Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

sion" which begins with the ritual, indicates the new complexity of a dimension of female identity. Girls acquire new responsibilities towards their families, while their wish to engage in courtship demands a loosening of family control. Girls are symbolically handed over to the male domain, but they also experience self-empowerment in the ritual. After the ritual, however, their freedom of action is often reduced, as well as their autonomy in relation to the male domain--this tighter control being one of the causes of early marriage. The ritual thus expresses discontinuities as well as continuities ( Crapanzano 1992) in the process of becoming a mujercita.

The ritual cannot be reduced, as the CEBs' discourse implies, to its functions of family status differentiation and "consumption". On the other hand, the ritual cannot be fully understood if we focus only on its symbolic level: on the ways it marks sexual boundaries, and helps to construct the female body as a vessel which needs to be defended from male philandering. The ritual is a performative act, an experience which may or may not be part of the process of creation of female self-identity. Indigenous exegeses of the ritual (and, indeed, of reasons for foregoing it) need to be understood within the context of particular sets of family relations--which are very heterogeneous--and also differing contexts of religious discourse and perceptions of class and status. For a wide range of economic and other considerations affect peoples' decisions about whether to celebrate the ceremony and, if so, on what scale.


Notes

The material in this article is drawn from my thesis ( Napolitano 1995), based on eighteen months of fieldwork between the summer of 1990 and the spring of 1992, funded by the University of London Scholarship Fund. I am in great debt to Richard Fardon, Peter Worsley, John Gledhill and Stephen Hugh-Jones for their insightful comments on early and later versions of this article.

1.
The CEBs are Catholic groups for biblical reflection organized at street level and based on "residential vicinity and local knowledge" ( Banck 1989: 13). Following liberation theology teaching, they aim to raise consciousness so as to act against social injustice and improve solidarity and living conditions among the underprivileged. They are organized at the level of the parish, but are also part of regional and national networks.
2.
A colonia popular is a low-income neighbourhood. Its degree of economic homogeneity can vary but the term popular refers always to its class composition.
3.
Many factors have influenced migration to Guadalajara, such as the shift from staple to cash crop cultivation, the freezing of official prices for basic agricultural products and the concentration of services and economic activities ( Orozco 1989), but we should not forget that, in many cases, individual's reasons for migration may override collective household interests ( Melhuus 1992: 62).
4.
My data were collected before the dramatic devaluation of the peso in December 1994. However, the economic crisis of the early 1980s--connected to the fall of oil prices--had already resulted in a decrease in the buying power of factory wages, an increased informalization of the market economy and a higher female participation in it.

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