Victor Turner as political anthropologist: urban rebellion, political revolution and public liminality.
Bjorn Thomassen (The Amercian University of Rome)
Paper short abstract:
By complementing Turner’s processual framework with Mauss’ analysis of the Bolshevik revolution, Bateson’s notions of play and schismogenesis, and Tarde’s and Girard’s analysis of mimetic behavior in the public, this paper develops a frame for understanding contemporary urban rebellions in the Mediterranean, illustrated by ongoing events in Egypt.
Paper long abstract:
From January 2011 the Tahrir Square in Cairo, 'Liberation' square since the 1952 Revolution, became centre stage for what Turner called public liminality. The events that unfolded confirmed the relevance of Turner's approach to the study of in-between moments and spaces, defined by the collapse or absence of structure, but also by the performance/formation of personal and collective subjectivity. Van Gennep distinguished between rites that mark the passage of an individual from one status to another from those which mark transitions in the passage of time and which involve the whole social group. Turner called the first type for 'life-crisis rituals' and noted that liminality in such rituals is played out in hidden places secluded from the centres of quotidian action. This contrasts with 'public liminality', e.g. collective responses to manmade or natural disasters. Such rituals will play out in the central parts of quotidian space as the village greens or the squares of the city are ritually transformed. Turner analyzed such public subjunctivity/liminal process with reference to the structural relationship between cognitive, affective, and conative components of Dilthey's 'lived experience'. By complementing Turner's framework with Mauss' analysis of the Bolshevik revolution, Bateson's notions of play and schismogenesis, and Tarde's/Girard's analysis of mimetic behavior in the public, the paper develops a frame for understanding contemporary urban rebellions in the Mediterranean. With a focus on Egypt, it will address what happens as the redressing machinery (dominated by cognitive/legal attempts to reinstall order) fails to function, leading to a reversion to crisis.
Uncertainty and reflexivity: the legacy of Victor Turner