Shared ritual

Shared rituals permit people to both create and express community. These rituals may be rituals of incorporation, such as the ritual food sharing that occurs in New Guinea villages and RV parks alike. They may be rituals of greeting.

 Escapees hug one another when they meet on the road and to welcome newcomers into SKIP parks, as they are doing in this photograph. This ritual reinforces the idea that members of the club are like family because they act like family.

Other shared rituals may be rituals of reversal that mark a break or emphasize a point in the yearly cycle, and that allow community members to experience what life might be like without community or without the social rules that people must live by. During rituals of reversal, people dress and behave in ways that they never would in normal time. For a few days the rules of society are relaxed and people enjoy a "time out" when they can be foolish, rude, or break rules of propriety without fear of recrimination. Clowning activities, found in many cultures, are an excellent example.

In Kaliai, women at the wedding of one of their female relatives clown by wearing men's clothing, carrying spears, and threatening guests -- something women never do in normal circumstances. These women, who meet the kin of their "sister's" new husband, brandish their spears in a warning that if their sister's new husband or her affines abuse her, they will have to reckon with her kin. Everyone laughs, because these threats are obviously not real threats.

They are delivered by clowning women and cannot be met with anger or violence. At the same time, everyone knows that, despite the inappropriate behaviour of the display and the climate of fun, the warning is very real indeed. If the brides female relatives are that fierce what would her male kin be like if she were to be mistreated?

 In contrast, the Escapees pictured here clowning are participating in a rally that marks a turning point in the year - the return of members to 'their' park in the fall. Lot holders in this park, which is located in the high plains of the US Southwest, usually leave for cooler places in the summer and return in November to spend some of the winter. Returning members and visitors greet one another, feast and drink together, play games, and clown. Participants dress in costume - men appear in drag, adults appear as children or animals - and engage in inappropriate behaviour including sexual joking and mock violence. Nobody takes offense - it is all in fun - but there is also a sigh of relief when the rally is over and everyone returns to normal life.

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