Sharing Like Sisters: Ritual, Egalitarianism And The Morality Of Cosmetic Exchange

Evening talk

This talk has already happened.

Elena Fejdiova

Sharing Like Sisters: Ritual, Egalitarianism And The Morality Of Cosmetic Exchange

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - 18:45

In the environment of direct sales cosmetics, small groups of Slovak women forged cosmetic coalitions through costly bodily rituals. These energetic, emotionally intense and highly expressive Bakhtinian rituals were the necessary precursor to rigorous sharing among the women who participated in them. This sharing centred on careful equalization of their access to beauty products and ability to use them through collectively monitored demand sharing. In these rituals, collectivized female sociality emerged. It was characterized by energetic assertive loudness, uproarious laughter, lewd jokes, exaggerated feminine behaviour and bonding. The social hierarchies among the women relaxed and were replaced by ritual egalitarianism with the specific morality of sharing, cooperation and reciprocity, all inhibiting any dominance hierarchy. This morality was represented among the women as bonds of kinship. In their bonded collectives, women shared ‘like sisters’. The carnivalesque cosmetic rituals routinely accompanied by outbursts of shared laughter fostered the emergence of a temporal collective culture of reversal that subverted the individualism, isolation, competition and modesty of the expected everyday feminine behaviour, giving way to loudness, joking, sharing, cooperation, immodesty and commitment to the coalition. It reversed the economic logic of direct sales and replaced it with a moral economy of sharing. The collectively expressed ritualized female agency resisted the existing hierarchies between men and women. In ritual mode, coalitions of women reversed the relationships of dominance and appropriated the ritual time and space for themselves.

More about Elena Fejdiova

Evening talk information

Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.

Next evening class

Alice Rudge

Dangerous Laughter: Egalitarianism And The Batek Of Peninsular Malaysia
Tuesday, May 28, 2019 - 19:00
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

In the Batek’s forest, laughter and mockery are often subject to taboo, and inappropriate laughter or mockery can cause storms, madness, ill-health, or even death. However, although these taboos are viewed and described with utmost seriousness, people also find great pleasure in laughing together and making jokes. In fact, this pleasure is often intensified when the laughter or joke is forbidden and risks catastrophe. This sets up a dynamic whereby it is largely up to individuals whether they choose to follow the taboos, or to ignore them and succumb to the pleasure of sharing in subversive laughter. Speaking to debates on power and ethics, this paper therefore both outlines the Batek’s laughter taboos, and asks how managing the conflicting demands of laughter shapes people’s ethical values, particularly in relation to power, authority, and egalitarianism.