Before venturing into a fully-fledged linguistic analysis of ritual behaviour during this time of social distancing, one issue worth discussing is the typological concept of ‘rites of aggression’. The previous ‘Interactional Rituals’ blog entries might have given the reader the impression that interactional rituals are primarily about maintaining social harmony, and it is the violation or lack of these interactional rituals as a result of social distancing that, in some ways, can be troublesome for people. However, it is important to bear in mind that interactional rituals also involve aggressive practices, by means of which groups of people reinforce their social cohesion and solidarity. Some of these rituals are the same ones that can be troublesome during a period of social distancing.
Rites of aggression have another, more intricate form, which we intend analysing in detail in later blog entries – and we are only mentioning them here to properly position our later discussions. These interactional rituals include those which we use to reinstate our social right for ritual inattention and safety in a more general sense. Often, we have to remind other people of our rights and their social obligations. These reminders are anchored in ritual and can take place in the form of rituals (e.g. when we communally ‘tell off’ someone). If these reminders are in the form of aggression – for instance, if we challenge someone whom we consider to be a covidiot – we may end up acting aggressively. This form of aggression, however, is likely to be socially endorsed, and, in this sense, it is reasonable to distinguish between socially endorsed and condemned forms of interactional rites of aggression.
In the wake of social distancing, how can interactional rituals that would normally be considered to be aggressive be reframed as socially acceptable forms of behaviour? In the following entries of this blog series, we will attempt to answer this question.
The Research featured in the blog was supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Momentum Grant (LP2017/5)