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Title: Gender, politics and ritual in the construction of social identities : the case of San Pawl, Valletta, Malta
Author: Mitchell, Jon P.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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Based on ethnographic research in St Paul's parish, Valletta, Malta, this thesis examines the festa ('feast') of St. Paul's Shipwreck. St Paul is both the local patron saint and the national patron; his festa is therefore also both the local and national. This thesis investigates the relationship between local, national and personal identities in the administration and performance of the festa. It contributes to current arguments in social anthropology concerning the nature of public rituals in Mediterranean Europe, and their significance in the construction of social identities. Where others have seen the primary function of such rituals as being the expression of local identity in the face of modernity and globalisation, it is argued here that as a ritual of identify, festa is more potent than that. Festa does serve as a symbolic representation of local identity, but in doing so, it also serves as a means of elaborating other types of identity, based on gender, political party allegiance, social class and nation. In Maltese society, these identities are hotly contested, because of the rapid social changes that have affected the country since its independence from colonial rule in 1964. Anxiety about the future leads to antagonism between different social groups in the parish, over how to define these identities. The festa involves a fleeting moment of symbolic resolution that ties together these otherwise antagonistic groups. But the activities that surround it are also the primary media for the communication of this antagonism. Festa is therefore simultaneously an expression of solidarity, and a vehicle for the expression of conflict. It differs from other public rituals in that the symbols it invokes - of family, community, religion and gender - are fundamental to Maltese conceptions of self-identity. This is the key to its effectiveness.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available