Cultural Anthropology

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Patrick O'Brien
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Writing Assignment #2
October 14, 2005

My proposal is for participant observation of the rite of passage known as pledging. To do this, I will pledge a fraternity in order to witness first-hand the process that these pledges go through in order to become members of a fraternity. This rite of passage follows the three basic steps of rituals laid out by Van Gennep, these being: Separation, liminality, and reincorporation. During the process known as Rush, the separation begins. Potential pledges start hanging out with the fraternity more and more and their other friends less and less. Once pledging begins, this separation is taken to even greater extremes as the fraternity demands more and more of the pledges time. The pledging stage is also the liminal stage as it gives the pledges an ideology that they are supposed to live up to, although this ideology that was thought up by the fraternity's founding father's does not always have much of an effect on the beliefs of the pledges. Pledging does give the pledges time to reflect on the values that college students tend to hold most dear, though; mainly those that involve having a good time. Finally the pledges are reincorporated into society during initiation as members of the fraternity, giving them a higher status than they had going into the rite of passage. During my participant observation I will see how this process happens firsthand, and in so doing gain a deeper understanding of this rite of passage.
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