Reclaiming Van Gennep's the rites of passage (1909)

Reclaiming Van Gennep's the rites of passage (1909)
Activity Date: 
Sunday, May 15, 2016 to Monday, May 16, 2016

An internatonal workshop on van Gennep ´s book “Les Rites de Passage “ (1909) was held on the 15-16 May 2016.
The workshop brought together experts in van Gennep’s work and scholars interested in his book. Together we engaged anew with his text. The workshop started with introductory talks by Ruth HaCohen and Don Handelman, who contextualised van Gennep’s ideas and discussed its reception. The dialogue with, and influence of, the author on his contemporaries as well as later thinkers was at the center of the talks by Bjørn Thomassen (Arnold van Gennep contra Emile Durkheim – and the Rites of Passage as Compared to the Elementary Forms of Religious Life), Nicole Hochner (Motion and Passage in Ritual Theory from van Gennep to Bourdieu) and Ilana Silber (Gifts in Rites of Passage or Gifts as Rite of Passage? Standing at the Threshold between van Gennep and Marcel Mauss).
An important element in the reception of the book and the understanding of van Gennep´s ideas relates to the different translations of the French original, an issue which was touched upon in several talks, most notably in the contribution in absentia of Juwen Zhang (Les Rites de Passage: Reclaiming the Meanings Lost in Translations and Interpretations), who stressed the linguistic significance and nuances of key concepts such as “passage”, “liminality”, “marge”.
A thorough reading of selected passages of the book showed the validity – or the limits – of van Gennep´s model, and its applicability in various disciplines and fields of knowledge: from anthropology in the talks of Suhad Daher-Nashif (Beyond the Duality and Objectivity of van Gennep's Bodies: The Case of the Palestinian Forensic Medicine System) and Mario Pesce (Overcoming the Limits of Identity: Liminality as a Barrier to Integration), to history in the talks by Francesca Fiaschetti (Ambivalence and Charisma: the Magico-religious in van Gennep´s Thought) and Lutz Greisiger (Rites of Passage Making History: Conquerers and Sovereigns Enter the holy City).
The significance of van Gennep for sociology and history of religion was addressed in the talks by Uzi Ben Shalom (The Role off War in the Rites of Passage) and Nitzan Rothem (Unable to Align it All: the Penultimate Chapter in the Rites of Passage and Dynamics of Order and Disorder within Functional Thought) and Moshe Blidstein ("So-Called Purication" in the Rites of Passage).
The two contributions by Felix Lenz (The Poetological Dimension of the Rites of Passage – Rereading van Gennep from the Point of View of Cinema) and Annette Kehnel (Readdressing the Materiality of Transitions) applied van Gennep to different aspects of visual culture.
Each panel was organized around different tensions inherent in van Gennep’s work. Those issues were brought to the fore by the discussants (Shlomo Fischer, Khaled Furani, David Kertai, Moshe Sluhovsky, Ruthie Abeliovich and Harvey Goldberg), who engaged with the talks, the book and brought their own perspectives to the table. The workshop concluded with a dialogue between Yaron Ezrahi and Bjørn Thomassen, moderated by Orit Gazit, leading to a round table discussion.