The ritual humor of students: capping at Victoria University, 1902-1988

dc.contributor.advisorMcDowell, John Hen
dc.contributor.authorSmith, Moira Lorrraineen
dc.description.abstractCapping is graduation; in New Zealand it consists of both formal ceremonies and a festival of ludic events produced by undergraduates. This study examines capping at one New Zealand university from 1902 to 1988, with detailed examination of the ceremonies themselves, into which students introduced interjection and horseplay; the satirical and frequently outrageous student processions through the city; and the large-scale hoaxes that students perpetrated on members of the public. These activities flourished even though they severely tested public and official tolerance, and were often judged to have gone "over the limit." Since 1970, however, capping has retrenched and become less public because, according to insiders, of a failure of license. Capping raises the problem of how license for festivity, reversal, and ritual humor is achieved in a modern complex society. Using Gregory Bateson's and Erving Goffman's concepts of play, license, and framing, I investigate how students obtained and kept license for capping for over eighty years, framing their performances as spontaneous play. At the same time however, a chorus public disapproval, even outrage, was a constant accompaniment to capping. Accounts of conflict in and opponents to festivity are no new thing in the literature on urban festivals. However, concepts of festivity, festive license, and Max Gluckman's model of ritual reversal all treat antagonism and opposition as extrinsic elements and as indications of the dysfunction of license. This study revises the model incorporate the existence of opposition and negative evaluations as intrinsic ingredients, which in the case of capping were valued by performers as a sign of successful performance. With this revision of the concept of festive license in mind, the retrenchment of capping cannot be attributed to the failure of license. The cause is sought instead in an ideological shift that has occurred throughout the western world since the Second World War. In this shift, the political implications of humorous public performances like capping have been made explicit, rendering ritual humor problematic in a way that exceeds the usual problems of achieving festive license.en
dc.publisher[Bloomington, Ind.] : Indiana Universityen
dc.rightsAttribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)en
dc.titleThe ritual humor of students: capping at Victoria University, 1902-1988en
dc.typeDoctoral Dissertationen


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