Ordeals Of Initiation By Morinis Summary

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In his paper “The Ritual Experience: Pain and the Transformation of Consciousness in Ordeals of Initiation” Alan Morinis explores the use of pain in adolescent initiation rituals. Initiation rituals that adolescents so frequently take part in are rituals used to symbolize the transition from childhood into adulthood; however Morinis notes that all over the globe these rituals are intrinsically associated with pain (Morinis 1985). While these initiation rituals have been studied extensively over the course of human history, with anthropologists and psychologists such as Durkheim, van Gennep, and Freud all having taken a stab at attempting to interpret these rites of passage, Morinis argues that there is still a crucial piece of the puzzle missing…show more content…
Morinis sets two elements as being core features of the experience of pain, the first being the infliction of pain itself and the second is the manifestation of this pain in a social setting (Morinis 1985). Great importance is placed upon who it is who executes the ordeal, that is the experience of pain within the ritual; typically this role falls to an elder male member who is related to the initiate, whether it be an older brother, and uncle or someone else related by kinship (neighbours, close family friends, etc.) (Morinis 1985). Frequently multiple relatives will be involved in the entire process by providing food, gifts, guidance and support (Morinis 1985). Morinis contends that this aspect of a close relative inflicting the pain is essential to understanding the practice of adolescent initiation rituals. The author boils it down to a contradiction for the individuals being initiated: “the group that I choose membership in and which will be my sustenance throughout my adult life here and now threatens me with pain and disfigurement” (Morinis 1985). At the core of his argument is the proposition that the experience of intense pain induces a more adult self-awareness of the individual, a self-awareness that allows for the one to take on responsibility in the adult realm (Morinis 1985). He also untangles a…show more content…
Initiation rituals are structured so that they contain a social element that is inherent to them, whether it is like that of the Gisu in which initiates undergo the painful operation of circumcision in front of the majority of their kin, or in a less public setting similar to that of the Chisungu rituals of the Bemba, all initiation rituals are inherently social. With this inherently social aspect of initiation rituals connections can be made back to Elaine Scarry’s chapter regarding the structure of torture. Torture, much like initiation rituals, is structured in such a way that it too contains a social aspect. The dynamic of torturer and prisoner supplies this social aspect and even the room itself, the setting for which the torture takes place takes on a social characteristic. Around the globe rooms in which torture is perpetrated have been given names such as the “production room” or the “cinema room” which designate the act of torture as a spectacle of sorts; similar to initiation rituals, torture is a display, an ordeal that demands attention. The concept of bodies on display is not a new phenomenon in human history, as Marlin-Bennett et al. article Commodified Cadavers and the Political Economy of the Spectacle demonstrates, the

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