liminality, communitas, and same-sex marriage


It’s weird to think that in a few weeks my sister will be in Boston for Thanksgiving. I am really hoping that she’ll get out here. As much as I would also find it fun to go to Maryland with Sean for Thanksgiving, I think I would prefer to spend some time with my sister. I miss her a lot It’s stressful thinking about all I have to do in the coming weeks. I’ve been feeling depressed as of lately. Part of it has to do with wanting to go home really badly. Another part of it deals with the seclusion I’ve been feeling at STH. There’s a lot of drama at the school and I don’t want to participate in it and I think that garners me a certain amount of suspicion because I am outside the issue, no one knows how I really feel about it. I think I am also depressed because it’s really unclear if Sean will be able to come out here before I come back to Minneapolis. It would be completely understandable because it’s a frivolous expense. Nonetheless, it would still be difficult for me to deal with.

In the past couple of days I’ve been doing a bunch of work in regards to my sociology of religion term paper. There are a few books that I would like to have in my possession before I do a lot of the work, namely Mary Douglas’ Danger and Purity as well as Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. At this point, this is my main thesis:

Marriage as ritual is institutionalized in the very fabric of our society. In many ways, it is both a privileged institution and a privileged form of human relationship. I argue that Victor Turner’s understanding of the liminal personae ‘threshold people’ encompass how many queer persons understand their experience in society. As liminal people who are marginalized by the structures of society, ‘queerdom’ represents a communitas: a group that has either no hierarchical structure or only a rudimentary social structure. Because the communitas is a marginal group of persons, it necessitates solidarity of each individual member, that is, an egalitarian community. However, as time progresses the communitas institutionalizes into the societal structures, as a process known as institutional isomorphism. Institutional isomorphism is a process by which a community or group, in order to achieve legitimacy, begins to reflect the discourse, practices, and structures of the group maintaining cultural hegemony within the public sphere. Nevertheless, the culturally hegemonic group as a threat to their control regards institutional isomorphism with suspicion. This is where Peter Berger’s dichotomy of the sacred and chaotic is beneficial.

Berger argues that religion is a culmination of humanity’s world construction. World construction is a process that requires constant re-establishment of a nomos through externalization, objection, and internalization. The purpose of the sacred nomos is to protect the society from forces it considers harmful. By producing a nomos, the sacred order of the cosmos is reaffirmed, over and over again, in the face of chaos. However, the consequence of world construction and world maintenance is that society begins to view socially constructed institutions as taken for granted. In other words, assume them as facts. While cultural synthesis reaffirms the traditional institutions of a society in a new way, opponents view queer persons as a threat to society and the facts of society. Homosexuality is presented as unnatural, as a disease, or that homosexuals are a threat to creation. I will use speeches from Traditionalists in order to make my case that homosexuality is envisioned as a threat to the world constructed by Christian and Jewish traditionalists.

However, it is at this point that I will return to liminality and communitas because I will argue that because if we read religion as a text, we must acknowledge in a Derridean way. That is, careful analysis of a religious tradition that appears in a uniform and synchronic way will ultimately reveal idiosyncrasy within that tradition: there are ultimately discourses and trends within any given tradition that run counter to the tradition itself. Here, I will rely upon the experiences of LGBT Jews and Christians in order to reveal that their experiences of God or of religion are rooted in tradition just as much as those claiming that Queer persons represent a threat to society.



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