Ritual signaling as an adaptation- and status management strategy in a Tamil-Hindu religious group in Mauritius


MAŇO Peter DIMITRIS Xygalatas

Druh Další prezentace na konferencích
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Filozofická fakulta

Popis The process of adaptation is the motor of animal evolution and one of the hallmarks of humankind - humans are considered to be one of the most adaptable animals, not least because we developed culture as an adaptive mechanism. Behavioral ecology looks at various adaptive strategies to local environments by assessing fitness outcomes of behaviors. Life history theory analyzes the timing of these behaviors across the life-span. One of the oldest evolutionary strategies in the adaptive toolkit is ritual - a communication device that guarantees the truthfulness of its message by raising the costs of delivering it. A successful ritual performance can secure access to mates, allies or even gods. Many individuals use costly rituals to signal adherence to the group, its values, norms, and taboos. Individual motivations notwithstanding, the costliness of performance alone communicates devotion and acceptance of the social and cosmic order. At the same time, certain groups or individuals can use ritual action to challenge the existing order or to improve their social standing in it. Through this, ritual systems and norms that surround them can change in the long-run. Our research on the Mauritian Tamil ritual Kavadi shows that young and low- status men engage in the most extreme and extravagant forms of participation, which is a finding not unique to this island. Lacking other resources, these men are using their bodies by ritually mutilating them to signal their underlying qualities to others and to bargain with gods for their fortune. Importantly, the motivations to participate differ as a result of socio-economic status, resulting in different cultural norms and expectations for proper execution of the ritual by the different sub-groups. In this context, ritual serves as an adaptation- and status management strategy in a religious group.
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