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Birger, D.M. (1984). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981: Rite of Return—Circumcision in Morocco. Vincent Crapanzano. Pp. 15-36.. Psychoanal Q., 53:487.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981: Rite of Return—Circumcision in Morocco. Vincent Crapanzano. Pp. 15-36.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:487

The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981: Rite of Return—Circumcision in Morocco. Vincent Crapanzano. Pp. 15-36.

Daniel M. Birger

Crapanzano challenges routine anthropological explanations regarding "rites de passage" phenomena in primitive societies. He suggests that anthropologists have a tendency to project their own cultural values into the meaning of observed rituals. He claims that some rituals, traditionally viewed as rites of passage, are, in fact, opposite in their meaning. Rather than conveying a progression from one stage of development to another, they represent symbolically regressive wishes, which the author defines as "rites of return." The disjunction between the supposed meaning of the ritual and the individual's everyday experience of himself is examined closely. The Moroccan Arab's circumcision rite is described meticulously and presented as evidence of the author's thesis. He concludes that the circumcision rite is disjunctive. It declares passage where there is, in both ritual and everyday life, no passage whatsoever. The boy (sometimes as young as three years old) goes through the rite before he is physically a man or is treated as one. The rite is essentially disjunctive in that it contains a series of contradictory messages which remain unresolved. It is a condensation of many anxieties of childhood into one event, branded into the child's memory with the horror of mutilation and pain, which serves as a symbolical orientation point in his personal history.

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Article Citation

Birger, D.M. (1984). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981. Psychoanal. Q., 53:487

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