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Funerals, Politics, and Memory in Modern France, 1789–1996$
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Avner Ben-Amos

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203285

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203285.001.0001

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The State Funeral as a Rite of Passage

The State Funeral as a Rite of Passage

Chapter:
(p.258) (p.259) 9 The State Funeral as a Rite of Passage
Source:
Funerals, Politics, and Memory in Modern France, 1789–1996
Author(s):

Avner Ben-Amos

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203285.003.0011

In France, the 1789 Revolution brought about the ‘transfer of the sacred’ from the Church to the State with its two aspects: the Republic, as a legal-political ‘grid’ concept, and the Fatherland, as an ethnic-cultural ‘group’ concept. Ceremonies are more than ‘symbolic mirrors of ourselves’ that merely reflect the power relations within a society. They are themselves part of power, which they both express and create. How did the state funerals of the Third Republic perform this dual role? In order to understand the inner mechanism of these ceremonies, it is necessary to analyse them as rites of passage that follow death. For the public, the state funeral also became a rite of passage in the form of a multiple pilgrimage: to the place where the great man lay in state, to the procession, and to the tomb. The state funeral was the point where two different rites of passage coalesced: that of the great man and that of the people who participated in the ceremony.

Keywords:   France, state funerals, ceremonies, pilgrimage, Third Republic, sacred, rites of passage, great man

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