Extreme feelings can be dangerous, threatening not only the social order but also our identities. Celebrations and ceremonies are social institutions that permit the expression of feelings while robbing them of their anarchistic force. They represent special rituals, held at specific times and places outside the everyday, meant to contain the explosive power of our emotions. Celebrations and ceremonies differ from each other in the feelings they permit, as well as in their ritual and aesthetic form. In the first part of my talk I explore how such occasions help us manage our feelings. In the second part I discuss what might happen to this system of emotional management as multiplication, economization, and profanization – what sociologists call eventization – blur the traditional lines of celebration and ceremony. Can the new latitude lead to social problems down the road?
Winfried Gebhardt has been Professor of Sociology at the University of Koblenz-Landau since 1998. Before that he served as a assistant professor at the University of Bayreuth and as a visiting professor at the University of Kosice (Slovak Republic). His publications include Fest, Feier und Alltag (1987); Zwei Dörfer in Deutschland: Mentalitätsunterschiede nach der Wiedervereinigung (co-written with G. Kamphausen, 1994); Charisma als Lebensform: Zur Soziologie des alternativen Lebens (1994); Pilgerfahrt ins Ich: Die Bayreuther Richard Wagner-Festspiele und ihr Publikum (co-written with A. Zingerle, 1998).