Cross-Cultural Analysis of Rites of Passage
Rites of passage are one of the vital parts that distinguish varying cultural backgrounds from one another. They constitute a form of socialization wherein individuals are able to identify themselves with a particular culture they belong to since each ritual or rite of passage is unique and symbolically diverse for different cultural backgrounds. Specifically, rites of passage are rituals, traditions, or practices that signify a transition or change in an individual’s life as he reaches a particular time, age, or stage. (Rasband) For instance, a rite of passage would include a ritual or an activity for individuals who are shifting from the age of adolescence to adulthood, or leaving behind the single life by bounding oneself to marriage, etc.
Each transitional stage of an individual’s life undergoes a ritualistic phase wherein an individual is made to welcome the changes and transformations that lie ahead. The remainder of this text will discuss a particular transitional stage of every human being’s life. In addition, the transitional stage will be related to two varied rites of passage from different cultures. The purpose of going over two different rites of passage is to determine the implications of undergoing such traditions in the social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions or development of an individual.Marriage is a momentous part of an individual’s life where one decides to live in union and harmony with another human being.
Traditionally, a wedding is a process which marriage – or the union of one man and woman’s life – formal. However, in terms of social processes, marriage is a means of socialization wherein the foundations of society are rebuild by allowing the creation of a family which is technically the most basic unit of society. As a process of socialization, marriage fosters the development of relationships through intimacy and companionship, and as marriage allows the establishment of a family, it cultivates the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. (“What is Marriage”) Although marriage is a nonspecific event around the world, the variations in cultural practices, beliefs, traditions, and such establish the differences on rituals that lead to marriage.Marriage is a complex and formal process for the Chinese. For instance, in pre-Communist Dongyang, a small province in China, follows a distinct rituals and ceremonies for individuals who wanted to get married.
The marriage ritual is initiated by matching or arranging the union or establishment of relationship between two individuals. The parents of the man and the woman, as well as a go-between or a negotiator, are involved in the process of arranging the marriage of their offspring. Overall, the marriage ritual are handled or managed not by the two individuals who will be subjected to the ceremony, but are propelled by the individuals around them and the community in which they live. For instance, while the woman’s father led all the decisions as to who his daughter will marry, the actual marriage ceremony is arranged by the woman’s mother-in-law. However, the woman’s mother is in-charge of preparing the dowry in the form of clothes or dresses, make-up, linen, etc.
and entertaining guests who would attend the banquet and the marriage ceremony. (Cooper)The arrangement of marriage in Dongyang, as well as other rural areas in pre-Communist China for that matter, is based on set standards and guidelines from which the decision of conducting a wedding ceremony is closely founded on. Apparently, match-making or arranging matrimony between two individuals is based on their economic and social status. Moreover, arrangement of marriages is usually between individuals with close family or companionship ties. It is normal for people who belong in the same clan to marry one another, as long as their families agree, which they usually do due to their longing to engage members of their family with other people with the same social and economic status.
Sometimes, the arrangement of marriage is based on the closeness, in terms of friendship, of families to one another. Go-betweens or negotiators usually introduce two individuals with the same social and economic status, while their parents agreed on how the marriage ceremony will take place. (Cooper)Dongyang’s marriage ritual, as a rite of passage for individuals, is imposed by the family of an individual leaving one with no freedom to choose a mate and to explore other possibilities than getting married. The ritual or ceremony then is to leave or entrust one’s life to the decisions made by one’s parents or family and to accept marriage when, where, and with whom it will take place. Overall, marriage is following the rules, standards, or guidelines set by society highly based on the social or economic situation and the agreement between families who make the final decisions.
The formal ritual or rite of passage is based on the decision of whether both parents agree to marry two individuals regardless of age, or any other considerations. Until this point, the life of an individual takes its turn allowing him or her to face the changes or transformations ushered by marriage.The marriage rituals of Roman Jews during the Renaissance present various similarities as well as differences with that of the Dongyang culture. At some point, the western and eastern representations of marriage rituals, as life transitions and rites of passage, are similar in the sense that both require the arrangement of the ceremony. Roman Jews need to come up with a contract from which the marriage becomes legalized. The difference, however, is that marriage for them is like a contract wherein the man is the purchaser of the woman, and the binding contract states the agreement of the woman to engage in the transaction making her the object to be purchased.
Like the Dongyang culture, the age of both individuals who want to get married, most especially the woman, does not matter. Minors are allowed to marry older men, as long as they are able to provide the woman’s family the required dowry. (Stow)The main difference between the rituals of the Dongyang culture and the Roman Jewish culture regarding marriage is that the latter requires more formal ceremonies or agreements such as the betrothal which occurs prior to the wedding, and the symbolically important exchange of rings during the actual wedding ceremony. In contrast to the Dongyang culture, attention is focused on the agreement and the payment of the dowry and not so much on the actual marriage ceremony between the two individuals. It was more of putting up a show in entertaining guests, and such. In the Roman Jewish culture, the marriage ceremony becomes the focus of the man and the woman’s family.
A betrothal refers to the actual establishment of the contents of the contract. Once a man decides to marry a person of the opposite sex, he approaches the woman’s family and the agreement of the parents of the woman depends solely on his ability to pay for the dowry. The contract during the betrothal is mostly in favor of the man, while the woman simply signs in agreement to their marriage. (Stow)The nature of the two cultures, when analyzed in the psychological perspective, influences the growth and development of individuals, especially if their ages are taken into consideration. Both cultures allow marriage even at a very young age.
Under the context of psychology, individuals follow a pattern of growth or development from which specific features or characteristics are identified for each age group or stage. According to the Psychosocial Theory of Development by Erik Erikson, adolescents are still in the stage of discovering their identities since they are caught up in between the stages of childhood and adulthood. In addition, this particular theory suggests that marriage should enter during the adulthood stage. (Van Wagner) With this in mind, we realized the implications of culture on the psychological development of individuals. Naturally, being immersed into the social situation of being married at an immature age and frame of mind changes the individual’s life tremendously.On one hand, the individual might feel confused about the situation since he or she is not prepared to face the responsibilities of a marriage partnership as well as raising a family.
Individuals who are young still have a lot of things and experiences to explore in order to establish who they are as individuals. Symbolically speaking, getting married marks maturity and being welcomed to the world of adulthood and responsibility despite one’s age. However, getting married limits their capabilities to explore as much as they are bounded by the confines of the family life. Both individuals will be preoccupied to responsibilities such as working to satisfy their needs instead of going to school, and maintaining the upkeep of the house instead of going with friends, etc. This will influence how they grow psychologically, never being able to handle or resolves issues that come up during the adolescent stage. On the other hand, getting married at a young age might be beneficial to one’s personal growth of development as it pushes the individual to mature quickly and to look at things on a rational perspective.
In addition, the cultural rituals presented might affect the cognitive and socio-emotional perspectives and development of individuals. The socio-emotional perspective and development of individuals refer to the aforementioned discussion of Erikson’s Psychosocial theory. Going over the matter in depth, the theory proposes that individuals face sensitive periods wherein various issues are present within the environment of individuals that need to be resolved in order for them to move on to the next stage of their life, fostering growth and development. If they fail to resolve such issues, then they will never be able to grow according to their age. (Huitt) Relaying Erikson’s theory to marriage as a cultural trait, adolescents who jump ahead and engage in issues and situations that are supposed to be handled by adults leave them unable to resolve their personal issues of knowing themselves better and establishing their sense of selves.Lev Semanovich Vygotsky presents a cognitive take on the development of individuals.
According to Vygotsky, the cognitive aspect of individuals develops from social and cultural factors. Individuals learn from their social and cultural development, such that what they see from other people. Therefore, learning and developing one’s cognitive faculties are dependent on socialization and the kind of culture that one belongs to. (Thomas, 8) In the case of being able to marry at a young age due to the impositions of cultural practices, individuals are able to regard the process as customary, despite the unusualness and inappropriateness of the cultural practice. Through the socialization process and the cultural practice that is marrying despite one’s age, individuals are able to take on roles and responsibilities and learn how to handle them at a young age.
Therefore, their understanding of the world around them shifts to the adult perspective.