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Rites of passage are common in many cultures. They usually mark a transition in social status, a crossing of boundaries, or important life course events. This entry explores research on rites of passage, with a focus on the form these rites take, when they most often occur, why they are often veiled in secrecy, and their variance over time and across cultures. The rites of passage practiced by the Xhosa of South Africa has been used as an organizing example throughout this entry.

Research on Initiation Rites

The most influential work on rites of passage was written by Arnold Van Gennep and published in 1909. Van Gennep proposed that all rites of passage have a tripartite structure that involves separation, transition, and incorporation. During the phase of ...

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