Victor Turner is one of the main anthropological thinkers, along with the likes of Claude Levy-Strauss and Mircea Eliade. Unlike other such figures though he speaks deeply on a single culture, the Ndembu in Africa, which he lived among for several years. From this vantage point he discusses ritual patterns both those specific to the Ndembu and those of more universal scope. His thoughts are deep and rich.
There are two important contributions Turner makes to the field.
The first is in the sense of undifferentiated community he sees in the "comunitas" which naturally lies in tension to social structure. This concept is helpful in understanding ideas of liminality and how it is induced and directed in rites of passage according to the van Gennep model.
The second is the notion of antistructure, which is the active challenging of social structures which provides room for creative interplay between society and members of it. This also allows us to interpret ritual as a creative endeavor rather than just a repetition of past patterns.
In these ways Turner moves from the more purely structuralist works of Levy-Strauss and Eliade to a slightly more fluid work, building on structuralism but treating cultures as dynamic, homeostatic systems as opposed to rigid, inflexible ones. In this regard it is not always quite clear whether to treat him as a structuralist or a post-structuralist as he seems comfortable moving between both worlds as it suits him.
This is an important book. I'd highly recommend it.
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Chris Travers (einhverfr)
I live in a haunted house Beneath a tall and mighty tree With my wife Mia and my sons Wilhelm and Conrad Where I write software and carve runes It is a … more
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