Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

A Time of Meta-Celebration: Celebrating the Sociology of Celebration: Editorial

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

A Time of Meta-Celebration: Celebrating the Sociology of Celebration: Editorial

Article excerpt

Temporality, spatiality, sociality: The coordinates of celebration

Whatever their particular nature - political commemorations, religious holidays, family anniversaries or other festive occasions - celebrations are the salt-n-pepper of social life. Celebrations bring a burst of flavor to the otherwise dry and dull routine of ordinary daily life of a community. They punctuate the endless routine into which everyday social living is cast with festive occasions that break the dominion of affective neutrality governing human relations and spark an outburst of collective emotions.3

Although not figuring explicitly on Donald E. Brown's list of human universals, a compelling case could be argued for including celebrations among anthropological constants (Brown 1991). True enough, celebration cannot be found as such in Brown's index of cultural universals. However, the constituents of celebration, such as ritual and symbolic behavior, a notion of the sacred and some forms of religion, music and dance, time awareness and the cyclicity of time, jokes and play, are all recognized as shared by all known human societies (Pinker 2002: 435-439, appendix).

Given these considerations, it is safe to assume that all societies, irrespective of their idiosyncratic morphologies sometimes expressing the wildest of variation in terms of social structure, political organization, and system of economic production, are nevertheless "cultures of celebration" (Brown and Marsden 1994). The thesis of the cultural universality of celebration is supported by the "more than 3,000 holidays, festivals, celebrations, commemorations, holy days, feasts and fasts, and other observances from all parts of the world" documented in the Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary (Abbey 2010).

Special issue editorials are notoriously short. Instead of following the customary practice of writing a conventionally succinct editorial, we will seize the opportunity offered by this occasion and proceed otherwise. In this editorial piece, we would like to attempt a tentative mapping of the relatively uncharted field of the sociology of celebration. We will start off by setting the frames of celebration. In this analytic endeavor, the relationships of celebration with time, space, and sociality will constitute the objects of our reflections. After establishing this relational framework, we will set out to examine the constituents of "festive sociality" by analyzing celebration in its intricate relationships with rituals, ceremonies, commemorations, festivals, carnival, and festivities. The third section of our editorial will host a pluralistic typology consisting in a set of dichotomous variables in terms of which the multiple facets of celebration could be made visible and understood systematically. It is in this section, and in the light of these typologies we are articulating, that the conventional summaries of the contributions to this special issue are to be found. We end our piece in a festive fashion, in full tune with the subject matter of our special issue, by inverting chiastically the "Sociology of celebration" and calling for a celebration of sociology's renewed interest in the study of celebration.

Time and celebration: The temporal frame of celebration

Celebrations are ritual means of socially patterning time. What Henri Bergson (1996) [1896] pointed out for the individual person, Émile Durkheim (1995) [1912] has shown to be the case for societies - namely, that for both individual and collective consciousness, temporality and duration are experienced subjectively, different from the objective mechanics of time. But if for Bergson the elasticity of time was the result of the endless varieties of subjective experience, for Durkheim, it is the society which is responsible for the structuration of time in terms of its division of labor and forms of social organization.

Following the sociological footpaths of Durkheim, we shall argue that celebrations are the ritual means by which a collectivity symbolically marks time and thus, by organizing it within a system of temporal frameworks, time can be made socially meaningful. …

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