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Social Identity and Expressive Symbols: The Meaning of an Initiation Ritual

Gary Schwartz and Don Merten
American Anthropologist
New Series, Vol. 70, No. 6 (Dec., 1968), pp. 1117-1131
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/669513
Page Count: 15
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Social Identity and Expressive Symbols: The Meaning of an Initiation Ritual
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Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between expressive symbols and the identity transformations implicit in adolescent initiation rituals. Previous work views these rites as a means of insuring role commitment; they enable a society to motivate its members to willingly accept adult role obligations essential to its survival. On the other hand, our analysis of high school sorority initiation rites in an urban community suggests that they confirm the initiate's new social identity in a way that strengthens the moral categories that define the local status system. In contrast to those who argue that these sorts of rituals promote community solidarity, we maintain that they support the ideology of the dominant groups in a local status hierarchy.

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