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Thread: social inversion

  1. #1
    Властелин
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    social inversion

    Studying history of Halloween now, and this phrase 'social inversion' is sometimes used in the source I am reading.

    In the 1890s Los Angeles developed a raucous spring fiesta that for a decade or so featured mock mayors and elements of social inversion.

    Someone familiar with the meaning? I am not exactly sure I understand the true meaning, it's more or less clear but not 100%.

  2. #2
    Paul G.
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    I suspect (just my version) it's a situation when a man (or a social group) changes their ordinary social role/behavior to opposite.

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    Властелин Deborski's Avatar
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    "Social inversion" is not a common phrase. From the context you provided, and from a couple articles I have read which used that phrase, it appears to mean when customs in society are reversed. For example, in Colonial New England, during Christmas, it was tradition for packs of hungry or homeless people to pound on the doors of the wealthy and demand food or alcohol. But today, that custom is inverted - and Christmas is a time for charity and giving of gifts.

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    Paul G.
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    So, does it refer to the traditions mostly? Like Christmas etc?

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    Властелин Deborski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul G. View Post
    So, does it refer to the traditions mostly? Like Christmas etc?
    Like I said, it is a very uncommon phrase. So uncommon that I had to research it before I could answer. In the articles where I found it in use, they were discussing traditions and customs such as Halloween and Christmas. But that does not mean it is limited to that.

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    Almost finished that book, From what I can see the term refers to inversion of behavior, actions (can be a group, like college students or just an individual). In case of Halloween this could be college students (until 1920s in US college students played an important role in spreading of Halloween and transformation of its nature) whowere raucous and caused disorder in urban places during Halloween, including masking and guising, pranks in theaters and in colleges - which also suggests the idea of inversion. Basically it means the idea of change of behavior in this case for a night of revel. Probably 'social inversion' is a very rare sociology term.

    Deb, it's a good point with Christmas Santas in the past, in the same book there is a mentioning of ugly looking 'santas' soliciting food and treats at home thresholds, and sometimes causing disorder and damage to property (about until 1850s when it's eventually becoming a decorous, family-centered holiday, and the image of Santa is changing to its modern counterpart). It was Halloween that would be associated with that night of rowdiness and merry-making, pranks and even violence up until baby boom time when the government finally decided to curb the violence and try to make it a child-centered holiday with trick-or-treat (which it did successfully until 1970s when 'razor-blade-in-an-apple' syndrome had a large effect). By the way - guising and masking was practiced in US even on Thanksgiving in 19th century.

    I'd like to start a discussion on Halloween and All Saints' later closer to October 31.

    As for 'social inversion' I think it refers to any events where a lot of people take part (e.g. drag parades, carnivals, mummery, cross-dressing type events....etc)
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  7. #7
    Властелин Deborski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexsms View Post
    Almost finished that book, From what I can see the term refers to inversion of behavior, actions (can be a group, like college students or just an individual). In case of Halloween this could be college students (until 1920s in US college students played an important role in spreading of Halloween and transformation of its nature) whowere raucous and caused disorder in urban places during Halloween, including masking and guising, pranks in theaters and in colleges - which also suggests the idea of inversion. Basically it means the idea of change of behavior in this case for a night of revel. Probably 'social inversion' is a very rare sociology term.

    Deb, it's a good point with Christmas Santas in the past, in the same book there is a mentioning of ugly looking 'santas' soliciting food and treats at home thresholds, and sometimes causing disorder and damage to property (about until 1850s when it's eventually becoming a decorous, family-centered holiday, and the image of Santa is changing to its modern counterpart). It was Halloween that would be associated with that night of rowdiness and merry-making, pranks and even violence up until baby boom time when the government finally decided to curb the violence and try to make it a child-centered holiday with trick-or-treat (which it did successfully until 1970s when 'razor-blade-in-an-apple' syndrome had a large effect). By the way - guising and masking was practiced in US even on Thanksgiving in 19th century.

    I'd like to start a discussion on Halloween and All Saints' later closer to October 31.

    As for 'social inversion' I think it refers to any events where a lot of people take part (e.g. drag parades, carnivals, mummery, cross-dressing type events....etc)
    We still celebrate Halloween and in some neighborhoods people still take kids trick or treating. More often, the children go trick or treating at malls, because it's safer. the store owners give out candy. Adults also wear costumes and go to parties. Count me in on any discussions about Halloween - it's my favorite holiday

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    Cool Deb, ) thanks, the book I was reading is Nicholas Rogers, From pagan ritual to party night. I was mostly interested in the origin and roots, but the whole story and the development and historical trajectory of the holiday did fascinate me... I remember you showed us some pictures last year after the party ...
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