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A Girls’ ‘Initiation’ ritual

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Chapter Summary

The high-spirited performances the author describes in this chapter have much in common with what anthropologists have commonly called 'reversal rituals'. They are characterized by carnival-like inversions of norms of conduct, whereby the participants not only tolerate, but also are expected to indulge in the very acts that they normally scorn outside the specified ritual context. Instead of 'performative memory' legitimising the established order, it becomes a site of contestation. The rituals described in the chapter reveals that far more is at stake in these rituals than a concern with religious or national identity. The chapter examines that ʿOmar serves as a prime symbol for critique internal to the society itself. The performances address fundamental social and cultural values and assumptions, negotiating boundaries of gender, class and political authority. Sexuality is perhaps the most taboo subject, but satiric performances concerning female sexuality are particularly popular in women's social gatherings.

Keywords: ʿOmar rituals; female sexuality; national identity; performative memory; reversal rituals; women's social gatherings



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