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Victor Turner, Social Dramas and Stories About Them

Victor Turner, Social Dramas and Stories About Them

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Social Dramas and Stories about ThemAuthor(s): Victor TurnerSource:
Critical Inquiry,
Vol. 7, No. 1, On Narrative (Autumn, 1980), pp. 141-168Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL:
Accessed: 07/10/2009 10:29
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SocialDramas and Stories aboutThem
VictorTurner
Anthropologistscountandmeasurewhattheycaninordertoestablishgeneralfeatures of thesociocultural fieldsthey study.Althoughtheseactivitieshave theirirritatingside,onthewholeIfound iteminentlysoothing,duringmytwoand ahalfyearsof fieldworkamongtheNdembu ofnorthwesternZambia,awest-centralBantu-speakingpeople,to sitinvillagesbeforeacalabashof millet orhoneybeerandcollectnumericaldata-onvillagemembership,divorcefrequency,bridewealth,labormigrationrates,individualcashbudgets,birth andhomiciderates-and,morestrenuously,tomeasure theacreageofgar-densandthedimensions of ritualenclosures. Thesefigurestoldmeifnotastoryatleastwhere togoto findstories.Iwasable toinfer fromstatisticsbased oncensusesandgenealogiesofsomeseventyvillagesthattheseresidentialunitsconsisted ofcores ofcloselyrelated malematrilinealkin;wives andsisters,as aresult offre-quentdivorce,hadreturnedto their natalvillages bringingtheir chil-dren withthem. Thiswas,ofcourse,onlythe thinendofamassivewedge.IsoondiscoveredthatNdembumarryvirilocally,thatis,aftermarriageawomanresidesinherhusband'svillage.Consequently,inthelongrun,villagecontinuity depends uponmaritaldiscontinuity,sinceone'srightto resideinagivenvillageisprimarilydeterminedbyma-trilinealaffiliation,thoughonemayresideinone'sfather'svillage duringthe father'slifetime.Clearlyasort ofstructural turbulenceis builtintothesenormativearrangements.For avillagecanonly persistbyrecruit-ingwidows,divorcees,andtheirchildren.Thereisalsoapropensityfor
?1980byTheUniveisityofChicago.0093-1896/80/0701-0003$02.42
141
 
Social Dramas and Stories about Themmen,whoresideintheirownmatrilinealvillage,topersuadetheirsistersto leavetheirhusbands,bringingwiththemthe childrenwho"properlybelong"tothatvillage.Politicalauthority,chieftainship,headmanship,and otherofficesareinmalehands,eveninthis matrilinealsociety;aman,however,cannotbe succeededbyhisownsonbutonlybyhisuterinebrotherorhissister'sson.The chain ofauthority,therefore,demandsthat,soonerorlater,a headman'ssister'ssonswill leavetheirpaternalvillagesand dwellwith theirmaternaluncle.Itiseasierto dothisifayoungmanisresidingwithhisstepfather,not thefatherwhobegathim.Thusdivorceworksinvariouswaystoreasserttheultimateparamountcyofthematernalline,despitethemasculineattempttopre-emptthepresentthroughvirilocalmarriage.Itismy purposeto showherehowcertainentrenchedfeaturesofagivensociety'ssocialstructureinfluence boththecourseofconductinobservablesocialeventsand thescenariosofitsgenresofculturalper-formance-rangingfromritual tomarchen.Tocompletethesimplifiedpictureof NdembusocialstructureIshouldmention,however,thatinseveralbooks1Ihave triedto workouthowstressesbetweenmatrilinealsuccessionand otherprinciplesand theprocessestowhichthey giverisehaveaffectedvariousmundaneandritualphenomena,processes,andinstitutionsof Ndembusociety-suchasvillagesize,composition,mobil-ity,fission,maritalstability,relationsbetweenand withingenealogicalgenerations,the role ofthemanycultassociationsincounterbalancingvillagecleavages,lineagesandfamilies,thestrongmasculinestressoncomplexhuntingand circumcisionritesinasystemultimatelyde-pendenton women'sagriculturalandfood-processingactivities,andthepatterningofwitchcraftaccusations,whichare oftendirectedagainstmatrilinealrivalsfor office orprestige.Isupposethatif Ihad confinedmyselftotheanalysisofnumericaldata,guidedbyknowledgeofsalientkinshipprinciplesandpolitical,legal,and economiccontexts,IwouldhaveconstruedananthropologicalnarrativeinformedbywhatHaydenWhiteinMetahistory urelywould
1.SeemySchism andContinuityin anAjricanSociety:AStudyojNdembuVillageLife(Manchester,1957);The ForestofSymbols:AspectsofNdembuSociety(Ithaca,N.Y.,1967);TheDrumsofAffliction:AStudyofReligiousProcessesamongtheNdembuofZambia(Oxford,1968);andThe Ritual Process: Structureand Anti-StructureChicago,1969).
Victor Turnerisprofessorofanthropologyand a member oftheCenter forAdvanced StudiesattheUniversityofVirginia.HismanypublicationsincludeSchismandContinuitynanAfrican Society,The ForestofSymbols,The RitualProcess,and,withEdithTurner,ImageandPilgrim-ageinChristian Culture.142VictorTurner

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