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Modern Political Ritual: Ethnography of an Inauguration and a Pilgrimage by President

Author(s): Marc Abeles
Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jun., 1988), pp. 391-404
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for
Anthropological Research
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2743455
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CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 29, Number 3, JuneI988

? I988 byThe Wenner-Gren
ooi I-3204/88/2903-0002$2.50
Research.All rightsreserved

Modern Political
ofan Inauguration
and a Pilgrimageby President
by Marc Abeles
This paperexaminesfroman anthropological
The firstrelatesto thewell-established
and commemoration.
The second,thepilgrimage
to Solutre,
wouldappearto be an originalinventionofitsprotagonist.
On the
analysis,it is possibleto findin modem
describedin traditional
societies.In oppositionto manywhounderlinethesecularization
ofpoliticsin contemporary
is observedherethatritualssuchas thesevisitsofthepresident
havea religiousdimension.These modemrituals,whichparticipatein theconstruction
ABELES iS Chargede Recherche
ofCNRS anda member
ofSocial Anthropology
(5.2ruedu Cardinal
Lemoine,75005 Paris,France).Bornin I950, he was educatedat
theEcole NormaleSuperieure(i968-73) andtheEcole des Hautes
Etudesen SciencesSociales(Doctoratd'ethnologie,
1976). He has
in Ethiopia,in southernSpain,andin theYonne.
His publicationsincludeAnthropologie
etmarxisme(Paris:EditionsComplexe,1978), Le lieu du politique(Paris:Societed'Ethnographie,
i983), Age,pouvoiret societeen Afrique
withChantalCollard(Paris:EditionsKharthala,i985), "Le degres
zerode la politique"(EtudesRuralesI986, pp. ioi-2), and "L'anet le politique"(L'Homme26: I-2). The presentpaper
was submitted
in finalform25 vi 87.

That the governanceoftraditionalsocietiesis characterized by the comminglingofpolitics and ritualis a commonplace foranthropologistsand social historians,who
are used to tracingthe pansocial implicationsof major
rites and exposing the intimate connections between
power and the sacred. A substantialbody of literature
has been devoted to the relations between these two
aspects of social life not only in non-Westerncultures
but also in our own history,particularlywith respectto
kingshipand the doctrineof Divine Right.If commentatorsnowadays referfreelyto the "charisma" associated with certainpolitical leaders to the extentof comparingthem to real kings, such parallels are generally
proposed metaphorically-eitherrealisticallyor satirically, in accordance with the author'sparticularstandpoint. However, such commentatorshardlybother to
draw out the sense of the metaphoror to considerthe
image of power therebyprojected.
Occasionally the concept of "political drama" is
evoked in a pejorativesense, especially in referenceto
the role of the news media. But the overall impression
givenis thatthe political is immersedin a sea ofappearances thateffectively
masks the realitiesof conflictand
domination. We need to remind ourselves that the
dramatizationofthe politicalis not peculiarto ourmodern civilization: witness the vivid political dramas enacted in Africankingdomssuch as the Swazi.2 It will
doubtless be argued that between modernpolitics and
the customs of African monarchies or even of preRevolutionkingshipin Francethereintervenesthe process of secularizationwhich has separatedchurchfrom
state and which has entailed, at a still deeper level, a
dissociationbetweenpoliticalpowerand the sacred.Accordingto this view, modernpolitical "show business"
representsa new way of portrayingpower, in which
coerciverelationsand the juxtapositionofcrudeimages
tendto obliterateawareness of any fixedreferent,
transcendantor immanent(God, the Law).
Attractivethoughit may seem, this idea of the political seems unduly schematic. One can certainlyadmit,
with Habermas (i986[i962]:24I), that the "public political sphere"has undergonea remarkableevolutionsince
the Enlightenment,
to the extentthatit "has been taken
over by techniques of demonstrationand manipulation
invented by organizationsthat constructa 'publicity'
from which the subordinated 'public' has been excluded." But does the analogybetweenpolitical competitionand a greatmarketin which new "products"are
paraded beforethe public accordingto the latest commercial and advertisingtechniques adequatelydescribe
relationsbetween professionalpoliticians and theirfellow citizens?And should these latter,at least in democraticsocieties,be equated withconsumers,albeitfickle
Evidently,the question ofpolitical dramais inseparable fromthe complex question of political representation in modern society. At this point the analysis of

i. Translated
byRoyWillis.An originalversionofthistextformed
to theColloquiumat BadHomburg
thesubjectofa paperpresented
Octoberi6-I8, I986. It appearedin Frenchin Le TempsModernes
in March I987 and is translatedhere by permissionof the pub- 2. The Ncwala, the greatannualritualofthe Swazi,describedby
Kuper (I 947:197-225), explicitlygeneratesthe powers of kingship.


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Volume 29, Number 3, JuneI988

societywould seem partiallyto invalidate
the notionoftotal secularizationofpoliticallifein favor
of a less strictlyevolutionistview of matters.If we examine politicalritualin present-day
France,we findourselves dealing with relationsof abiding complexity,as
Lefort(I986) has emphasized,betweenthe political and
the religious.3That is why I have chosen to consider
from an anthropologicalperspective two rituals performedby a particularlytypicalstatesman,namely,the
Presidentofthe Republic,FrancoisMitterrand.The first
ritualrelatesto a well-establishedcustom,thatof inaugurationsand commemorationssuch as are regularlyattendedby elected representativesin the course of their
duties. The second ritualwould appearto be an original
inventionand also contains informationabout the personal historyof its protagonist.Analysis of the characteristicsof these kinds of political practiceleads us to
question the adequacy of the veryidea of "ritual," and
deeper studyof these public proceduresmay enable us
betterto understandthe functionof political ritual in
termsof legitimacy.

A PresidentialDay
On FebruaryI4, I986, PresidentMitterrandwent to
Nievre,a departmentforwhich he had been the elected
representativeformore than 30 years,rightup to his
accession to the supremeoffice.The officialpurposeof
this journeywas to inauguratethe new railwaystation
at Nevers (the principaltown of the department).The
remainderof the day was to be devotedto otheracts of
commemorationand inauguration,such as the bestowal
of decorationson various local personalities:a full day
that was to take the presidentall over the department.
Let us now followM. Mitterrandand his entourage:we
shall also take note of the various local and national
press commentariesthat marked this visit and effectivelymade an event of it.
On this Fridaya special trainconveyedthe president,
accompaniedby the state secretaryfortransportand the
presidentof the state railwaycorporation,fromParis to
Nevers. The journey became the occasion for a freewheelingdiscussion with journalists,and inevitablyinterestfocussedon the legislativeelections,due withina
month; on this topic M. Mitterrandobservedthat his
pronouncementsplaced him "verymuch in advance" of
his predecessors.Accordingto him, the electionswould
follow a patternalready laid down by the presidential
campaign: "Undoubtedlythe legislative elections will
take just that shape." As to a possible "deal" over the
premiership,the presidentemphasized that he would
choose "whomeverhe wishes" as primeminister.This
concernovertheproperpreeminenceofthehead ofstate
3. Lefortrightlyemphasizesthe interrelation
of the politicaland
notingin thisconnectionthat"it is impossible to separatewhatbelongsto theelaborationofa politicalform
... fromwhatbelongsto the elaborationof a religiousform"(p.

did not in any way imply denyingthe futureprime

minister access to certain spheres of activity: "The
primeministerhas everyrightto contributeto all political debate outside the provinceof the president."
These carefullyconstructedstatements did not, of
course,go unnoticed.The followingday theymade the
headlines in the political columns of the majornewspapers: "The PremierAccordingto Francois Mitterrand"
(Le Monde, FebruaryI7); "I Remain VeryMuch in Advance of My Predecessors"(La Montagne,FebruaryI5);
"Mitterrand:Diplomacy a Jobforthe Prime Minister"
(Le Matin, FebruaryI 5). Fromthepresidentialjourneyin
Nievre, the national dailies and the television service
selectedthese briefstatementsrelatingto the mannerof
selectinga prime ministerand to the role assigned to
him by the occupant of the Elysee Palace. However,the
actual day in Nievre had yet to begin: it was II: I4 A.M.
when the trainarrivedat the station.The buildingwas
bedeckedwith both the national colors and those ofthe
The main elementoftheritualperformed
bythepresidentwas the inaugurationofNevers railwaystation.On
his arrival,M. Mitterrandwas welcomed by the deputy
mayorof Nevers (M. Beregovoy,ministerof economics
and finance),the presidentof the department'sGeneral
Council, anotherdeputyforNievre,the regionalprefect,
and the departmentalprefect.The red carpethad been
duly rolled out, and the presidentemergedinto the station courtyard,where he revieweda detachmentof the
SeventhR.A. To the applause ofthe crowd,estimatedby
the journalistsas close on a thousandpeople, he moved
towards the station entrance.For a moment,together
with the stationmaster,he contemplatedthe building.
Then he cut the symbolicred ribbonand unveiled the
plaque commemoratingthis inauguration.Followed by
several hundred invited guests, M. Mitterrandwas
shown around the premises by the regionaldirectorof
the railway corporation.Twelve minutes later, he returnedto the grandconcourse,wherehe made a speech
on a modestplatformspeciallyconstructedforthis purpose. The presidentspoke afterlisteningin turnto the
wordsofNevers's deputymayorand thepresidentofthe
railway.The speeches were relayedthroughloudspeakers to the crowd gatheredoutside the station. His addressconcluded,M. Mitterrandlaid a wreathin memory
ofthe railwaymenwho had died fortheircountry,in the
presence of the veterans' standard-bearer.He next
moved towardsthe buffet,
had been
preparedforthe guests,pausing on the way to sign two
copies of his recentlypublishedbook, R6flexionssur la
politique exterieurede la France, and presentthem to
the station library.Without pausing at the buffet,the
presidentwent out into the courtyardand mingledconviviallywith the crowd beforegettinginto his car and
headingforLa Baratte,the hall that houses the annual
Nivernais-MorvanExhibition.Accompanied by the directorofthe exhibition,M. Mitterrandvisitedthenearly
completednew hall. This visit providedan opportunity
of Nevers and several otherguests.

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At half-pasttwelve the head of state took a helicopter

tripto Lormes,a cantonal headquarterssituatedwithin
the parliamentaryconstituencyhe had represented.The
pretextforthis visit to his fiefofMorvanwas the investitureof the general councillor of Lormes with the Legion of Honor. On his receptionat the town hall, M.
Mitterrandmade a shortspeech in which he expressed
his pleasure at once again meeting with friendlyand
loyal people: "I see here many familiar and friendly
faces. This is a special occasion for me." Addressing
himselfto the generalcouncillorwhom he had come to
decorate,the presidentevoked the past: "I knew your
father,a respectedand conscientiouscraftsmanof deep
political convictions." Remembranceand also attachment to the land of Morvan were signalledin the president's assertion, "If I were in need of reassurancewhich I must hasten to add I am not-it is to this place
thatI would come forit" (Le Journaldu Centre,February
I5). With this ceremonythe morning'sbusiness concludedwith a privateluncheonforI 5 guestsprovidedby
the generalcouncillorof Lormes.
M. Mitterrand'sday in Nevers was by no means over.
We findhim again at 3:30 P.M. inauguratinga block of27
An old buildinghad
apartmentsat La Charite-sur-Loire.
been renovatedfor this purpose. Numerous local personalitiesaccompaniedthe president,includingthe deputy mayorsof Nevers and Cosne-sur-Loire,the local director of housing, and the local senator. The press
recordedthe "affectionategesture"with
which M. Mitterrandembraceda little girl beforecutting the inauguralribbon.From his address,what was
particularlynoted was his insistence on "the will for
renewal of this commune,in the contextof the general
renewal" (La Montagne, Februaryi 5). Once again, M.
Mitterrandtold of "the pleasure I feel at being among
you, togetherwith my sense of the historicsignificance
of this place." The faces of those presentbetrayedtheir
emotion.This was the momentto proceedwith the investitures:two general councillors and a mayor were
made respectivelyofficerand knightsof the Legion of
Honor. "A signing of the golden book, several autographs,a kiss forthe little girl,a warm handshakefor
AdrienLangumierwho has come fromSaint-Amand-enPuisayeforthis littleexchangeofcivilities. . . the Presidentialvisit was over in less than an hour,"reportedLa
A littlelater,thepresidentialhelicoptertoucheddown
at Chatillon-en-Bazois.M. Mitterrand'spurposein comingherewas to unveil a plaque in memoryofthefounder
of a children'svillage, a man who was also his deputy
when he was deputy mayor of Chateau-Chinon. The
ceremonywas performedin the presence of the dead
man's widow, currentlythe guidingspiritof the village.
In his speech, the presidentemphasizedthe importance
of this kind of enterpriseand observedthat "the village
has been part of the largermovementwhich has led to
Nievre's being the departmentthathas best understood
childhood" (Le Journaldu Centre,Februaryi5). After
decoratinganother woman, who is handicapped and
comes fromCorbignyand who is also extremelyactive

Modern Political Ritual | 393

in the affairsof her commune, the presidentmade a

point of devotingthe last moments of this visit to answering questions from the press. It fell to a young
woman to have the privilegeof questioningM. Mitterrand, and she simply asked him, "What do you think

about worldhunger?"At



the presidential

helicoptertook off;the constraintsofprotocolhad been

A studyofthe different
phases ofM. Mitterrand'svisit
to Nievre gives one the sense ofbeingpresentat a major
ritual in which the combination of spoken words,
significant acts, and manipulated objects (cf. LeviStraussI97I: 6oo) bringsintoplay the symbolismofrelations between political power and civil society.We see
here the bringingtogetherof an ensemble of coded behaviors,whose meaningis well understoodbythe different participants,around certain "focalizing elements"
(6l6ments focalisateurs)that markthe highlightsof the
presidentialday. PierreSmith,to whom I am indebted
forthis expression,has rightlyemphasized one of the
characteristicsofritual,dramatization,the actingout of
performancesthat mobilize public support.When we
look at M. Mitterrand'sjourney,the dual dimensionsof
ritualare clearlyapparent:on the one hand, a high degree of formalization,given that all the acts are thoroughly codified,fromthe cuttingof the ribbonat the
stationto the investitureofnew knightsofthe Legionof
Honor; on the otherhand, the promotionof a high degreeof emotion in the participants.
Let us tryto understandbetterthis curious contrast
between formalismand artifice,drama and sentiment,
that lies behind the ritual. Here one may readilyagree
with PierreSmith's contentionthat an inaugurationis
no more than a "symbolic act." There can hardlybe a
Frenchcitizenwho has not been presentat some time at
a performanceof this sort.Each one knows the scenario
beforehand.Taken individually,each participantwill
readilyconcede that both the organizersand the public
could put the time taken up by this ceremonyto better
use. It will also be generallyagreed that there is "artificiality"in certaintypes of behavioradopted by the
principal protagonists,behavior expressive of respect,
meditation,emotion,etc. In this sense, the ritualfunctionsas what Smithcalls a "snareforthought,"in which
everythingis acceptable because no one asks more in
thatmomentthanto believe. No one would have turned
downhis invitationto attendtheinaugurationofNevers
railwaystation; and so the photographersrecordedthe
expressions,respectfulor admiring,ofthosemembersof
the public who were presentwhen M. Mitterrandunveiled the plaque in memoryof his old deputy.Moreover,no one would dare to talk aloud or look cheerful
duringthe minute's silence.
Comedy? Conjuring tricks?In reality,it is obvious
that everyonebelieves: the ritualdoes not generatebut
presupposessolidarity.To understandthis it is necessary to consider the second dimension of the ritual,
whichI shall call "contextualdramatization"and which
produces,I believe, the "snare forthought."If we take
into account the totalityof the acts performedby the

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Volume 29, Number 3, JuineI988

presidentduringthis day of FebruaryI4, we see that

theycompose a series ofmovements.Besides the initial
trainjourneyto Nevers,the sites of Lormes,La Charitesur-Loire,and Chatillon-en-Bazoisconstitutethe stages
of this pilgrimage.One may furthersuggestthatthe toand-froing
all over Nievre is the central"focalizingelement" of this ritual. Thus the various celebrationsare
grouped around an action which provides the real
significanceofthis day: the movementofM. Mitterrand
fromthe centerto the peripheryand then,as if into an
abyss, fromthe departmentalheadquartersto outlying
localities. The inaugurationof the Nevers station symbolizes in itselfthe permanenceof the exchangesrepresentedby this political man between the abidingcountryside,in which he findsthe source of his legitimacy,
and the capital city,fromwhich it is his task to attract
financialmanna forthe benefitof his department.4
M. Mitterrand'sspeech at Nevers at the outset of his
visit clearlyillustratesthese themes.In it he evokes the
atmosphereof railwaystationsand theirsignificancein
the dailylifeofthepolitician: "I have travelledbyrail so
many times, and very frequentlyon the Paris-Nevers
line." And he goes on to say, "I have crossedthis grand
concourse [of the station] so many times: this station
has been associated with many importantmomentsin
my life, some fraughtwith uncertainty,others with
hope; as a resultI have a kind ofpersonalattachmentto
it" (La Montagne,FebruaryI5). Hence a returnto Nevers, and a fittingone, forin the context of exchange
betweenterritorialand national collectivities,it is only
rightthat the presidentshould rememberthe parliamentaryrepresentativethat he once was and the land
which engenderedhis political career.He had himself
made sure that Nevers acquired a new station: "We are
workingforFrance,but it is not forbiddento work also
forNievre. It is not a matterof privilegebut of due recompense." But this celebrationcontains a deeper concern,forthe presidentis visitinghis friends,and is glad
of it: "It is a greatpleasure forme to be in Nevers this
morning,to be in Nievre.... we comprisesome sortof
In the course of his journeyM. Mitterrandmakes numerous referencesto his delight at being among his
faithfulfollowers,his "old stagers."The tourof the departmentrepresentsa returnto his roots,as the opening
addressat Nevers stationmakes clear: "Nievre remains
forme, and in both senses of the term,a place of election. As for me, I preferthat sense which refersto a
4. As I have notedelsewhere(Ab6l6si986), the markedpolycenfrom
trismoftheFrenchsystemimpliesa perpetualto-and-froing
the centralto the local and vice versa;a deeplyentrenched
intoan accumulationofsuccessiveelectoral
mandates,is the minimal but essential preconditionfor the
M. Mitterrand's
achievementof "national"legitimacy.
betweenthe electedperson
witnessto the graduatedrelationship
and his constituency:
he returnsthereonly to obtainthis fresh
ofcomparisonit will be recalledthatit was fromChamaliere,his
local town,thatValeryGiscardd'Estaingannouncedhis candidacy
in 1974.

heartfeltchoice, to the friendshipand gratitudeI owe to

thispeople, loyal throughthe years" (La Montagne,Februaryi 5). Friendshipand loyaltyare two themescentral
to the presidentialmessage, associated with a certain
stubbornness,the "solidarity"referredto a little later
duringthe visit to Morvan.
The image of returnrecursagain in this referenceto
Nievre: "It is hereperhapsthatI have most readilybeen
able to relate directlyto the men and women of a department"(La Montagne, Februaryi 5). This is a paradigmaticinstance of political discourse,forthe quasitransparency
oftherelationshipbetweenthe electedand
the electoratein Nievre on thisfourteenth
day ofFebruary,I986, also reveals an underlyinguncertainty.Forall
that the topic is never explicitly raised, everyone is
aware of the imminentnational elections,the possibilityof the coexistenceof a presidentand an executiveof
opposed political allegiances and all the potential for
conflictinherentin such an outcome.The tourofNievre
is in part an acting out of a reply to these unspoken
questions. The opening address at Nevers proclaims a
returnto origins,as in thisevocationofthepast: "I spent
my earliest years in the shadow of a railway station,
because when I was bornmyfatherhad just leftMontluc,on,where he was stationmaster.All the men of my
familyforthe two precedinggenerations,my fatherand
had been railwaymen"(La Montagne,Febgrandfathers,
ruaryi 5).
The inaugurationof Nevers stationthus servesas the
occasion for a return to origins: the elected one is
reunitedwith his loyal followers,and the son remembershis forefathers.
The speech at Nevers lays out, as it
were, the ritual program.The actions which thereafter
punctuate the presidentialprogressmake visible this
"journeyto the heart of legitimacy"in the manner of
royal progressesrecordedby anthropologistsin certain
i962 [I948], Izard
I973). Obviouslywe are dealingherenot with a quest of
the kind characteristicofroyalenthronments
but rather
with the symbolic reaffirmation
of a continuingrelationship between the presidentand the country.The
tour of Nievre constitutesin this sense one of those
"occasional rituals" defined by Smith (I979:I47) as
"based on theidea ofa disorderthatmustbe dealtwith."
The formulaadoptedconformswhollyto a traditional
pattern,fromthe beribbonedbouquet to the fanfareat
the reception.The day is thus composedofmonotonous
sequences informedto the point of satiation by what
Claude Levi-Straussdescribesas the two characteristic
proceduresofritual:minutedivisionand repetition.Division is manifestin the decompositionof the principal
actionin each sequence into a multiplicityofspeechand
actions.Forexample,at La Charite-sur-Loire
theinauguration of the 27 apartmentsincludes in succession the
greetingsto those responsibleforthe operation,the architect's expositionto the president,the cuttingof the
ribbon,a hastyvisit to one apartment,the hearingof a
piece of music played by the local philharmonicorchestra,a motorcade to the festivalhall, a visit to a
museum, a receptioncomprisingthe senator's address

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Modern Political Ritual | 39 5

and that of the president,the bestowal of decorations, their purpose, one being "political significance,"the
and the signingof the town's Golden Book.
other"ceremonial offeredto the department,"does not
It would be superfluousto emphasize the repetitive suffice.Obviously, the correspondentof Liberation is
character,fromone place to another,ofthese operations not concernedabout the details of the stationinaugurato do withdecorations,inaugurations,etc. Levi-Strauss's tion. For its part,Le Monde, while satisfiedwith a sum(I97I:602) commenton certainrituals of the Navajo is mary of the remarksof the presidentduringhis interrelevanthere: "at the price of a considerableexpense of view with the journalists,returnsa couple of days later
words,the ritual becomes an orgyof repetitions."This to the tourof FebruaryI4 and devotes to it threelines,
ensemble of microsequenceslinked togetherwithouta not without a touch of humor: "The presidentNievre
break conferson political ritual a special atmosphere. has given France,accordingto M. PierreBeregovoy,the
On the one hand,thereare real eventsofgenuinecollec- mayorM. Mitterrandhas givenNievre,still owes sometive interest,concrete gains accrued by reason of the thingto his department.... M. Mitterrandhad the right
eminentpolitical role acquiredby Nievre's politicalrep- to all the flummeryof a full-dressofficialvisit . . ." (Le
resentative;on the other,the whole celebrationoccurs Monde, FebruaryI7). Behind the simple words of these
on the margin of ordinarylife, in a special time that national journaliststherelies the outline of a negative
formsa kind of parenthesisas much in relationto the message projectedby the president."M. Mitterrand'innormalpreoccupationsofthe participantsas to the cares auguratedthe chrysanthemums,'
as the late General de
of governmentone would generallyassociate with the Gaulle mighthave said, all throughthat day of Friday,
officeof Presidentof the Republic.
FebruaryI4. But afterMarch i 6 it will be a different
This contrastbetweenritualtime and thegeneralcon- story" (Le Monde, FebruaryI7). And was not this the
juncturein which it is inscribedin fact constitutesa essence of the matter,the simple idea offeredto the
necessaryconditionforthe settingup of the "snare for public-an idea which could be paraphrasedas "See me
thought."All the participantslay aside their ordinary playingthe role of a presidentin the styleof the Fourth
activities for several hours to join with the principal Republic!But know well thatI will neverbe confinedto
in a ceremonyto effecta double homage:on the such a role!", a message in the formof a paradox well
one hand dedicated to the elected one, to the "sover- summedup in the openingaddressat Nevers (Le Monde,
eign," on the otherby the presidentto the department, February I7): "I am not particularlykeen on inauwhose heroic notables he continuously extols. This gurations"?
The day in Nievre, thus placed in perspectiveby its
quasi-religiousaspect ofthepoliticalritualis perceptible
to the context of
in the actions and even in the looks of both parties. principalprotagonistand transferred
Public attentionis riveted on M. Mitterrandas if he the ongoingpolitical debate on the role of the President
were,in decoratingone of the guestsor in goinginto an of the Republic in the event of a victoryby the opposiapartment,performingsome mystic act. Like a priest tion in the legislative elections, takes on a special
his office,the presidentconcentrateson his significance.It is the irreducibility
in the face of public
everymove, and no one would thinkof distractinghim that M. Mitterrandis reaffirming,
fromthe task in hand. He himselfwalks amonghis fol- opinion. That at least is the sense of the image of the
lowers,sometimesslightlyin front,his eyes on thehori- ceremonial occasion as reflectedin the mirrorof the
zon, exceptforthe briefmomentswhen his gaze settles national dailies. As in many other societies, political
on an individualwho is receivinga decorationor whom ritualis eloquent here,simultaneouslyevokingthe repa shortexchangeofwordsrescuesfora fewsecondsfrom resentativecharacterofthepresidentas thechoice ofthe
people and the authorityhe exercisesas a head of state.
In a centralizedpolitical systemit is hardlysurprising But whereas the inaugurationof the Nevers stationand
thata presidentialact, even ifnot seen as an eventat the the subsequent celebrationsall serve to highlightthe
national level, nevertheless makes some impression firstterm-the relation between the elected one and
there.Even so, one may wonder to what extentan of- civil society-the second term becomes evident only
ficialday spentin a departmentis also intendedto affect when studied in the context of a speech act endowed
the global society. Does the symbolicefficacityof this with its strictrhetoricalsense of antiphrasis,pure and
kind of ritual exceed the boundariesof the territory
to simple.
which it is devoted? A reading of the national daily
The consistencyand polysemicrangeofthe ritualunnewspapersenables one to gauge the effectofM. Mitter- doubtedlyderivein part fromthe multiplicityof regisrand's tour of Nievre on Frenchpolitics. I have quoted ters employed,in part from this insertionof the saseveral newspapercommentswhich dwelt on the pros- cralizedact into a fieldof communicationsharedby the
pect of the elections.As faras the joumalists were con- global society.The president'sartconsistedin adhering
cemed, what seemed to be importantwas said in the scrupulouslyto a model belongingto the Republican
train beforethe beginningof the presidentialtour. It traditionwhile using its symbols,its actions, even its
would appear the ritual servedas a pretextwherebythe time to expresssomethingquite otherthan what would
presidentcould feedthe media with one or two carefully have come across in a speech or a pressinterview.Here
thereis an instructiveparallel to be noted between the
chosen phrases.
On furtherexamination,it seems that an interpreta- practiceofM. Mitterrandand thatofGeneralde Gaulle.
tion distinguishingtwo kinds of messages accordingto It is well known that the latter,an expertin the matter

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Volume 29, Number 3, JuneI988

of communication,never showed much interestin the

classical duties of a president(inauguration,commemoration,etc.). Certainlythe generaldid not neglectprovincial tours,as Viansson-Ponte(I963) has remindedus
in a work devoted to Gaullist ritual: "[The provincial
visit] is consideredso importantthat despite its timeconsuming and tiring character it is systematically
undergone,departmentby department,and so it will be
to the end" (P. 35). But thesejoumeys executedat breakneck speed were ill-suitedto the communicativeardor
ofDe Gaulle, who had discoveredin televisionthe ideal
medium to embody the relationshipunitinghim with
the nation. Viansson-Ponte has admirably described
thosegrandmomentswhen thegeneralgave a pressconference:"It is a sung High Mass, a majorritualendowed
withall the ceremonyofa sacredholiday" (P. 46). Forhis
part,M. Mitterrandhas shown littleinclinationto cultivate this medium. Less at ease than his predecessor
when addressingthe Frenchdirectly,he has, contrariwise, become master of the art of communicatinghis
ideas, of lightlysuggestinghis intentions,in contexts
where a few words (conversational,reflective,confessional) can be contained within a series of ritualized
acts-such as the tourof Nievre-so that theycome to
signifymore than the words themselves.This mastery
was particularlyevidentin anotherritualthatappearsto
have been a true creationex nihilo. And here the constraintsof protocol are relaxed to permita celebration
which was originallymore intimatebut afterI98I took
on quite anothersignificance.

The Pilgrimageto Solutre

Since May IO, I98I, joumalists have grownaccustomed
to travellingto Solutre on the Monday of Pentecost,
thereto follow the pilgrimageperformedby M. Mitterrand. Here we have a case of a national political ritual
with the peculiarityof having been to some extentinventedbyits principalprotagonist.The rockofSolutreis
a prehistoricsite5in the heartof Bourgognethat dominates the surrounding
vineyardsofPouillyand the Saone
Valley. A walker who takes the troubleto ascend this
highpointreaches,by rathera steep path,an altitudeof
495 m, fromwhich may be contemplatedthe peaceful
and fertilecountryside,soaked in immemorial traditions.
Since I946 M. Mitterrandhas made an annual pilgrimage to Solutreto relive in memorythe war yearswhen,
newly escaped from Germany, he went into hiding
nearby.He was givenrefugeby the Gouze familyalong
with othernotable membersof the Resistance such as
Henri Frenayand BertieAlbrecht.It is common knowledge that soon afterwardsthe futurepresidentmarried

5. At the footofthisrock,a pile ofhorses'bonesand lithictools

datingto theUpperPalaeolithicwerediscoveredin I864. According to legend,theseprehistoric
horsesthrewthemselves,forunknownreasons,fromthe top ofSolutreRock.

one of his hosts' daughters.Until I98I the ascent of

Solutrewas partofjust such an intimateritualas anyone
mightperformto commemoratea comparablysignificantepisode in life.M. Mitterrandwould hererediscover
a familiarcountrysidein the companyof a fewintimate
friends:"I like to spend a long time lookingat the view.
There I understandbetterwhat is happening,what has
been happening,and-above all-what is unchanging"
A suitableoccasion forquiet
thought,the pilgrimageto Solutre thus affordeda moment of escape fromthe distractionsof public life.
Once become Presidentof the Republic, M. Mitterrandremainedattachedto theritualhe had created.This
indeed continued substantiallyunchanged,except that
journalistswere invitedto follow the presidentialprogress. The orderof the ritual comprisedthreesuccessive
First,the ascent of SolutreRock accompaniedby the
"faithful":this was the opportunityfor the photographers to bombard the illustrious walker with their
cameras. The resultingpicturespresentedan image of
the president'sphysical condition. It was as if, every
year,the latterwas obligedto bear witness,in action,to
the excellentstate of his health. M. Mitterrand'sclothing also providedcause forcomment.Trousersofribbed
velvet or of linen, sportshirt,linen hat or cap, walking
stick, here was a statesman free of the constraintsof
protocoltakinghis ease late in the moming."The man
who walks at its [the procession's]head, cane in hand,
wearinga kindofangler'slinenhat,has an appearanceof
serenity,as if momentarilyrelieved of his cares. The
weatheris fine" (Le Monde, May 24, I986).
The presidentan angler?At all events,here the dress
makes the man: velvet and linen, beige or chestnutin
color,suggesta closeness to the earth,a rusticsimplicity
thatrecall the attachmentof the occupantof the Elysee
Palace to the values of the soil. One detail is illuminating in this respect.Whereas in previousyears the journalists had reportedthe presidentas wearingplimsoles,
M. Mitterrandinformedthem duringthe I985 pilgrimage that his shoes were of another kind, "made at
Chateau-Chinonin a factorycalled Morvan-Chaussures,
I think"(Le Monde, May 25, I985). The choice ofa local
productmade not faraway, in the president'sold conmeanstituency,is eloquent testimonyto the territorial
ing of the ritual.
As a commemorationofthe welcome he receivedhere
in a difficulttime and of the marriagehe made, here in
Bourgogne,with a familyand with a place, the ascent
phase of the ritual has a double significance.Here, on
one side, is a man who has sworn never to forgetand
who has come to steephimselfin the contemplationofa
past bothsomberand glorious;at the summitoftherock
M. Mitterrandcan also meditatein peace on the future
of the country.But at the same time the ascent of SolutreRock is not made by one man alone. Everything
remindsus of alliance and loyalty:the presenceof the
president'sfamilyand of his friends'spouses and children,the atmosphereof a springouting,in all this the
ritual presentsthe image of a shared well-being.It is

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Modern Political Ritual | 397

thus describedby one of the joumalists present(Libera- pen in his case [Giscardwon the legislativeelections of
tion,Juneii, I984):
I978]. Why do you want it to happen in mine?" (Le
GilbertMitterrandand the children,Mme. Hemu and
otherfriendsfromthe rue de Bievresun themselves

at thesummit.TowardsI2:30



arrives.The sunbumedRogerHanin, Mme. Lang and

herdaughter,GeorgesFillioud,JeanRiboud. For securityreasons,theyare not withouta following.The
partybreaksup to allow FrancoisMitterrandto arrive
incognito.Riboud,sportingbig sunglasses,takes Fillioud by the arm,he wearingzip-fastenedslacks:
"Georges,what has happenedto our things?"At
P.M. the presidentis announced.FrancoisMitterrandin the lead, thenHemu, Attali,Francheschi.
... the presidenttells the children:"Be careful,don't
take risks!" To the joumalists who surroundhim:
"You are blockingmy view!"

The second phase of the ritualbringsthe participants

togetherin a nearbyrestaurant,La Grangeau Bois. Here
we again findthe good-naturedatmosphereof Solutre.
On the menu card is inscribed:"The Mitterrandfamily
relax over lunch in the wine country."Afterthis meal,
sharedby those describedby the press as "close friends
and neighbors"of the president,therecomes the great
communicativemomentofthe day.Neitherformalconferencenor anodynedialogue,the conversationbetween
M. Mitterrandand therepresentatives
aroundhim providesthe presidentwith an opportunity
to expresshimselfon currentmattersof concem in an
atmosphereof calm and, even, confidentiality.
It will be seen that Solutreis also the occasion to delivercertainanticipatorymessages about likelypolitical
developments.During the I986 pilgrimagethe head of
stateindicatedhow he intendedto coexistwith the new
majority,and he let it be understoodthat the signingof
ordonnanceson denationalizationand the redrawingof
electoral boundaries would pose problems. Several
monthslaterthe Frenchcould appreciatethe continuity
ofpresidentialpolicyin thesematters.Otherstatements
byM. Mitterrandin previousyearswere also predictive;
thus,in I984, when asked about the head ofthe govemment, the presidentreplied: "The prime ministerhas
plentyof qualities, much merit,much courageand sensitivity.He works a lot. It would not be easy to find
anotherwith such qualities. But such exist,I hope" (Le
Monde, JuneI2, I984). A month later Laurent Fabius
replaced PierreMauroy, who was certainlyaccumulating a great many superlatives. The headlines of the
newspaper reportson the Solutre pilgrimageindicate
ratherclearlyhow these forecastsare understood:"Mitterrand:What I Know About Post-I986" (Liberation,
May 2, I985); "Mitterrandon His Rock: He Refusesto
Give Up AnyofHis Rights"(Le Quotidien de Paris,May
27, I986). The year I985 providedthe presidentan opportunityto loose several shots at his political opponents.ForM. Giscardd'Estaing,who would certainlysee
the presidentof a futurecoexistence retiringto Rambouillet: "I believe he liked Rambouillet[an allusion to
his predecessor'spassion forthe hunt].That didn'thap-

Monde,May 27,


One could well evoke other

statements by the president,other throw-awaylines

which delightedthe journalists.The inimitabletone of
the Solutre conversations,a mix of reflectionson the
solitaryexercise of power and very concrete observations about the immediateconcems ofthe French,have
made this pilgrimagea veritable"present-dayclassic."
This is a strangeevolutionofthis intimateritualthat
after30-odd years has become an element in a communicativestrategy.Having become substantiallypolitical, this ritualmightseem in some way "denatured,"a
mere pretextforthe media operationsbeloved of present-daycommentators.But to dwell exclusivelyon this
latteraspect of the presidentialday would be to go too
far,reducingthe message ofthe ritualto what the president says. While keepingtrackof the president,the anthropologistmust contest the type of approach that
tends to impoverishthe significanceof the event as a
whole. What we have seen is firstan ascent, and the
themeofverticalityhas its importancein Mitterrandian
symbolism.At the time ofhis installationin May I98I,
thehead ofstatewentup, followedbymanyParisians,to
the top of the Montagne Sainte Genevieve to meditate
inside the Pantheon. The ascending characterof this
kind ofmovementpartlyreflectsthe protagonist'sposition in the political hierarchy.We have seen that the
descent from Solutre provokes no comment, being
merely the necessary complement of the presidential
outing.The ascent gives evidence,as we have seen earlier, of the president'sstate of health. The ritual thus
makes visible the man invested with supreme power,
exposing a president walking with his family and
friends.But it is also apparentthat the ascent not only
tells us about the man but equally servesas the prelude
to deeper reflection.As at the Pantheon, though in a
mode,thepresidenthas a rendezvouswith
historyat the summit: a veryancient historybeing exposed by the local archaeologistsand much morerecent
eventsto do with the Resistance,but in both cases conceming Franceand its greatness.
Here we come upon the authenticallyreligiousdimension of the political ritual: exactlyas duringthe tourof
Nievre,the sacredis hereinvoked.But at Solutrewe are
dealingwitha dialoguebetweenMitterrandtheman and
the transcendenthistoryof France, whereas the first
ritual concemed the elected one and the Republican
tradition.While it is truethatthe tourofNievre and the
Solutrepilgrimageparticipatealike in the construction
ofthepresident'slegitimacy,the second ritualhas a particularoriginality,
introducinga new traditionmade entirelyof symbolscreatedby M. Mitterrandhimself:the
place, thekindofmovement,the meditationat the summit,etc. By combiningthe registersofthe mundaneand
the sacred,theritualprovidesan arrestingsummationof
the different
facets of Mitterrand'spersonality,at the
same time as it tendsto establishhim as a mythological
hero in an arrestingface-to-facewith the nation and
withhistory.No pomp or fanfarehere,but the represen-

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Volume 29, Number 3, tune I988

tation of an unswervingloyaltyto a land and a people

among whom the presidenthas fought.
In the Solutreritualthe public man is fusedwith the
private,the mundane mergeswith the sacred to enrich
the personageof the presidentwith a more authentic
dimension. In this sense the ritual constructsa richer
and morecompleximage ofits protagonistthanemerges
fromthe customaryeulogies ofthepresidentin the news
media. These media obscure the passion, and where
Generalde Gaulle managedthroughhis televised"High
Mass" to evoke a trulyspiritualrelationwith the country,M. Mitterrandremains one seen initiallyas just a
major politician. During the Solutrepilgrimage,on the
contrary,the political "message" simply prolongs a
moreloftykindofthought.Admittedly,theritual'sinvitation to a conversationwith joumalists mightappear
somewhat artificial,destroyingin some sort the harmonyofthis "familyouting,"or to reintroducethe contingencyof the presentimmediatelyaftera momentof
withdrawal.In other words, what makes this day of
Pentecost propitious for the public display of the
thoughtsof the head of state?
To answerthis question,it is necessaryto referto the
meaning of Pentecost in the Christian tradition.We
know that this festival commemorates,50 days after
Easter,the effusionofthe Holy Spiritupon the Apostles
and the disciples of Christ.Accordingto the Acts of the
Apostles (2:I-4I), the disciples who had scatteredafter
the arrestofJesusreturnedto Jerusalemand passed their
days in prayerin a high room. The fiftieth
day afterthe
Resurrectionof Christ,being assembled to the number
of i2o and praying,theywere suddenlyfilledwith the
Holy Spiritand began speakingin foreigntonguesthey
had neverlearned.At thattime therewere at Jerusalem
Jewswho had come fromall overthe worldto be present
at the festivalsand who were astonishedby this strange
phenomenonand accused the disciples of drunkenness.
Peterthen spoke in replyto this accusation, and 3,000
people were instantlyconvertedbyhis words.The miracle ofPentecostthusmarkedthe beginningofa new era:
tongueswereunleashed,and prophecyexplodedthrough
those who had adopted the new faith.
Withoutmakingany pretenceof findingin this reference to the Acts of the Apostles any sort of key to the
understandingof the Solutreritual,one point should be
notednonetheless:the descentof the Holy Spiritshows
itself in the immediate ability to understandand be
understood.Whetheror not the choice of this day for
frankdiscussion with the representativesof the information media was intentional,it still takes on a particular significancein this eminentlyreligious context.
Whereas the interviewwith the journalistsappears at
firstsightas a profaneinterludecontrastingwitha ritual
that sets up a relation between the man and transcendence,the referenceto the miracle of Pentecostintroduces a true continuitybetween the differentmoments of the presidential day. More, it generates a
contextof enunciationpropitiousto the mode of communication adopted by the head of state: confidential
and at times,ifnot prophetic,at least inclinedto prediction.

Observingthis interweavingof a religiousmotifand

profaneintentionalityallows us thebetterto understand
the true complexityof the political ritual.It is evident
that this ritual comportsa relationto the sacred.In decreeing the separation of church and state, secular
France has not effaceda religious dimension which is
one with the Republicanproject.6The visits of M. Mitterrandto Nievre and Solutre affordthe opportunityto
evoke those transcendentvalues called Nation, Republic, Land, Family,History.There is thus no difference in kind between the political ritualsof traditional
societies and those contemporaneous with us. Like
otherleading statesmen,the Presidentof the Republic
conformsto a logic of representationswhich preexists
him: thatlogic ordersthe relationsofthe centralgovemmentwith the different
territorialsegmentsand decides
ofthe Republicanelect. The
rituallabor engendersthe insigniaof legitimacywithin
this framework.
Ifwe findagain in modem political ritualsthe formal
procedureswhich anthropologistshave describedin societies fardistantin space and occasionallyin time,two
characteristicscan be said to specifythose procedures:
first,we have seen that conformity
to values and forms
does not exclude the inventionof new rituals. In this
respect the Solutre example is significant:here the
public celebrationoriginatesin a strictlyprivateact and
participatesin the constructionof the presidentialpersonalityand in his mythology.Secondly,the generation
of signs in the ritual can eithertake the formof a message, as in the case of the tourof Nievre as summarized
in the statement"the Presidentwill not insist on inauor determinethe condiguratingthe chrysanthemums,"
tions of enunciation of a message, conferring
a special
characteron it: thus the conversationwith the joumalists at Solutreappearsas a naturalprolongation,in both
its tone and its content,of that of the precedingascent.
These two aspects-invention and message-appear
to me to be peculiar to modem political ritual, even
allowing that ritual can vary greatlyin formin other
societies. Returningto the close relationbetweenmessage and ritual,the lattershould not be conceivedin an
fashion,such thatpolitical ritualserves
merelyas one ingredientamongotherswithinan overall
strategyofcommunication,forwe have seen thatrituals
generatemany othermeanings than those expectedby
theirprotagonists.That thesepracticesparticipatein the
constructionofpolitical representativity
does not make
ofthema simple,ifsomewhatarchaic,instrumentofthe
political spectacle. It means, on the contrary,
constructsa historicformoflegitimacy,an image ofthe
electedpersonwhich is reflected,in inevitablydistorted
form,in the mirrorsofthe mass media. Farfrombeinga
mere survival,political ritual,whetherit appearsin the
simple nudity of a formalvisitation or invents an al6. The factthattheintimaterelationbetweenthetheologicaland
abolished(Leforti986:299) in no way
thepoliticalwas thenceforth
impliesa separationofthe politicaland the religious.Rather,we
see a sacralizationof the Republicand of the representations

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Modern Political Ritual | 399

togethernew costumeforitself,constitutesa most effec- ply a question, perhaps to remain unanswered,rather

tive "snare forthought."
than a criticism.



London School of
Economics,HoughtonSt., London WC2A 2AE,
England. 5 x 87


Laboratoired'Ethnologieet de Sociologie
Comparative,Universitede Paris x, 9200I Nanterre,
France.7 x 87
One must certainlybe gratefulto Abeles forhavingtackled what he calls "modem political rituals" with the
rigourand considerationattachedto the studyof traditional societies. He seems perfectlyconvincingwhen he
concludes thatthe political "ritual" ofmodem societies
is stagedin a contextin which secularizationis probably
not absolute and thatit is not a survivalbut a necessary
elementof the definitionof an individuallegitimacy.
His contentionis that two featuresare necessaryto
characterizepolitical "ritual": a dependencybetween
formalizationand emotion and a necessaryrelationbetweenthe "rite" itselfand its incorporationinto a wider
political context. His analysis conceming this second
point is particularlyilluminatingand constitutesan essential intellectualtool forhis successors.The relation
betweenformalizationand emotion seems to me more
complexthanhe presentsit: manyrituals,includingreligious ones, put up with disbelief;theymay or may not
generateemotionin a particularparticipant,but to what
extentthis emotion is relatedto beliefis a particularly
This bringsus to the centralissue thatAbeles's article
most judiciouslyraises: obviouslyit is deliberatelythat
he uses the word "ritual" and not the word "ceremonial." The use of the word "ritual" is justifiedby the
referenceto an alleged "symbolicefficacy";one way of
understandingthis expressionmightbe as a particular
impact of certainformalizedgesturesor words on the
unconsciousofthe participant,who sees themas action
upon the world. I do not know if Abeles would agree
withthisdefinition,but ifwhat is describedis actuallya
ritualone mightexpect a descriptionof the mentalprocess by which it becomes a "snare for thought."The
whole problemofritualsis to make explicitthisconcept
of"symbolicefficacy,"to elucidatetherelationbetween
ritualact and emotion. What Abeles describesare ceremonials, which in and of themselvesare discoursesin
action about legitimacy;he explains,convincingly,that
they are something more than ordinarydiscourses,
somethingin whichlegitimacyis reassertedbymeans of
symbolic evocations, but the emotional involvement
and involuntaryadherence of the individual spectator
are probablyfarless importantthan in the case of a believer attendinga religious rite. In other words, is it
to say thatthereis symbolicefficacybecause a
conjunctionbetween formalizationand emotion possiblyoccurs?How are we, in thisparticularcase, to understand symbolicefficacy?This must be consideredsim-

The comparison made by Abeles between the largely

unformulatedritualofMitterrand'sannual ascent ofthe
Solutreanrock,the inaugurationsofthe provincialvisit,
and Africanroyal rituals is most thought-provoking.
raises questions about the nature of the sacred and
whether this folk concept from our religio/academic
culture has any analytical value. It also makes us ask
whether there really is a fundamentaldifferencebetween "traditional"and modem society. To get fuller
answersto these centralquestionsit would be necessary
to follow up similaritiesand differences
in more detail
than is possible in an article,but we can be gratefulto
Abeles forhavingformulatedtheproblemso engagingly.
I was particularlystruckby the crucial importanceof
the familiarthemes of aging,death, and continuityin
the two examples,and I wonderifit is perhapsthis content,ratherthan the formalaspects by which ritual is
usually defined,that makes us so readilyconcur with
Abeles in his feelingthatthereis somethingin common
betweenthese acts ofMitterrandand ritualssuch as the
Swazi Ncwala and the celebration of Pentecost. The
Ncwala is a ritual of renewal, and at its heart lies
the symbolicdeath ofthe king,who is thenable to commune withhis timelessancestorsand so regainpolitical
and militarystrength.Similarly,Pentecostis the celebration of retumed vitality to the church after the
earthlydeathofChrist.Mitterrandtoo,byretumingto a
point of departureand so symbolicallycompletinga
joumey,is willinglyforthe momentacceptingagingand
dying,aligninghimselfwith the old and the dead. But
this is only the beginningof the ritual.Mitterrandthen
declaresthatthe death ofhis predecessorswas not truly
final,and so by implicationneitheris his; like themhe
will continuerevitalizedand purifiedbyhis shortperiod
in anotherworld on the summitof the rock halfwayto
heaven, in a place where beginningsand endingsmeet.
He therebypowerfullylegitimiseshis promisedpolitical
return as a strengthenedrejuvenatorof himself and
There is something repulsively facile about such
but perhapsone of the most interestingpoints made by Abeles is his referenceto the
participants'simultaneousrecognitionof thisfacileelement and theirapparentinabilityto escape a sentimentality that, in more discursive contexts, they would
despise. The possibilityof having such apparentlycontradictoryattitudesto a ritual and the feelingof being
trappedby the performanceis not exceptionalbut typical not just of rituals in the West but of all rituals. I
thereforedo not believe that thereis any fundamental
differencebetween what Abeles describes and more

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Volume 29, Number 3, tune I988

Nonetheless, there is a difference,

and it lies in the
degree to which the participantsbelieve that they are
creatingor inventingwhat theyare doing.In traditional
African societies the participantssee themselves as
merelyfollowingthe "custom of the ancestors,"but of
course theyare also, to a degree,reinventingthe ritual
theyperform.They therebydelude themselvesin minimizing the significanceof their intentionality.In the
French case the participantsdelude themselvesin believingthattheyare creatinganew, ex nihilo,whereasin
fact,as we have seen, they are followingfamiliarpattems. They,by contrast,are overestimatingtheirintentionality.Perhapsthe familiarcontrastbetweenindividualism and holism, oftenlinked to a contrastbetween
"traditional"and "modem" societies, is nothingmore
than this-differentmisleadingfolk evaluations of the
natureof actions which are in themselvesverysimilar.


School ofAfricanand Asian Studies, Universityof

Sussex, Falmer,Brighton,Sussex BNi 9QN, England.

small literaturein anthropologywhich might enable

this task to be begun (e.g.,the work of Lane [I98I] and
Binns [I979]on the Soviet Union or thatofMass Observation on England[JenningsI937]).
Finally,I wonder if Abeles underestimatesthe conscious way in which contemporary
politiciansand their
advisers-possibly since the late fifties-have increasingly set out to create images and effectsfor the
"media," e.g., forconsumptionon the eveningnews on
TV. In Britainwe know that in the I983 election Mrs.
Thatcher's itinerarywas planned months in advance,
with camera shots and "photo opportunities"worked
out in detail-something which all partieswere doing
by I987.
There is always a dangerthatethnography
will be seen as little more than good joumalism. That
would be unfair,as the paperhas in an unobtrusiveway
much to say ofanalyticaland theoreticalinterest.There
are gaps,and in various respectsit is deficient,but I am
glad to have seen it published.


Indian River
This paper addresses in an interestingand thought- CommunityCollege, 3209 VirginiaAve., Ft. Pierce,
provokingway some importantquestions.The natureof Fla. 33454, U.S.A. 5 ix 87
ritualin contemporary
Westem society,especiallypolitical ritual of the kind Abeles examines,is a neglected Abeles's descriptionofpolitical ritualin the Mitterrand
subjectin anthropology,
thoughperhapsnot as neglected presidencyis ethnographicallyrich and interesting.He
as he suggests.The ethnographicdetail is valuable, and offersa compellingdemonstrationof the importantrole
the commentaryon the two ritualsmakes a numberof that symbols and ritual play in the political organizainterestingpoints which illuminate,forme, certainas- tions of contemporary
industrializedsocieties. I believe
pects of French political life (e.g., the importanceof he errs,however,when he arguesagainst"the notionof
place and roots). Some suggestionsforways in which total secularizationof political life" in France.I do not
this work could be extendedare in order.
think,as Abeles does, that we are "dealing with relaFirst,the two rituals which Abeles discusses are of tionsofabidingcomplexity... betweenthepoliticaland
similar types and a particularkind. Without a wider the religious" (emphasis added). The Mitterrandrituals
rangeofdata,analysisofthe significanceoftheserituals that he describes are essentially devoid of any supercan be only partialand suggestive.Both are minorlocal natural allusion or symbolism. Perhaps I am simply
ceremonies,albeit ones gracedby an importantperson- quibblingover semantics,but I thinknot. Most anthroage. A broadreviewofa wide rangeofcomparative,con- pologistsaccept the notionthatthe "supematural"(i.e.,
and historical,Frenchmaterial(whichmayor the nonempirical)lies at the heart of any definitionof
may not be available) is necessary to allow their full "religion." The Mitterrandperformancesare assuredly
significanceto emerge.Forexample,I would like to see a symbolic and inescapably ritualistic, as Abeles ably
similar (contemporary)analysis of the great (Parisian) demonstrates,but they are not religious-and that is
occasions of state,followedby an examinationof con- preciselywhat is interestingabout them.
Abeles correctlyobserves that magico-religioussuptinuityand changein FrenchstateritualfromLouis XIV
throughthe Revolutionand Napoleon to De Gaulle and port of political institutionsis ubiquitous in "tradiMitterrand.The extensive sociohistoricalliteratureon tional" societies. Certainlycontemporary
political ritualin I7th- and i8th-centuryFranceshould state societies do claim supernaturalsupportfortheir
provide plenty of source material. The paper hints at politicalinstitutions,but,froman evolutionaryperspecsome interestingdifferencesas well as similaritiesbe- tive, theyare doing so less and less. Political organizatween the ritualsof De Gaulle and Mitterrandbut does tions in state societies continue to rely heavily upon
littleabout it. (A Frenchfriendobserved,"We are always highlychargedsymbolsand powerfulrituals,but those
symbols and rituals are quickly becoming secularized.
tryingto resurrectthe kingwhose head we cut off!")
Secondly,the paper also hints at a comparativetask, This is what Wallace (I966) realized yearsago when he
but brieflyin its referenceto Swaziland. Equally if not wroteabout the preeminenceof ritualoverbelief.Conmore illuminatingwould be a comparisonwith other temporaryindustrializedsocieties continueto have ritEuropean and North American state systems (forex- uals of technology,therapy,ideology, salvation, and
ample, a comparisonon a line taken fromWashington revitalizationjust like band,tribal,chiefdom,and noninthroughLincoln to Kennedy and Reagan). There is a dustrialstate societies, but all five formsof ritual are

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losingtheirsupematuralideology.The formremainsthe
same, but the contenthas changeddramatically.
Abeles's interestingarticledoes nothingifnot demonstratethis.The evocativesymbolsmanipulatedbyPresident Mitterrandat the inaugurationin Nevers are all
secular:thelayingofthememorialwreath,the awarding
of the Legion of Honor, the reverentialallusion to "the
land of Morvan," the affectionateembrace of a little
girl-these are all symbols of group identification,of
nationalismand culturalheritage,and as such theydo
notdependupon anysupematuralassociations.They are
powerfulsymbolsand theyare expressedin a ritualcontext-and theirformand functionare identical to religious symbols expressedin religiousrituals-but they
are not religioussymbols,nor is the inaugurationa religious ritual.The same is true of Mitterrand's"pilgrimage" to Solutre.Here, as Abeles observes,what Mitterrandsymbolicallyaffirms
is his "unswervingloyaltyto a
land and a people," not to a god or a transcendentforce.
What I find most interestingabout Abeles's article,
though,is the paradigmaticissues that it suggests.His
analysisfollowsfairlyclosely the pointofview takenby
symbolicanthropologists(Geertz I973, I983), with additional inspiration drawn from structuralists(LeviStrauss I963, I976). Both of these paradigmsare centrally concemed with the role that symbols play in
human life, and both recognize that the most powerful symbols often find expression in ritual behavior.
Abeles's article is furthervalidation of the utility of
symbolicanthropology-theparadigmdoes in factlead
us to interesting
insightsabout theworld.He has offered
us one more illustrationof how symbolicanthropology
can be put to use, in effectperformingwhat Kuhn
(I970:25-28) calls "normal science"-examining the
factsat hand,comparingthemwithhis paradigm'stheoretical predictions,and demonstratingthe paradigm's
theoreticalprinciples.As I have arguedelsewhere(Lett
I987), however,symbolic anthropologyand structuralism do not,at the presenttime,need further
demonstrationsoftheirapplication.Instead,bothparadigmsneed a
more rigorousformulationof their theoreticalprinciples. I do not faultAbeles forfailingto addressthisissue
(I do not expect him to be interestedin the issues that
interestme). On the whole, however,myreactionto his
article is yes, that is intriguing;yes, I generallyagree;
but thereis otherwork to be done.

3, rue de l'Universite, 75007 Paris,France,I7 X 87

During the last decade we have witnessedan expansion

in the definitionofritualto include actions and institutionsnotformerly
recognizedas such. This development
is connectedwith an increase in the numberof ethnographicstudiesofcivilised,supposedlyrationalsocieties
and the breakdown of the conceptual distinctionbetween themand those of supposedlymagical mentality.
The old opposition,datingfromTylor,between ritual
and rationalityhas (at last!) been dissipated.The whole
notion of rationalityhas, in fact,taken a knock, even

Modern Political Ritual 140 I

amongphilosophers.At the same time,symbolicvalues

have acquired greaterimportancein the understanding
of power and legitimacy.The functionof ritual is, as I
have explainedelsewhere(I987), to establishconsensus
withregardto legitimacy,and therefore
it is as necessary
today as it was when the kings of France had to be
crowned at Rheims and annointed with oil fromthe
Holy Phial to be legitimized.The riteshave changed;the
need forthem remains.
Abeles's meticulous ethnographicdescriptionof the
symbolicactivitiesof PresidentMitterrandcomes, after
various studies of ritualin industryand ludic ritessuch
as footballmatches (cf.Abeles I987), to reinforcethese
tendencies,lookingforthe hiddenmeaningsbehindthe
explicit justificationsof our collective practices.Thus
he opens the road to a redefinitionof "ritual" and perhaps also of "the sacred," which covers much more today than religiousceremonies.The distinctionbetween
politics and religion,taintedwith ethnocentrismat the
best of times, becomes untenable for anthropologists
once God is no longerthe unique referentof sacrality.
PresidentMitterrand'ssuccess did not depend upon
any firm doctrinal commitment. He denies being a
Marxist(whateverthat means these days),and he came
to socialism late in life. Nor was it due merelyto his
abilityin political manoeuvre (thoughthis has always
been masterly)or his charisma(forhe is a secretiveand
mysteriousfigure[see thefilmabout him "Certainsl'appellent'Francois' "]). In largeparthe owes his popularity
as chiefof state to his handlingof symbolicvalues and
(forwant of a betterphrase)his "sense of the ritualsignificance"of his actions and words.Abeles's subject is
certainlywell chosen forsuch a theoreticaldemonstration.


DepartmentofAnthropology,Universityof Victoria,
P.O. Box 1700, Victoria,B.C., Canada V8W2Y2.
20 X 87
Abeles's thought-provoking
descriptionand interpretation of modem political ritualin Franceunderthe waning presidency of Mitterrandposes many lines for
furthercommentary.I shall restrictmyselfto his essentially"monistic" pointofview and the conceptuallimitationsimposedon his interpretation
republic.These two issues are related,in my view, because both yield the same blind spot.
If one takes "monism" to mean that the universeof
explanationis sharedby analystand subject and consequently that anthropologicalresearch methods are as
useful in one's own society as elsewhere,then this is
indeeda "monistic" work(see Leaf I979). As it happens,
I agree with this position, but it is not clear whether
Abeles's conclusion that "thereis thus no difference
kindbetweenthepolitical ritualsoftraditionalsocieties
and of those contemporaneouswith us" derives from
adherenceto a monisticpoint of view or inheresin the
mannerin which he mounts his description.I suspect
thatit is partlythe latter,because it is ratherdifficultto

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Volume 29, Number 3, June 988

assume the privilegedposition of an outsiderwith special knowledge when one works at home, where the
elitism so opaque (and acceptable) in the cross-cultural
situationbecomes transparent(and intolerable).My suspicion arises fromthe simple fact that Abeles only asserts his conclusion-he does not marshal any direct
evidence for it here. A briefreadinglist of others' research does not really sufficeas evidence forwhat he
describesonly as "traditional"society.By "traditional"
one suspectshe means a monarchyofsome sortand not
a republic,and preferably
a non-European,nonconstitutional monarchy.To draw the conclusion Abeles does,
ratherthan merelypresupposingit, would necessitatea
careful comparison with other societies and would
emerge fromthe data ratherthan overwhelmit with
assertionssupportedwith a mere handfulof references
to otherworks by otherwritersabout othertimes and
I suspect that the case Abeles puts forwardcan be
made, but it also entails utilizing a differentset of
categoriesthan "traditional" and "contemporaneous,"
which simplyreducehistoryto criticallydimensionless
cultural stereotypesno more satisfactorythan "primitive" and "modem." These categoriesmustbe historical
in nature: postmonarchic republic, constitutional
etc. For example,Franceis a
republicthat has experienceda historicallywrenching
division between sacred power and profanepolitical
power. Consequently,the symbols and political ritual
that brushthe touchstonesto legitimatecurrentofficeholdersmust do so ratherdifferently
than forpolitical
leaders still encumbered with monarchs whose sole
functionis to personifythe state.
Mitterrandhas his Solutre,Americanpresidentstheir
folksytrips to the ranch or firesidechats. In both instances the "personalizedrituals" seem to have become
extremelyimportantto the public, the media, and the
presidents themselves. Perhaps this is because the
deepervalues held by all in a republiccan onlybe effectivelycommunicatedin the absence of the regal pomp
and fanfarethey have replaced. There may have been
timesand places in whichkingsand queens were obliged
to do somethingsimilarin orderto earn the privilegeof
asserting their power, but in today's constitutional
monarchies that time has long past. Today's monarchs-one has onlyto thinkofElizabeth and Beatrixmay representboth the state and historyin theirvery
persons.Perhapsthis explains in partthe public obsession with what they wear ratherthan what they say.
PrinceCharles,forexample,may give an addresson rebuildingBritain'sinnercities with a greatdeal of scope
forpolitical interpretation
by the media, but the latter
will describeat lengthwhat his wifewore forthe occasion and not reporta word he uttered.Mitterrand'sand
Reagan's attiregains symbolic value during"personal
ritual moments" as well because in the absence of a
monarchtheytoo may personifythe state,but this can
be taken only so farwithoutoffending
democraticsensibilities.The primeministerin a constitutionalmonarchy can never representthe state withoutusurpingthe

is my strongimpression,given the recentevents in the

presidentialselection process in the United States (the
retreatfromthe frayof several candidatesin "personal"
disgrace)that the lives of politicians tend farmore toward crucial symbolicinterpretation
in a republicthan
in a parliamentarydemocracywith a monarchsuch as
Britain,Holland, or Canada. Several Canadian prime
ministershave had verydifficult
personallives thatwere
well known to the public but had little if any consequence fortheirpolitical lives.
Justa week ago, Queen ElizabethvisitedVictoria,British Columbia, where I live. She only stayedan hour at
the airport,and her visit was describedby the press as
"shortbut sweet." Since Victoriawas herpointofentry
into the country,the presence of both the governor
general (her appointee) and the prime minister (her
"servant")was required.The press went into the usual
rhapsodiesabout her attireand quoted snippetsof conversationwithold soldiersand children,totallyignoring
the prime minister,whose political interestsseemed
submergedin the wake of the travellingmonarch. In
fact,he had everyreason to be over 3,000 miles away in
Ottawa,wherehis governmentwas at a criticaljuncture
in Canadian-Americantrade talks, but "pomp and circumstance"requiredhis presenceand his formalsilence
on VancouverIsland.
My pointis simplythatwherepoliticalpowermust be
gained and subsequentlyreaffirmed
by a solitaryleader
(whetherpresidentor king)in a ritualizedperformance,
the personal stake of the leader is such that he must
continue to invoke sacred powers and trustsin ways
which personifythe condition of the people. Where a
monarchycontinues but can no longer be gained by
political leadersotherthan througha regicidewhich the
politicalimpotenceofthe monarchcould neverwarrant,
the onlyexpressiona primeministercan make is one of
loyaltyof varyingdegrees.The symbolicpotencyof the
monarchand the political power of the primeminister
are to be kept separate,and infringement
by eitheris
regardedby the pressand the people as dangerous.Imperial presidentsmay edge cautiously in the directionof
"l'etat c'est moi" in the absence of a monarchin ways
thatparliamentaryrepresentativesin a monarchycould
nevereven attempt.Ironically,then,if thereis littleto
separate imperial presidents from earlier kings-as
Abeles suggests-there is still plentyto separateleaders
in today's constitutionalmonarchiesfromboth.



Paris,France. 24 xi 87
The comments on this analysis of modem political
ritualtie in with questions thatI myselfhave been ponI.

Translatedby MaryTurton.

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deringand am farfromhavingresolved.ThereforeI shall

not pretendto solve the oftenverycomplex problems
thatmy colleagues so kindlyhelp me to formulate.
It may seem somewhat "thought-provoking"
to treat
the excursionsofthe Presidentofthe Republicas exotic
rituals,but thereis no legitimateobjectionto this kind
of comparison. On the contrary,it seems to me that
when we are studyingour own societies it is important
to distance ourselves somewhat fromevents that seem
all the morenaturalto us because we are accustomedto
observingthem every day. This is one of the major
difficultiesencounteredin the anthropologyof modern
societies: not to become ensnaredby the image of itself
that our society projects. To overcome the obstacle
raised by this overfamiliarity
with our subject, a resolutely comparativeapproach is essential. It was with
this in mind that I referredto the Swazi ritual so well
analyzed by Hilda Kuper.
Grillo observescorrectlythat I mightprofitablyhave
comparedthe ritualsof FrancoisMitterrandwith those
of American presidentsand, more generally,used historicdocumentsrelatingto ritespractisedby the kings
of France and by Napoleon. It seems to me that with
such an encyclopaedicapproachone would be in danger
oflosing sightof the real object of the work-namely, a
betterunderstandingof the functionof political rituals
in our societies-in a welterofhistoricalreferences.
It is
here,as I understandit, that the difference
journalistand the anthropologistcomes into play: the
former describes the phenomenon, sometimes very
shrewdly;the lattertriesto understandits sociological
and symbolicimplications.
One of the problematicalaspects of this paper is the
contrastbetweenthe modem and the traditional.Here I
have retumed to a distinctionnot always explicit but
always present in anthropology-one that has developed, incidentally,froma dichotomybetween "other"
("primitive,""exotic," "holistic") societies and our own
so-called "complex," "modem," "individualistic,"etc.,
ones. Now, this dichotomyis clearly ratherarbitrary:
Stephenson seems to think that I could not adopt it
withoutbeingpreparedto accept "culturalstereotypes."
He criticizesmy "monistic point of view": am I really
blindedby the nearnessof my subject?But in thatcase,
is an anthropologyof our societies conceivable at all?
When I write that "there is thus no difference
in kind
betweenthe political ritualsof traditionalsocieties and
ofthose contemporaneouswith us," I am onlychallenging a dichotomythat is merelypedagogicalat best. Let
us say thatwe must be preparedto complicateproblems
ifit leads, given a littlepatience,to a bettersolution.
Besides,I thinkStephensonis well aware ofthis,since
he complicatesmy puzzle by introducinga stimulating
comparisonbetweenpresidentialsystemsand constitutional monarchies.This seems to me a veryimportant
question, and I have tackled it in a paper to appear
shortlyon the symbolismoffiliationin the presidential
traditionof the FifthRepublic and in the functioningof
the Britishmonarchy.The role of leaders in a constitutional monarchyis worthyof studyon its own because
of the eminentand ambiguousposition theyenjoy.

Modern Political Ritual | 403

Augustinsobserves correctlythat I deliberatelyused

the word "ritual" and not "ceremonial." It is truethatI
particularlystressedthe relationshipbetweena riteand
its political context. Augustins's remarks concerning
the symboliceffectivenessof ritual give full value to a
point of view that I underestimatedin my analysis: the
point of view of those who are presentat the ritualbut
play no directpartin it. To explainhow operationssuch
as I describedcan arouse a formofemotionin thepublic,
I insisted on the multiplicityof the registersmanipulated by PresidentMitterrand.But we must also bear in
the remindthepsychologicalmechanismsdetermining
actions of the individual spectators.It is here that we
feelthe need forconvincingexplanatory"paradigms,"to
use Lett's expression.
This awareness of somethinglackingin anthropology
does not,however,seem to me to invalidatethe development of researchinto the symbolicbases of legitimacy,
which is as much the prerogativeof historiansas of anthropologists.One may marvelat the povertyofthe anthropologyof modem societies in this matter,whereas
the historianshave ceaselesslyprobedthe question (see,
forexample, Kantorowicz [I957] on the symbolismof
theroyalbodyand Duby [I 978] on thetheoryofordersin
the Middle Ages). May we use the word "sacred" about
these ritualspracticedby politicians and echoed in the
media? My criticstake different
positionson thispoint.
Lett,in his otherwisestimulatingcomment,assertsthat
modem rituals "are essentially devoid of any supernatural allusion or symbolism."But I cannot see how
ofsymboliccontent,the substitution
of notions such as the Republic or the Nation forthe
notion of divinity,should automaticallyimplythe disappearanceofbeliefas an expressionofreligion.Francois
Mitterrandis obviouslyno priest,and the pilgrimageto
Solutredoes not figurein an ecclesiasticalcontext.But it
is obvious too that an explanationthat retainsnothing
but the "mechanical" aspects of the ritual distortsits
real import.It is not by chance thathistoriansspeak of
"secular worship" in connection with the ceremonies
performedat war memorials: "It is secular worship
without god or priest.Or ratherthe priestand the believer mergetogether,"writesProst (in Nora i984:221)
on the subject of the commemorationsof the armistice
of I9I8. In anothercontext,we may note the significant
remarkof Ramsay Macdonald, a leadernot suspectedof
any particularreligiosity,on the occasion of the jubilee
of George V: "We all went away feelingthat we had
taken part in somethingverymuch like a Holy Communion" (quoted by Cannadine in Hobsbawm and
RangerI983: I 52).
Pitt-Rivers,a pioneer in the anthropologyof modern
societies, pleads fora redefinitionof ritual and the sacred.This seems to me to be all the moresensibleas the
intricationbetween the political and the religious,an
example ofwhich I have analyzed,forcesus back to preconceived definitionsthat are not untainted by ethnocentrism.It is no doubt one of the contributionsof
anthropologicalproceduresthat theycall into question
artificialdivisions(politics,religion,etc.) thatin no way
correspondto the realityof social practices.

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Volume 29, Number 3, June1988

Francois Mitterrand'sexceptional political success our societies withoutfallingvictimto the fascinationof

since at last he took up the chargeof Presidentof the the institutional-state
model and the languageofwhich
Republic can be explained largely by the skill with it is a vehicle. That is why, at a time when the social
which he manages to harnessthese diffuseformsof be- sciences appear to have their vision clouded by their
liefin values whose persistencehas been demonstrated own history,it seems to me a veryhealthythingthatan
in a recentbook (Nora I984). Whereasthe purelypracti- extensionof the fieldof political anthropologyinto the
cal actions of the Frenchpresidenthave nevereliciteda modem age should fumishmaterialfora debate richin
real consensus, the remarkablesymbolicwork he per- stakes of an epistemologicalnature.
formsnot only in his speeches but in the way he "contextualizes" them has made him a rallying point,
whence the greatpopularityhe enjoys at the end of his
second term.
Bloch's commentsstrengthenme in the idea thatreferenceto the Otheris a heuristicelementand thatit is
et le politique.L'Homme26
impossibleto escape froma confrontation
with what is ABELES, M. I986. L'anthropologue
Bloch sees in the pilgrimageto Solutrea ritual
.I987. Terrain.Cametsdu Patrimoine
8. [JPR]
of regenerationanalogous in its significanceto the BINNS, CHRISTOPHER. 1979. The changingfaceofpower:RevoNcwala of the Swazi. The interpretationhe suggests
lution and accommodation in the development of the Soviet
ceremonial system. Man 14:585-606. [RG]
goes some way towardscompletingthe one I myselfproposed, a factwhich bears witness to the symbolicrich- DUBY, G. 1978. Les troisordres,ou L'imaginairedu feodalisme.
Paris: Gallimard.
ness of the ritual.
E. E. i962 (1948). "The divine kingshipof
The commentatorsthenreturnto the notionofinventheShilluk,"in Essaysin social anthropology,
pp. 66-86. Lontion in contemporary
don: Faber and Faber.
rituals.It is quite obvious thatthe
protagonistsin the rites practicedin Africansocieties EVANS-PRITCHARD, E. E., AND M. FORTES. 1940. African political systems. London: OxfordUniversityPress.
may behave creatively,but the essential difference GEERTZ,
CLIFFORD. 1973. Theinterpretation
seems to me to lie in the possibilityof inventingnew
ritualsthat is offeredto membersof our societies. I do
.I983. Local knowledge: Furtheressays in interpretiveanthropology.
New York:BasicBooks.[JL]
not mean the renewal of an existingtradition,perhaps
deflectedtowardsends different
fromthose it originally HABERMAS, j. i986 (i962). L'espace public. Paris: Editions Payot.
E., AND T. RANGER. I983. Theinvention
oftradifulfilled:in that case, we are dealing with the reinven- HOBSBAWM,
tion. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.
tion ofa tradition,a phenomenonobservablein our soci- IZARD, M. 1973. La lance et les guenilles. L'Homme 13 (3):I39eties (cf. Hobsbawm and Ranger I983) that exists in
many others. In contrast,certain types of ritual are JENNINGS, H., ET AL. 1937. May thetwelfth.London:Faber.
specificto us and, like the pilgrimageto Solutre,repre- KANTOROWICZ,
E. 1957. Theking'stwobodies:A studyin
sent a creationex nihilo even thoughtheymake use of
mediaeval political theology.Princeton: PrincetonUniversity
all the symbolicingredientsfamiliarto the anthropolo- Press.
KUHN, THOMAS. 1970. 2d edition.Thestructure
It is interestingto see thatan ethnographicanalysisof
KUPER, H. 1947. An African aristocracy:
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as those approachedby the commentators;thisdoes not LANE, C. I98I. Therites ofrulers.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress.[RG]
surpriseme, foranthropologycan providea whollyoriginal approach to modem political fact. Indeed, anthro- LEAF, M. J.1979. Man,mind,and science:A historyofanthropology.New York:ColumbiaUniversity
pologistsrefuse,in the Maussian tradition,to adoptpre- LEFORT,
C. I986. Essais surle politique(XIX16me XX1emesiecle).
conceived distinctions by arbitrarilyseparating,for
Paris: Le Seuil.
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that often LEVI-STRAUSS, CLAUDE. I963. Structural
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1971. L'homme nu. Paris: Plon.
When Evans-Pritchard
and Fortes(I940), almosthalfa
1976. Structuralanthropology.Vol. 2. New York: Basic
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pologyof Africansocieties, theyfaced theoreticalprob- NO RA, P. Editor.I984. Les lieux de la memoire. Vol. I. La republique. Paris: Gallimard.
lems thatare not unrelatedto thosewe encountertoday.
PITT-RIVERS, JULIAN. I987. La revanchedu rituel.Le Temps
They asked themselves how to constructa non-state- Moderne, March. [JPR]
based model ofpoliticalrelationshipsbutrefusedto adopt SMITH, P. 1979. "Aspects de l'organisation
des rites,"in La fonction symbolique. Edited by M. Izard and P. Smith. Paris: Gala reductionist
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