Frame, Flow and Reflection:
Ritual and Drama as Public Liminality


What, at first glance, could be less close, less akin than drama and reflection? Drama demands a stage, actors, a heightened atmosphere, spectators, the smell of the crowd, the roar of the greasepaint. Reflection is at least one of the things one does with one's solitude. But to counter this opposition an anthropologist tends to think in terms not of solitary but of plural reflection, or, much better, plural reflexivity, the ways in which a group or community seeks to portray, understand, and then act on itself. Essentially, public reflexivity takes the form of a performance. The languages through which a group communicates itself to itself are not, of course, confined to talking codes: they include gestures, music, dancing, graphic representation, painting, sculpture, and the fashioning of symbolic objects. They are dramatic, that is literally "doing" codes. Public reflexivity is also concerned with what I have called "liminality." This term, literally "being-on-a-threshold," means a state or process which is betwixt-and-between the normal, day-to-day cultural and social states and processes of getting and spending, preserving law and order, and registering structural status. Since liminal time is not controlled by the clock it is a time of enchantment when anything might, even should, happen. Another way of putting it would be to say that the liminal in socio-cultural process is similar to the subjunctive mood in verbs just as mundane socio-structural activities resemble the indicative mood. Liminality is full of potency and potentiality. It may also be full of experiment and play. There may be a play of ideas, a play of words, a play of symbols, a play of metaphors. In it, play's the thing. Liminality is not confined in its expression to ritual and the performative arts. Scientific hypotheses and experiments and philosophical speculation are also forms of play, though their rules and controls are more rigorous and their relation to mundane "indicative" reality more pointed than those of genres which proliferate in fantasy. One might say, without too much exaggeration, that liminal phenomena are at the level of culture what variability is at the level of nature.

Liminal rites. Liminality is the term used by the Belgian folklorist van Gennep to denominate the second of three stages in what he called a "rite of passage." Such rites are found in all cultures, and are seen as both indicators and vehicles of transition from one sociocultural state and status to another childhood to maturity, virginity to marriage, childlessness to parenthood, ghosthood to ancestorhood, sickness to health, peace to war and vice versa, scarcity to plenty, winter to spring, and so on. He did, however, distinguish between those rites performed at life-crises, such as birth, puberty, marriage, death, and those performed at crucial points in the turning year, or on occasions of collective crisis when a whole society faces a major change, peace to war, health to epidemic, and so forth. The first set were mainly performed for individuals in secret or hidden places and related to upward mobility. The latter were performed for collectivities, were public in character, and often portrayed reversals or inversions of status or confusion of ordinary everyday categories. Van Gennep distinguished the three stages as (1) separation (from ordinary social life); (2) margin or limen (meaning threshold), when the subjects of ritual fall into a limbo between their past and present modes of daily existence; and (3) re-aggregation, when they are ritually returned to secular or mundane life either at a higher status level or in an altered state of consciousness or social being. I have written at length about initiation rites or rites of status elevation. I am now extremely interested in the other major type of rites. I used to call it "ritual or status reversal," from the fact that in many cultures rituals performed at major calendrical turns portrayed turnabouts of normal social status: the poor played at being rich, the rich at being poor; kings and nobles were abased and commoners wore the insignia of rule. But these ritual reversals are only part of the story. Just as important are the ways a society finds in these public rituals of commenting on and critiquing itself. Here there is not so much the symbolism of birth, maturation, death, and rebirth that is, of linear developments but rather the continuous presence of a metalanguange that is, codes or presentation and expression which enable participants and spectators to realize just how far they have fallen short of or transgressed their own ideal standards, or even, in some kinds of ritual, to call those very ideals into question under conditions of sharp social change.

I have spoken about liminal time. I now distinguish between everyday social space and liminal space. In public metasocial rites we have to do with public liminality, and such rites are often performed in the village or town square, in full view of everyone. They are not secret affairs, performed in caves or groves or in lodges protected from profanation by poisoned arrows. All performances require framed spaces set off from the routine world. But metasocial rites use quotidian spaces as their stage; they merely hallow them for a liminal time.

The argument. Now the gist of my argument is simply this: that for every major social formation there is a dominant mode of public liminality, the subjunctive space time that is the counterstroke to its pragmatic indicative texture. Thus, the simpler societies have ritual or sacred corroborees as their main metasocial performances; proto-feudal and feudal societies have carnival or festival; early modern societies have carnival and theater; and electronically advanced societies, film. I am aware that this is a gross oversimplification, that there are many other performative genres, such as spectacles, parades, processions, circuses, even art exhibitions, and television, and that in each of the four divisions (mentioned earlier) there are many subdivisions.

But to get a preliminary hold upon the relationship between social processes and performative genres it is perhaps best to start with bold strokes and attempt to fill in the fine details later.

To look at itself a society must cut out a piece of itself for inspection. To do this it must set up a frame within which images and symbols of what has been sectioned off can be scrutinized, assessed, and, if need be, remodeled and rearranged. In ritual what is inside the frame is what is often called the "sacred," what is outside, the "profane," "secular," or "mundane." To frame is to enclose in a border. A sacralized space has borders. These may be permanent, in the case of the temple, or situational, as in the case of many central African rituals I have observed where sacred space may be demarcated by an improvised fence or merely by the anticlockwise circling of a tree or cleared area by ritual adepts. Time also enters the framing, since rituals, as van Gennep has shown, have a welldefined beginning, middle, and end. Often audible markers are used: bell-ringing, shouting, singing, percussion sounds. By such means sacred time is dramatically separated from secular time. Ritual time is ordered by rules of procedure, written or unwritten.

A ritual contains an explicit scenario or score. Modern views of ritual stress its rigid and obsessional character. But tribal rituals are anything but rigid. One should rather regard them as orchestrations of a wide range of performative genres, symphonies in more than music, comprising several performative genres. These may include dancing, gesturing, singing, chanting; the use of many musical instruments; mimetic displays; and the performance of drama during key episodes. All the senses are enlisted, and the symbolic actions and objects employed are in every sensory code. Since the rise of puritanism we have been inclined, in the West, to stress the pervasively solemn and strict character of ritual. But the majority of rituals still performed in the world contain festive, joyful, and playful episodes and incidents. What Huizinga has called the "ludic" interacts with the solemn in complex fashion. Again, while there are fixed, stereotyped sequences of symbolic action, there are also episodes given over to verbal and nonverbal improvisation. Indeed, if we adopt the standpoint of culture history it is clear that full-scale rituals of this sort are the matrix from which later performative genres have sprung, both serious and entertaining.

Rituals have form, but it is a special sort of form which arises after secular social structure has been suspended to allow it to emerge. Preritual and postritual social life is governed by a multiplicity of laws, rules, regulations, and customs which make up a system of social control. These are for the most part culture's indicative mood, as I have said. 'But in ritual an even more complex situation comes into being. On the one hand, the framing process, which continues throughout the entire ritual process, since it establishes and articulates the sequence of phases and episodes composing the ritual, is subject to firm procedural, even rubrical rules. But, on the other hand, the subjunctivity of ritual, that part of it which expresses supposition, desire, and possibility, rather than actual fact, particularly in the central liminal phase, may rather be described in such terms as "charismatic," "numinous," "sacred reality ," "illud tempus," "a time of wonders," and so on. This is the world of the exhibition of sacra, symbols or a higher reality; of the dramatization of creation stories; of the appearance of masked and monstrous figures; of the construction of complicated shrines; of the revelation of figurines or wall paintings used to instruct and catechize naked or painted novices undergoing initiatory transformation. In times of radical social change, some of these sacred items and symbolic processes burst out of the secrecy of lodges and enter the public arena as part of the repertoire of prophetic leaders who mobilize the people against invaders or overlords threatening their deep culture.

Public rituals. But it is not of initiatory secrets that I would speak here. It is of the great public festivals where public events come under the lens of liminal attention. Such rituals have very frequently a satirical, lampooning, comedic quality.

Furthermore, they tend to stress the basic equality of all, even if this involves a status reversal and the setting up of hierarchies of roles, occupied by those who are normally underlings, which caricature the normative indicative hierarchy's power, wealth, and authority. In my book The Ritual Process (1969: 178-188) I have mentioned a number of these public rituals, such as the Holi festival in the Indian village, Kishan Garhi, described by McKim Marriott in "The Feast of Love" (1966: 2 10-2 12), and the Apo ceremony of the northern Ashanti of Ghana, in which there is a reversal of secular social status, and social inferiors are privileged to upbraid and lampoon their "betters." Quite often, however, public ritual dramatizes secular, political, and legal status relationships. Even in those cases, episodes of status reversal, including the direct manifestation of what I have called communitas, the mutual confrontation of human beings stripped of status role characteristics people, "just as they are," getting through to each other may strikingly occur. For example, the great ethnographer Henri Junod (1962: 397404) discusses the major public rituals of the Thonga of Mozambique, the Luma of Bukanyi," in the following terms: The nkanyi from which the ritual derives its name is a large tree bearing a plum-like fruit from which a mildly intoxicating liquor is brewed. Political hierarchy is at first in evidence here, for the rites must be inaugurated by the paramount chief, followed at the district level by subchiefs, who pray to their deceased royal ancestors in sacred woods. The term luma means that a major restriction is being lifted. Things are being tabooed. No one may gather the fruit or brew its ,beer until the rites have been inaugurated. When someone lumas the ban is lifted. What I have said about the public and visible nature of calendrical ritual for the bukanyi is considered to mark the beginning of the new year is exemplified in Junod's description of what occurs after the chiefly prayers.

The young people are now assembled to clean up the public square and all the roads. The ball room must be prepared! The women of the capital start out early in the morning ... and they go all over the country gathering the golden fruit; this is piled up in an enormous heap on the public square. The women of the capital brew ten or fifteen huge casks of the precious liquor ... A convocation of the entire male portion of the tribe is held in the capital, but the first to respond to the call must be ... the warriors of the army, who come in full array, with all their ornaments, and carrying their small clay shelds. One cask of beer is selected, into which is thrown the black powder, the great medicine of the land ... Now comes the third act: the drinking in the villages. Each district chief must commence to luma in the presence of his subjects, and not until he has done so can the people drink freely in the villages (p. 399).

Here I would like to interpolate that the various components of the national political structure, here principally the chiefs and the warriors, have the role of first framing, then punctuating the episodes of the ritual. Structure is used in the service of communitas. The content of the ritual relates to the unity and continuity of the nation and the land, transcending all structural oppositions of chief and commoner, men and women. I now wish to return to Junod's account, which stresses the Dionysian communitas which is the ground swell of the bukanyi, and which here escapes its Apollonian framing by male authority.

From thls moment (i.e., the chefs prayer) there is no further description. Drinking continues day and night, night and day! When the supply is finished in one village, they go to the next. These feasts are the Saturnalia, the Bacchanalia, the carnival of the tribe (here I would criticize Junod's nomenclature: I would reserve all three of these terms for performative genres in societies more complex than the Thonga). During these weeks some individuals are in a continual state of semi-intoxication. Orgies on all sides, songs and dances! ... How far does sexual license go during bukanyi? Not to the point of general promiscuity as amongst the BaPedi (another southern Bantu people) after the circumcision school. However, many cases of adultery occur. Men and women forget the elementary rules of. conduct. They attend to the wants of nature in the same places, which is taboo under ordinary circumstances: "Nau, a wa ha tiyi," "The law is no longer in force" (p. 401).

But social structure, after its dip in communitas, emerges renewed when the district .chiefs send their people to the capital with supplies of "new wine." This is followed by a series of return visits by the chief to villages of his subjects, with further dancing, singing, and drinking.

Junod, who as early as 1912 knew his van Gennep well, was aware of these polarities of public ritual, although he did not, of course, use my vocabulary: "structure and antistructure," or "social structure and communitas." but he did write that: "These rites are ... dictated by the sense of hierarchy (Junod's emphasis). A subject must not precede his chief, nor a younger brother the elder in the use of the new harvest, else they would kill those in authority. Such an act is against order" (p. 404). Junod then goes on to stress the idea of passage, following van Gennep: "There is a passage from one year to another ... though the luma rites do not bear all the characteristics of a true passage rite, like those of circumcision or moving, we may observe in the luma or bukanyi a kind of marginal period of general license, when the ordinary laws are more or less suspended" (p. 404).

Junod does not mention the use of antistructural process here as a metasocial critique, or, even at the simplest level, as an opportunity for the common folk to speak frankly to chiefs and aristocrats. That this aspect was probably present is suggested by evidence from other Southern Bantu-speaking peoples. For instance, Eileen Jensen Krige (1950) finds it in the Great Umkhosi or National First-fruit Ceremonies of the Zulu of Natal. The Zulu, it must be remembered, had largely converted this agricultural ritual into a grand review of the army and a celebration of the military kingship established by Shaka, that genius of war. Nevertheless the agricultural basis remains, and the king's song is said to bring rain for the crops. Krige writes:

A remarkable feature of this review of the army was that considerable freedom of speech was allowed on this occasion, and the king could be insulted with impunity. Various people would leave the ranks of the warriors, who were made to sit down during the discourse, and there (were) free interrogations to which the king (was) bound to reply.

Sometimes they denounced him in the presence of all, blamed his acts, stigmatized them as infamous and cowardly, obliged him to explain, destroyed the reasoning in his answers, dissecting them and unmasking their falsehood, then threatening him proudly, and ending with a gesture of contempt (p. 260).

Thus the highest becomes the lowest; the equality of all outside social structure is asserted.

Carnival. Instances of a similar kind could be multiplied from many standard ethnographies. I will now consider the second major performative genre I mentioned earlier: carnival. I should interpolate that growing evidence convinces me that new ways of modeling or framing social reality may actually be proposed and sometimes legitimated in the very heat of performance, emerging as a sort of artifact or popular creativeness. That is why public liminality has often been regarded as "dangerous" by whatever powers-that-be who represent and preside over established structure. Public liminality can never be tranquilly regarded as a safety valve, mere catharsis, "letting off steam." Rather it is communitas weighing structure, sometimes finding it wanting, and proposing in however extravagant a form new paradigms and models which invert or subvert the old. Carnival is a particularly interesting illustration of this ambiguity. As Natalie Z. Davis has said (Society and culture in early modern France, 1975: 97): "Festive life can on the one hand perpetuate certain values of the community, even guarantee its survival, and on the other hand criticize political order." I cannot today discuss in detail how the historical religions of the book (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) have come, by and large, to emphasize the solemn in their official liturgical structures, while merely countenancing with some misgiving the festive and ludic, as parallel "fold" processes fit for fairs and feasts perhaps, but not for "serious" ritual to their major calendrical rituals. But to the eye of the investigator, the "solemn" and the "ludic," often regarded as equivalent to the sacred and the profane by religious professionals, must surely be analyzed as polarities of the same ritual field. Solemn liturgies dramatize paradigms of axiomatic value. Festivals and carnivals allow considerable creative latitude for collective scrutiny of the contemporaneous social structure, often with lampooning liberty. People stand back from their lives and weigh' their quality. We have seen how in Thonga, Zulu, and other "tribal" ritual, solemn and ludic are interdigitated, penetrate one another. Now at a more advanced stage of the social division of labor we must turn our attention to performative genres that are specialized in the direction of festal play, however rough that playfulness may often be.

Carnivals differ from rituals in the further respect that they seem to be more flexibly responsive to social and even societal change, change in the major political and economic structures. Strictly speaking, "carnival" refers to the period of feasting and revelry just before Lent, including Mardi Gras in France, Fastnacht in Germany and Shrove Tide in England. The popular and probably fictitious etymological derivation "carne vale," "flesh, farewell," hits off its ludic and liminal quality, poised between mundance and solemn modes of living with more than a hint of desperation. All things of the flesh, including the "things that are Caesar's," are being brought to the fore of social attention, the pleasurable to be indulged in, and the politically and legally unjust to be given a long hard look. It is perhaps no accident that the two best American historians of carnival in my view, Natalie Davis and Robert J. Bezucha, should consistently acknowledge their debt both for theory and data to Arnold van Gennep, the spiritual father of modern cultural processualism whose Manuel du folklore Françai is as influential for historians as his Rites de passage is for anthropologists. Both have studied carnival rather late in European history, Davis in the later middle ages and the sixteenth century, Bezucha in the nineteenth century. Both have worked in France, where change has always been more reflexive, or at least more self-conscious, than elsewhere. I would like to spend some time with these scholars whose data admirably illustrate my case that public liminality is the eye and eyestalk which society bends round upon its own condition, whether healthy or unsound.

Essentially, Davis and Bezucha are interested in the responsiveness to sociocultural change of the various ,genres, born in the Middle Ages, which Davis has catalogued as:

masking, costuming, hiding; charivaris (noisy, masked demonstrations to humiliate some wrongdoer in the community), farces, parades, and floats; collecting and distributing money and sweets; dancing, music-making, the lighting of fires; reciting of poetry, gaming and athletic contests the list in all its forms and variations would be longer than the 81 games in Bruegel's famous painting or the 217 games that Rabelais gave to Gargantua. They took place at regular intervals, and whenever the occasions warranted it ;they were timed to calendar of religion and season (the twelve days of Christmas, the days before Lent, early May, Pentecost, the feast of Saint Jean-Baptiste in June, the Feast of the Assumption in mid-August, and All Saints) and timed also to domestic events, marriages, and other family affairs (pp. 97-98).

Post-feudal carnivals. Natalie Davis concerns herself in her chapter four, "The reasons of misrule," with one lirninal category of French citizens: unmarried men in peasant communities who have reached the age of puberty. "Since village boys usually did not marry until their early or middle twenties in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, their period of jeunesse lasted a long time and the number of bachelors relative to the total number of men in the village was quite high" (p. 104). For carnival purposes each year before Lent, after Christmas, or at some other time, they elected a King or Abbott from among their midst. This officiant was the head of what was widely called "an Abbey of Misrule" (Abbé de Maugouvert), a carnival group put on "by an informal circle of friends and family, sometimes by craft or professional guilds and confraternities, and very often by organizations that literary historians have called 'société joyeuses' (or 'fool-societies' or 'play-acting societies')" (p. 98). Indeed, I well remember how, on Shrove Tuesday in Glasgow, students from the University, dressed in all kinds of bizarre garb, with much transvestitism, used to take over the city and swarm aboard all its public transportation, bullying and cajoling the citizenry into giving generous alms to charity obviously a latter day Abbey of Misrule in action! The medieval festive Abbeys later came to assume a political nature, and in a remarkable chapter, "Women on top," Davis shows how males in masks and female garb caricatured female attributes. It was supposed in the carnival frame which here merely replicated the dominant thought of a patrilineal society that woman's dominant attribute was "unruliness," or "disorderliness." As Davis puts it: "the lower ruled the higher within the woman ... and if she were given her way, she would want to rule over those above her outside. Her disorderliness led her into the evil arts of witchcraft, so ecclesiastical authorities claimed; and when she was embarked on some behavior for which her allegedly weak intellect disqualified her, such as theological speculation or preaching, that was blamed on her disorderliness too" (p. 125). The Kingdoms and Abbeys of Misrule had "officers" who presided over their carnival behavior. Among these roles, played by men, were "Princesses and Dames and especially Mothers; we find Mère Folle in Dijon, Langes, and Châlon-sur-Saône; Mère Sotte in Paris and Compiègne; and Mére d'Enfance in Bordeaux. ... In all of this there was a double irony: the young villager who became an Abbott, the artisan who became a Prince directly adopted for their Misrule an object of licit power; the power invoked by the man who became Mère Folle, however, was already in defiance of natural order a dangerous and vital power, which his disguise made safe for him to assume" (pp. 139-40).

What one sees here in Davis' material is evidence of an institution originally committed to maintaining a cyclical repetitive order, in which the natures and virtues of the sexes as structurally classified are clearly figured. Never-the-less, although both male and female offices of the Abbeys of Misrule may be said to belong to the liminal domain of carnival, the female ones are quintessentially liminal, since they represent persons who, even in the mundane "indicative" world, by reason of their status inferiority and marginality, have a "subjunctive"penumbra reinforced and reduplicated in the carnival setting. The danger here is not simply that of female "unruliness." This unruliness itself is a mark of the ultraliminal, of the perilous realm of possibility of "anything may go" which threatens any social order and seems the more threatening, the more that order seems rigorous and secure. The powers of the weak to curse and criticize set limits on the power of the strong to coerce and ordain.

The subversive potential of the carnivalized feminine principle becomes evident in times of social change when its manifestations move out of the liminal world of Mardi Gras into the political arena itself. Natalie Davis has written at some length of peasant movements and protests by other kinds of groups, in which men, clad in the carnival "drag" usually associated with Mère Folle and her Infanterie, putting on feminine "unruliness" so to speak, projected the carnival right of criticism and mockery into situations of real, "indicative" rebellion (p. 147).

She gives several instances of how "ritual and festive inversion" was put to new overtly political uses (p. 147). In the Beaujolais in the 1770s, male peasants blackened their faces and dressed as women "and then attacked surveyors measuring their lands for a new landlord" (p. 147). In England, in 1629, (the so-called) "Captain" Alice Clark, a real female, headed a crowd of women and male weavers dressed as women in a grain riot near Maldon in Essex (p. 148). In 1631, in the dairy and grazing sections of Wiltshire, bands of men rioted and leveled fences against the king's enclosure of their forests. They were led by men dressed as women, who called themselves "Lady Skimmington ." In April 1812, "General Ludd's Wives," two weavers dressed as women, led a crowd of hundreds to smash steam looms and burn a factory in Stockport (p. 148). Among other examples, Davis cites the "Whiteboys" of Ireland, who, for almost a decade, from 1760-70, dressed in long white frocks and, with blackened faces, "set themselves up as an armed popular force to provide justice for the poor 'to restore the ancient commons and redress other grievances."' She says that these "Ghostly Sallies" were the prototypes of the "Molly Maguires and the Ribbon societies of the nineteenth century" (p. 149). What has been happening, of course, is that the rebellious potential of the unruly female persona, hitherto confined to the "play" world of carnival, has been put to new use by men in the traditionally masculine realm of political action. As Davis writes: "On the one hand, the disguise freed men from the full responsibility for their deeds and perhaps, too, from fear of outrageous revenge upon their manhood. After all, it was 'merely women' who were acting in this disorderly way. On the other hand, the males drew upon the sexual power and energy of the unruly woman and on her license (which they had long assumed at carnival and games) to promote fertility, to defend the community's interests and standards, and to tell the truth about unjust rule" (p. 149).

Early modern carnivals. Another historian who has made use of popular festivity not only as an index, but also as an agency of sociocultural and political change is Robert Bezucha, of Syracuse University, whose period for intensive study is the Second Republic in France. In a paper delivered at the Davis Center at Princeton in 1975 he followed Maurice Agulhon (La République au village) (1960: 2 65-66) in tracing a double evolution in popular "mentalité" during the early nineteenth century in France from traditional to progressive in political life and from folklore (in the French sense of this term, that is, as the nexus of traditional customs, beliefs, and practices Americans might call it "folk culture") to modernity in daily life. These processes, though parallel, were not synchronized so that when villagers wished to express an advanced political idea, they often did so within the context of a folkloresque event. In doing so they carried further the normal lampooning license of the carnival, of which van Gennep has written: there is "the temporary suspension of the rules of normal collective life ... one profits from this period of traditional license to mock the constraints of the State and the Government to which the collectivity submits in normal times" (1938-58, vol. 1 :xx; vol. 3:981-82). How far they carried it may be seen from the fact that most of Bezucha's data were drawn from reports by Procureurs Généraux in the Archives Nationales on incidents officially classified as affaires politiques that occurred on Mardi Gras or Ash Wednesday (the key days of the Carême-Carnaval cycle) between 1848 and 1851. Carnival contained many traditional symbols and symbolic actions; these were used in new ways to express political attitudes, while new symbols, such as the Phrygian caps of the French Revolution, were introduced into carnival processions. Bezucha also records instances of the transvestitism discussed by Davis, but this has ceased to be a dominant symbolic motif by the time of the brief Second Republic. Let me give two examples from Bezucha's talk; one represents a critique from the Right, the other from the Left, of the rapidly changing political scene from Louis Napoléon's Revolution of 1848 to his proclamation of himself as Emperor in 1852 a period characterized by increasing repression of the rural masses. The first comes from a report on the town of Uzés in the department of Gard in southern France (Popular festivities and politics during the Second Republic, pp. 12-13). The year is 1849.
February 21 was Ash Wednesday. On this day in the Midi of France, the young people belonging to the popular class (la classe du peuple) are accustomed to hold a burlesque divertissement whose theme is the burial of Carnival. They cover or blacken their faces, don bizarre costumes, arm themselves with kitchen bellows, and go through the streets of the town, one after the other, each trying to use the bellows on the person in front of him. At the head of the procession, they carry a mannequin called Carimantran (Caréme entrant: the arrival of Lent) which they dance around at each stop and end by throwing into the water.

This year, its authors, since they belong to the legitimist party (seeking the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty) have not neglected to give to the festivities a significance which was insulting to the Republic. In place of a bellows, each of them carried a broom, and at a signal they all began to sweep, raising a cloud of dust, while at the same time singing a song called "The Song of the Sweeps" (Ramoneurs).

But what gave the parody an extremely clear meaning was another smaller group of persons preceding the sweepers and who, by the various emblems they wore, obviously represented the Republic (i.e., the government of Louis Napoléon). One of them rode a wretched nag and held a dirty tricolored flag which from time to time he let trail on the ground behnd him.

From time to time the sweepers would draw close to this flag bearer, pretending to hit him with their brooms and to force him to descend and give hs place to another. In addition, five or six persons on foot and wearing clothing of various colors, in contrast to the completely white costumes of the sweepers, marched in front of them with an issue of the journal La Réfome displayed on their chests. Thus, it seemed that the white troupe was sweeping away the tricolored flag and those gathered around it.

Here, again, we have an instance of improvisation during performance itself of the introduction of a new element broom replacing bellows; and critical commentary on current events. Bezucha fills in for us some features of the relevant historical and cultural contexts (pp. 13-16). He sees in the dame des soufflets ("dance of the bellows") an instance of a class of Ash Wednesday snake dances popular in southern French towns, which van Gennep believed were themselves parodies of the processions of the pénitents, the religious fraternities of Provence. In these dances there was much ritual tranvestitism. Masked youths dressed in women's petticoats or nightshirts amused the spectators by trying to grab the persons dancing in front of them, whether to set his skirts on fire or strew him with ashes. But the 1849 carnival at Uzès made additional use of old custom. The Gard department has witnessed religious conflict from the Camisard wars of the seventeenth century to the White Terror of the restoration. After the Revolution of 1830, the Protestant elite of Uzès had gained control of the town's administration and National Guard. When Guizot, a Protestant, fell in 1848, power went over to their old foes the impoverished Catholic majority. The Protestants feared that a third restoration of the Bourbons was imminent. In other towns, this group might have been "men of Order"; here many supported the Left, "the democratic and social Republic," as a means of opposing a government they distrusted. As in so many small towns, at Uzès, religion, politics and social structure formed a single sociocultural field. Even before the Carnival, "the Republican cafe" had assaulted dancing Catholics with billiard cues, while Catholic youths retaliated by attacking Protestant homes and businesses why does this script seem so familiar these days? Bezucha summarizes the events of 1849 as a "popular demonstration by the Right against an elite on the Left. The costumes of the sweepers were indeed traditional, but the color white also symbolized the legitimist, Catholic party. Their dance was a customary one, but by substituting brooms for bellows and adding a tricolored flag and a few copies of a newspaper they changed the meaning of the parody. Its theme was no longer the burial of Carnival, rather the burial of the Republic ... this mechanism of innovation set off a chain of violence" (pp. 15-16).

Color symbolism plays a clear role here. I wish I had time to speak more about it, for I have written extensively on the initiatory significance of what I can only consider the culturally "primary" colors, white, red, and black, in studies of tribal cultures. But it is importantly used in provincial France during the Second Republic, as Bezucha's second example demonstrates. This case is from a procureur's notes on Ash Wednesday 1849 in the town of Issoire in the Puy-de-Dôme, in the north. Here the Whites are put down and the Reds prevail.

On the 21st of this month a masquerade thusly composed appeared on the main square of lssoire: an individual wearing bourgeois clothing, his face covered with a mask of white material and holding a cattle pik in his hand, pretended to be a herdsman driving cattle. Behind him were two persons joined together by a yoke and dressed like workers, their faces covered by masks of red material. Following them came a cart pulled by a horse and containing five or six persons supporting a straw dummy which in this part of the country is called Guillaume. The allegory was highly transparent: the bourgeois aristocracy was forcing the people [emphasis in the original text] under the yoke of its power.

At the same time in another part of town, another group of maskers was going about in a cart; one person wore a red bonnet and carried a wooden staff which he jabbed into the side of a straw dummy which was wearing a white bonnet. This last masquerade was the opposite, or rather the complement, of the first allegory: it was the people in turn taking its vengeance by the destruction of the aristocratic bourgeoisie.

Finally, elsewhere in the town, a band of young peasants went about shaking their fists, singing, and shouting A bas les blancs! (p. 16).

Issoire had the reputation of being a turbulent town, strongly anticarlist and hostile to the bourgeoisie. The color symbolism had potent cultural meaning here too. Red was not only contra-Carlist but also pro-revolutionary. If white and Right stood for order, red and Left stood, not for disorder, but for a new order based on the (often bloody) overthrow of the old order. The figure of Guillaume, the Straw Man, is interesting. Traditionally he was a buffoon or clown, who represented Turncoatism, like the Vicar of Bray in the English song. He was the person who put opportunism before principle. In Bezucha's interpretation (p. 18) he had ceased to be, as he once was, "a symbolic representation of carnival," with its plasticity of commentary as against the rigidity of a structure accepted by all, but was now "the personification of the maskers' enemy, the so-called bourgeois aristocracy." He was petrified in a new structural role if only in the labile world of carnival.

Four days after this Ash Wednesday parade, which still preserved many traditional features, a local chambrée or Republican club mounted a procession, presumably to celebrate the first year of the Republic, which represented a conscious combination of traditional carnival allegory and elements of the fâtes révolutionnaires, the official pageants staged in the 1790s. As Bezucha describes it:

In a horse-drawn cart decorated with red cloth, green garlands, and the motto Honneur au travail, rode a costumed figure representing Liberty, her (his, for Liberty was played by a man) hands on the shoulders of The Worker and The Farmer. Behind Liberty stood her children, Genius and Instruction; next to here were two men, one with a large open book and the other with a sign reading La République fera le tour du monde. The cart was led by a villager dressed as a Roman herald and followed by the figure of Time.

An honor guard of ten persons preceded the cart and behind it came five persons in chains: one was dressed as a priest or jesuit, a second in white, a third in black, and the final two as nobles wearing signs marked Privilege in their hats. Completing the procession was a crowd of perhaps one hundred and fifty men, marching arm in arm and singing La Marseillaise and Le Chant du départ. As they passed the home of the retired subprefect, a peasant was heard to shout Vive le sang! (pp. 18-19).

The thought of the guillotine must have made shivers run down several backs that night! Indeed, in other Mardi Gras parades recorded by Bezucha from that period, symbolic guillotines were taken on procession on carts. At Schirmeck in the Bas-Rhin department, for example, one such ''guillotine" was accompanied by an "executioner," wearing a red belt and smeared with a colored substance imitating blood. The procession stopped outside the homes of local notables, while the group shouted "Long live Robespierre! Long live the guillotine! "

Stage drama. The examples of public liminality I have given calendrical rites in tribal cultures and carnivals in post-feudal and early modern culture stress the role of collective in novatory behavior, of crowds generating new ways of framing and modelling the social reality which presses on them in their daily lives. Here all is open, plurally reflexive, the folk acts on the folk and transforms itself through becoming aware of its situation and predicament. I now want to turn to a major reflexive genre, which in keeping with its origin in cultures which recognize the category of "the individual" as the significant decision-making and ethical unit, attributes to individuals the authorship of its scenarios I refer to stage drama. But stage plays are, of course, as much public as private performative modes. They involve actors, audience, producers, stagehands, often musicians and dancers, and, most of all, their plots and messages are communicated by various written and oral networks to a general public which varies in span and composition from society to society and epoch to epoch. It is a moot point whether plays derive from rituals as carnivals clearly do or whether they originated in the retelling of hunting and headhunting adventures, with pantomimic accompaniments. In either case they are liminal phenomena, with a good deal of reflexive commentary interwoven with the descriptive narrative.

Flow. In considering drama, we should consider flow. There can certainly be flow in ritual and carnival, but it is not so central to these genres as framing and plural reflexivity. What is flow? My colleague at Chicago, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has recently devoted a whole book (Beyond boredom and anxiety, 1975) to the study of this elusive concept. For him flow is a state in which action follows action according to an inner logic which seems to need no conscious intervention on our part; we experience it as a unified flowing from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions, and in which there is little distinction between self and environment, between stimulus and response, or between past, present, and future. He sees flow as a common, though by no means inevitable experience when people act with total involvement, whether in play and sport, in the creative experiences in art and literature, or in religious experiences. He assigns to flow six attributes or distinctive features, marking it off from other interior states.

1. Action and awareness are experienced as one.

2. Attention is centered on a limited stimulus field: in games by formal rules and such motivational means as competitiveness. Rules, motivations, rewards, the will to participate are seen as framing devices, necessary limitations for the centering of attention.

3. Loss of ego: the "self" which is ordinarily the broker between one person's actions and another simply becomes irrelevant. The actor, immersed in the flow, accepts the framing rules as binding which also bind the other actors no "self" is needed to bargain about what should or should not be done or to "negotiate" about the meaning to be assigned to actions.

4. The actor finds himself in control of his actions and environment. He may not know it when "flowing," but reflecting on it "in tranquillity" he may realize that his skills were perfectly matched to the demands made upon him by ritual, art, or sport. Outside the framed and willingly limited flow situation such a subjective sense of control is hard to attain, due to the enormous number of stimuli and cultural tasks that press on us. If skills outmatch demands, boredom results; if skills are inadequate, anxiety hence the book's title.

5. Flow usually contains coherent, noncontradictory demands for action and provides clear, unambiguous feedback to a person's actions. Culture reduces flow possibilities to defined channels, for example, chess, polo, gambling, prescribed liturgical action, miniature painting, a yoga exercise, attempting a specific ascent by well-tested rock-climbing techniques, the practice of surgery, and so forth. One can throw oneself into the cultural design of the game, art, procedure, and know whether one has done well or not when one has completed the round of culturally predetermined acts. Flow differs from everyday activities in that its framing contains explicit rules which make action and the evaluation of action unproblematic. Thus cheating breaks flow you have to be a believer, even if this implies temporary "willing suspension of disbelief," that is, choosing to believe that the rules are in some way axiomatic. If many forms of play or ritual occur in liminal space-time, that time is framed by rules that give credence to whatever makebelieve or innovative behavior, .whatever subjective action, goes on within the frame.

6. Finally, flow is what Csikszentmihalyi calls "autotelic," that is, it seems to need no goals or rewards outside itself. To flow is its own reward: it is to be as happy as a human being can be in one sense the specific rules that trigger and frame flow, whether of chess or a meditative technique, are irrelevant. This, Csikszentmihalyi concludes, is important for any study of human behavior, since if it is true it follows that people will deliberately manufacture cultural situations and frames which will release flow, or, as individuals, seek it outside their ascribed statuses or stations in life, if these are, for one reason or another, "flowresistant," that is, conducive to boredom or anxiety.

Frame. It is obvious that flow is an ingredient in any kind of successful cultural performance. But what is its relationship to frame and reflexivity? Let us first consider Erving Goffman's recent views on framing as expressed in his Frame analysis (1974). Frames, for him, are "the principles of organization which govern events" (p. 10). They are divided into a number of types: natural frames refer to unguided events, while social frames refer to "guided doings" (p. 22). Ritual, carnival, and stage drama would be "socially framed." Frames may also be primary, where the interpretation of meaning is imposed on a scene that would otherwise be meaningless (p. 21), a view close to that of the phenomenological sociologists such as Schutz, Garfinkel and Cicourel. Here social life may itself be seen as an endless negotiation about which cultural frame of meaning should surround and account for a given bit of behavior. I do not think that flow can often occur in relation to primary framing unless it can be shown early that there are prior shared understandings about, say, the moral or aesthetic values of a given event or action, for negotiating often divides action from awareness. Goffman speaks of such performative genres as movies and the theater as secondary frames. He also uses the term fabricated frames where an activity is managed so that one or more others has a false belief about what is going on, as in the frame created by a confidence trickster (P. 83).

Reflection. Now I would argue that in Goffman's terms, while ritual, carnival, and theater are all socially framed guided doings, the first two genres, since they are more deeply located in social structure, defined by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann as the element of continuity or objectification of reality (The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge, 1966), owe their flow qualities to the degree to which participants identify themselves with the traditional scenario the procedural outline which itself may constitute a reflexive metacommentary on the history of the group while flow in stage drama comes from the fidelity with which actors convey the dramatist's individually-based appraisal of the social structure. In all cases, the actors themselves are not reflexive, since reflexivity inhibits flow, but in the flow of their mutually interconnected performances they convey the reflexive message of the scenario or script. Part of the potency of a "great performance" comes precisely from this : the author reflects; the actors flow. There is a fruitful tension between the opposites. The audience is "moved." A cultural problem is irradiated into full visibility for the audience to reflect upon passionately. In ritual and carnival it may not be too fanciful to see social structure itself as the author or source of scenarios.

The cases presented by Natalie Davis and Robert Bezucha are interesting because we can detect in them social structure divided against istelf: one part authoring the downfall of another in mime and mask. No longer is social structure relatively solidary; class and gender have become self-conscious, reflexive, and one part of the social system employs formerly shared cultural symbols to provide a critique of others. It is at this point that collective reflexive genres seem to become clumsy instruments of periodic self-appraisal for modernizing societies. Here Goffman's notion that transformation may occur between frames a process he also calls "keying," the "set of conventions by which a given activity, one already meaningful in terms of some primary framework, is transformed into something patterned on this activity but seen by the participants to be something quite else" may be relevant. Carnival or ritual may key into stage drama. The former seems to have happened, for example, in the case of the Commedia dell 'Arte, whose actors, masked virtuosi of spontaneous stage business, flourished in the atmosphere of the great fairs, such as the Fair of Saint-Germain and the Fair of Saint Laurent in Paris. The Noh play of Japan, which took its present form in the fourteenth century, seems to have developed out of several earlier performative genres. One was Gigaku, a form of entertainment brought from Korea early in the seventh century A.D., which "made use of music, dance, masking, and miming and was often of a satirical nature, but was part, nevertheless, of religious festivals" (Henry W. Wells, "Noh" in The reader's encyclopedia of world drama, 1969:6O2). Other major theatrical genres have carnivalesque origins, such as Greek comedy which has been conjectured to originate in a processional celebration with a song or dance at entrance, a debate or dispute, and an address to the onlookers characters are ridiculed and represented as absurd or offensive. Medieval European comedy has been held to have been affected by the carnivalesque Feast of Fools, which itself derived in part from the Roman Saturnalia. H.J. Rose thus describes the Saturnalia (1948:77): "During it there were no social distinctions, slaves had a holiday and feasted like their masters, and all restrictions were relaxed ... civilians and soldiers alike celebrated it, it was usual to choose by lot a Lord of Misrule (Saturnalicius princeps, 'leading man of the Saturnalia') and gifts were exchanged."

The liminal and the liminoid. Stage dramas are genres that I would be inclined to call "liminoid," "liminal-like," rather than "liminal"; that is, they are historically connected with and often displace rituals which possess true liminal phases, and they also share important characteristics with liminal processes and states, such as "subjectivity," escape from the classifications of everyday life, symbolic reversals, destruction at a deep level of social distinctions, and the like; nevertheless, liminoid genres differ from liminal phases in ways which indicate major differences in the societies of which they respectively constitute major modes of reflexive stocktaking.

Liminoid genres which would include the writing of novels and essays, the painting of portraits, landscapes and crowd scenes, art exhibitions, sculpture, architecture, and so on, as well as individually written plays contrast with liminal phenomena in the following ways. Liminal phenomena tend to dominate in tribal and early agrarian societies; they are collective, concerned with calendrical, biological, and social structural cycles; they are integrated into the total social process; they reflect the collective experience of a community over time; and they may be said to be "functional" or "eufunctional," even when they seem to "invert" status hierarchies found in the nonliminal domain. Liminoid phenomena, on the other hand, flourish in societies of more complex structure, where, in Henry Maine's terms, "contract has replaced status" as the major social bond, where people voluntarily enter into relationships instead of being born into them. Perhaps they begin to appear in what Georges Gurvitch calls "city-states on their way to becoming empires" (of the Graeco-Roman, Etruscan and Umbrian type) and in late feudal societies. But they become really prominent mainly in Western Europe in nascent, capitalistic societies, with the beginnings of industrialization and mechanization, and the emergence of socioeconomic classes. Liminoid phenomena may be collective (and, when they are so, are often derived, like carnivals, parades, spectacles, circuses, and the like, from liminal predecessors) or individually created though, as I said, they have mass or collective effects. They are not cyclical but intermittent, generated often in times and places assigned to the leisure sphere. Liminoid phenomena, unlike liminal phenomena, tend to develop apart from central political and economic processes, along the margins, in the interstices, on the interfaces of central and servicing institutions they are plural, fragmentary (representing, in some cases, the dismemberment, or sparagmos, of holistic, pivotal, pansocietal rituals) and often experimental in character. Furthermore, since they are often assigned to individuals as scenario writers they tend to be more idiosyncratic and quirky, more "spare, original and strange" than liminal phenomena. Their symbols are closer to the personal-psychological than to the objective-social typological pole. Cliques, schools, and coteries of liminoid authors and artists emerge, but these are bonded more by optation, by choice, than by obligation in the liminal case, persons have to undergo ritual by virtue of their natal status. Competition emerges in the later liminoid domain; individuals and schools compete for the recognition of a "public" and are regarded as ludic offerings placed for sale on a free market at least in nascent capitalistic and democratic-liberal societies. Liminoid phenomena, unlike liminal, do not so much invert as subvert quotidian and prestigious structures and symbols. This subversive quality inheres in many structural and antistructural perspectives, for example, ritual liminality reasserts itself against secularization in the manifestos of Antonin Artaud. Let me quote here and there from The Theater and its Double (1958):

Where alchemy, through its symbols, is the spiritual Double of an operation which functions only on the level of real matter, the theater must also be considered as the Double, not of this direct, everyday reality of which it is gradually being reduced to a mere inert replica as empty as it is sugar-coated but of another archetypal and dangerous reality, a reality of which the Principles, like dolphins, once they have shown their heads, hurry to dive back into the obscurity of the deep (p. 48).

Here Artaud seems to see theatrical reflexivity as being a confrontation of modern quotidian reality with the "inhuman" (to use his term) depth of the fecund and primordial depths of a "cosmos in turmoil," subverting thus our glib acceptance of surface, rational realities. Subversion for Artaud implies a curious "retribalization," not disakin to Jung's. We seek for replenishment from the myths which coil within us and must out. For Artaud, Oriental theater, for example the Balinese, had a therapeutic effect: it broke "through language in order to touch life." Subversion often takes the form of rational critique of the established order from various structural perspectives: didacticism is explicit in the theater of Shaw, Ibsen, Strindberg, and Brecht, implicit in the work of Pinter, Becket, and Arrabal. Drama, and other liminoid genres and media, exposes the injustices, inefficiencies, immoralities, alienations, and the like, held to be generated by mainstream modern economic and political structures and processes.

Of course, liminal and liminoid phenomena have always coexisted, though in various ratios. Religions, clubs, fraternities, secret societies, in modern societies, have their initiation rituals with liminal phases. In tribal societies, there are liminoid games and experimental practices in art and dance. But the trend from liminal to liminoid is discernible, as are those from status to contract, mechanical to organic solidarity, and so on.

Putting our initial terms together we might say that liminal genres put much stress on social frames, plural reflexivity, and mass flow, shared flow, while liminoid genres emphasize idiosyncratic framing, individual reflexivity, subjective flow, and see the social as problem not datum.

Postscript. I have recently been in earnest dialogue with Dr. Richard Schechner, co-Director of the Performance Group, who is both a theorist of drama and a producer of plays outstanding in both capacities. Dr. Schechner, like Jerzy Grotowski, is professionally concerned with the relationship between ritual and drama. Grotowski's article "The theatre's New Testament" is, indeed, included in a volume published in 1976, Ritual, play, and performance, edited by Schechner and Mady Schuman. Grotowski, quite frankly, regards his theater as a type of rite de passage, an initiation rite, for modern man. For him "it is necessary to abolish the distance between actor and audience by eliminating the stage, removing all frontiers" (p. 189). The play is to become the liminal phase of an initiatory scenario directed to the spectator (hardly a spectator any more, rather a participant) "who does not stop at an elementary stage of psychic integration, content with his own petty, geometrical, spiritual stability, knowing exactly what is good and what is evil, and never in doubt. For it was not to him that El Greco, Norwid, Thomas Mann and Dostoyevsky spoke, but to him who undergoes an endless process of self-development, whose unrest is not general but directed towards a search for the truth about himself and his mission in life" (p. 188). Clearly, it is to the modern individual Grotowski addresses himself, to the man confronted by a preponderance of "liminoid" genres. But Grotowski wishes to "reliminalize" or "retribalize" if not all modern men, at least that handful which could constitute a cult group of shamans. In answer to the question: "Does this imply a theatre for the elite?" Grotowski answers: "Yes, but for an elite which is not determined by the social background or financial situation of the spectator, nor even education. The worker who has never had any secondary education can undergo this creative process of self-search, whereas the university professor may be dead, permanently formed, moulded into the terrible rigidity of a corpse ... We are not concerned with just any audience, but a special one" (p. 188).

Grotowski's anti-intellectual bias, evidenced here, is not the most important component to his Poor Theater, heir to the Polish Laboratory Theater of Wroclav. His is a sort of secular Franciscanism with, indeed, latterly, the requirement that neophytes must travel to a sacred mountain in Poland, as pilgrims, on foot, to work with his core group of actor-adepts, if they wish to be "stimulated into selfanalysis" (p. 189). Clearly, Grotowski is still working within a liminoid frame, since he is prepared to admit the validity, however limited, of other types of theater. But within this frame he wishes to use what the anthropological eye clearly detects as a sequence of initiatory rituals as a means of creating a community of "saved" persons, who in finding themselves through the psychic discipline and carefully designed physical exercises of Grotowski's rehearsal procedures, also find others, thus gradually disseminating what Berdyaev would have called "an aristocracy of the spirit" throughout a world of "alienated" individuals. The liminoid character of his enterprise is revealed by his reversal of the tribal ordering in which liminal rites indicate antecedent social structures and form thresholds between significant states and statuses of those structures. Grotowski uses his "rites" (I use quotes to mark their liminoid character as the constructions of a postmodern man) to create first existential communitas, then normative communitas. He begins with the "threshold" and generates the structures on either side of it. This is how the founders of millenarian movements have operated Wovoka for the Ghost Dance, Isaiah Shembe in South Africa. Evangelizing fervor pervades Grotowski's vocabulary: "the theater's New Testament," the "holy actor," "secular saints like Stanislawski" even though he protests that one must not take the word "holy" in a religious sense (p. 190).

Schechner now takes a more detached stance towards this ritual-ltheater issue. For him "the entire binary 'efficacy/ritual-entertainment/theater' is performance." "Performance," the generic term, comprehends "the impulse to be serious and to entertain; to collect meanings and to pass the time; to display symbolic behavior that actualizes 'there and then' and to exist only 'here and now'; to be oneself and to play at being others; to be in a trance and to be conscious; to get results and to fool around; to focus the action on and for a select group sharing a hermetic language, and to broadcast to the largest possible audiences of strangers who buy a ticket" (p. 218). However, I think that if we are to prehend more fully than before the dynamics of sociocultural process, we have to see cultural performances as constituting the reflexivity of human groups and to see growing reflexivity embodied in a developmental sequence of cultural genres. Schechner's "performance" is a fairly precise labelling of the items in the modern potpourri of liminoid genres but it indicates by its very breadth and tolerance of discrepant forms that a level of public reflexivity has been reached totally congruent with the advanced stages of a given social form Western capitalist liberal democracy.

As a personal footnote I would like to add that I see the liminoid as an advance in the history of human freedom. For this reason I relish the separation of an audience from performers and the liberation of scripts from cosmology and theology. The concept of individuality has been hardwon, and to surrender it to a new totalizing process of reliminalization is a dejecting thought. As a member of an audience I can see the theme and message of a play as one among a number of "subjunctive" possibilities, a variant model for thought or action to be accepted or rejected after careful consideration. Even as audience people can be "moved" by plays; they need not be "carried away" by them into another person's utopia or "secular sacrum," to use Grotowski's phrase. Liminoid theater should present alternatives; it should not be a brainwashing technique. As Blake said: "One Law for the Lion and the Ox is Oppression."

Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 6, 14 December 1979


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