The Rites of Passage Time after Time

Adina Ciubotariu's picture
Call for Papers
August 30, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Eastern Europe History / Studies, Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, Humanities, Social Sciences

Published in 1909 in his native French, Arnold Van Gennep’s Les rites de passage did not receive an immediate and deserved academic recognition, largely due to the author’s position towards the mainstream social sciences, represented at that time by the Durkheimian school. The short and harsh review of Marcel Mauss in 1910 seemed to establish the book’s academic shortcomings for reasons such as lack of theoretical rigor and dissemination of truisms. It was only in 1942 that Les rites de passage was rediscovered, and found to have a useful theoretical framework, by the psychoanalyst Geza Roheim. In the next decades, Max Gluckman, Monika Vizedom, Barabara G. Myerhoff and especially Victor Turner started a thorough conversation on the efficiency and viability of Van Gennep’s schema.

            Applying his theory in folklore research, for which the schema offered a comprehensive way of structuring the empirical information on contemporary rural French customs, was an important development. This new application of a theory originally based on examples from primitive societies determined Van Gennep’s place as the father of French ethnography and folkloristics, and also gained him a prominent place in other nations’ folklore research methodology.

            In recent decades, scholars from different European social sciences have evaluated Van Gennep’s impact on their national or regional anthropology and folkloristics. This impact, encouraged by a long list of translations of Les rites into European languages, started especially with the English translation in 1960. It was followed by editions in Spanish in 1986, Czech in 1997, German in 1999, Russian in 1999, Polish in 2006, and Hungarian in 2007.

            In Romania, Les rites was early on read and quoted by early folklorists, due to the francophone culture shared by the interwar Romanian intelligentsia. Nevertheless, the book was only translated in 1996, by Lucia Berdan and Nora Vasilescu, and published in Iasi, by Polirom publishing house. Lucia Berdan was a folklore scholar, member of the Deaprtment of Ethnology at the Romanian Academy in Iasi. The Romanian version consecrated a long period of domestic folklorists’ familiarity with Van Gennep’s pattern.

One important acknowledgment of his theory in Romanian folkloristics was the publishing of three impressive volumes dedicated to the family ritual cycle by the researchers of the Department of Ethnology within the Romanian Academy – Iasi Branch. Following Van Gennep’s schema, they assembled the rich archive data gathered through intensive fieldwork during the 1970s and 1980s from Moldavian villages (Eastern and Northern Romania) in complex typologies. The first was Silvia Ciubotaru’s Marriage rituals from Moldavia. Typology and texts (2009), the second: Adina Hulubas with Childbirth rituals from Moldavia. Typology and texts (2012) and finished by Ion H. Ciubotaru, Funeral rituals in Moldavia within national context (2014).

In order to celebrate 20 years since the translation of Les rites de passage in Romanian and the achievement of the family cycle volumes, the researchers from the Department of Ethnology in Iasi will publish an anniversary book acknowledging and analyzing Van Gennep’s contribution to domestic and international folkloristics and anthropology.


We invite you to participate to our volume with a chapter that approaches Van Gennep’s theory from the perspective of your own discipline. Submissions can explore any topic or theme related to the contemporary relevance of the rites of passage, and address its present successes and challenges. We will be accepting submissions for this special volume through August 30, 2016. Please announce your intention and send us the title of your future study at

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