The Rites of Institution As an Instrument of Public Policy. the Example of French Municipal Rituals

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 45
Oral Presentation
Antoine MANDRET-DEGEILH , CEE, Sciences Po Paris, LaSSP, France
This contribution addresses the issue of the performance of contemporary French municipal rites of institution.

I will start from the findings of my doctoral research in political science which is related to municipal rites of institution in France. A rite of institution (Bourdieu 1982) is a symbolic event marking someone’s transition from one status to another. In my research, I identify four ideal types of municipal rites of institution: kinship rites, like civil weddings and Mother’s Day; citizenship rites, which include naturalization ceremonies, coming of age ceremonies, conscription rituals; honor rites providing municipal or national medals; and work rites, which encompass welcome receptions and retirement ceremonies.

Through my communication, I will show the importance of these rituals in public action. First, I will demonstrate that these rites can be considered instruments of public policy (Lascoumes and Le Galès 2004). Here, I will focus especially on two examples: naturalization ceremonies and Mother’s Day. Since their invention, both rituals have been the instruments of migration policy and family policy, which aim to make virtuous citizens and mothers from foreigners and women. In both cases, the rites of institution have been considered the most convenient policy instruments to let foreigners and women see themselves as virtuous citizens and mothers, and therefore, behave as such.

Nevertheless, how does it occur? To answer that question, I will focus on the performative dimension of these rites of institution, that is, on how status and social roles are assigned to participants in these rituals. Drawing evidence from ethnographic observations and from interviews that I conducted, I will study the sequencing of these rituals and the verbal and non-verbal performative practices that happen during these rituals, as well as the representations of the participants related to them. Thus, I will consider what social conditions allow for effective performance.