Anthropology Study: Comradeship As A Factor In The Liminal Period

Updated December 12, 2010

Victor Turner explains that comradeship (rite of passage to reach a higher social status) combines submissiveness, sacred traditions, and uniformity, recognized through linguistic principles or legal sanctions. Comradeship most often occurs or emerges in a culture with an amorphous, rudimentarily structured, and undistinguishable community of neophytes.

The neophytes are, therefore, equal by rites, who submit together to the general authority of the ritual elders. Thus, there is no hierarchical structure distinguishing comrads. Individuals have the same rank, same sex in many cases, and retain a kinship between one another. Even individuals exhibiting a higher rank, as with the Ndembu of Zambia and the sons or headmen of chiefs, receive no special treatment. Comrads are simply “ground down” to a level allowing them to cope with their new life.

Comradeship, ultimately, is supposed to created lifelong bonds, as equally ranked individuals experience their rites of passage with one another. This is not always the case, however. There is a tendency for the “threshold people” to slip through the network of classifications that normally locate states and positions in cultural space. 

The Sisterhood Parallel and Paradox

 I’ve seen a semi parallel in a Sorority I was initiated into over 14 years ago. I say semi because the fact is, the initiates are not equal. I was a legacy, therefore I was treated, maybe not openly, a bit more special by every sorority I visited during “Rush”. The Rush participants may not have noticed themselves, as they were caught up in their own experiences, and for that matter they were equal amongst each other (so they gathered). I was an opposing force that may or may not have pushed them out of a spot in the sorority of my choosing. On the other hand, as pledges, we wore the same clothing. The same shirts. The same shorts. Shoes were our only form of expression, however once again a separation of equality.

This case (or in particular rushing), would have puzzled Turner, and maybe it did. He ardently states he “has no time to delve into the lifelong ties that are held to bind in close friendships.” This was regarding sororities. There are no lifelong ties unless you pay your way. If you break with the sisterhood, in most cases, you’ll never hear from the individuals again. 


This particular case is hard to dissect, as fraternal orders are even more secretive about their rituals. However, being I was in a sorority and had a brother fraternity we often mingled with, there were things I experienced that were unnerving to say the very least. Do the things these men are required to do create comradeship? I'm not exactly sure. Living in close spaces with someone you may or may not like doesn't promote a sense of comradeship, nor does being locked in a closet and blindfolded without food together.

In all actuality and in some cases, it's the people looking into these secret organizations that have the power. Not an ordinary person with no links to these groups, but a person affiliated with a sister branch of some sort. "We", and I use the term lightly, have the power to change the course of a man vying for a piece of power in these brotherhoods.All it takes is a simple act by the man. He may have called a girl names. Had a one night stand and never called her back, only to find out she was an officer in a high profile sorority. The lines of brotherhood can be broken in an instant with one failed decision.

Final Note

Comradeship, ultimately, is supposed to created lifelong bonds, as equally ranked individuals experience their rites of passage with one another. In many cases, however, the men or women are not equal at all. One may have more money. Their parents may be more affluent in the community. Or maybe, just maybe, they have already procurred a connection because their blood line proclaims them entitled.

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