By Eviatar Zerubavel
Eviatar Zerubavel argues that the majority of the differences we make in our day-by-day lives and in our tradition are social constructs. He questions the suggestion transparent line could be attracted to separate one time or item or notion from one other, and provides witty and provocative counterexamples in security of ambiguity and anomaly.
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Extra info for The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life
Is eliminated, hidden, or m oder ated. . The basis o f the image is . . 26 Such rules keep us, for example, from leaning on tables and walls and severely restrict acts that involve ejecting parts of the body into the environment—spitting, nose-blowing,27 farting, def ecating, ejaculating. To promote the image of the sealed self, they also make us keep our mouth shut when we eat or laugh and cover it when we cough, sneeze, or yawn. In fact, most body-related ta boos concern the openings through which matter exits our body— our genitals, anus, mouth.
A ritual name change helps monks, converts, slaves,23 brides, and adoptees artic ulate similar symbolic metamorphoses and dramatize the gap be tween their old identity and the new one. Similar rites of separation help substantiate radical transforma tions of collective identity. Thus, for example, as they cross the mental gap separating political subordination from independence, nations often change their name—from Basutoland to Lesotho, from Dutch Guiana to Suriname. They likewise dramatize various critical political transformations by changing their official calendar24 or flag.
In so doing, they clearly promote our experience of ethnic groups, families,18 and fra ternities as insular entities. 19 Thus, for example, as they go through basic military training (in which they become soldiers), puberty rites (in which they officially become adults),20 and initiations into monastic orders (in which they are symbolically transformed into brides of Christ), recruits, children, and ordinary girls practically undergo a symbolic death. To dramatize the considerable mental gaps (separating civil ians from soldiers, childhood from adulthood, and so on) involved in such transformations, they must ritually destroy their old self before they can assume their new identity.