be passive and patient so that they endure the symbolic and real aggression directed to them by those who are structurally inferior. According to Frank, peasant youth watched over their peers and ostracized those who would go against the accepted norms (11). The culture was employed as a weapon to punish those who went against the grain. As such, one would be denied participation in activities of their peers. This evidently shows an application of the status reversal theory.

Also, the liminality theory is about a ritual that involves an exit from the normal social life into a threshold stage of life where notions of identity, space and time are suspended. Frank (11) details that; opportunity for greater contacts between girls and boys increased very time, there was wild stamping as well as galloping, and overt eroticism was also witnessed. A lot of activities that would never happen outside this stage of one’s life ensued.

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