The Mother Town: Civic Ritual, Symbol, and Experience in the Borders of Scotland

Paperback | May 26, 1994

byGwen Kennedy Neville

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Horses with riders trailed by foot processionals, silver bands and pipe bands, furling medieval banners, lavish costumes, and singers and actors - the "Common Riding" is an elaborate, little-studied ritual phenomenon of the border towns of Scotland. In this vividly written and insightfulanalysis, Gwen Kennedy Neville uses this civic ceremony as a window for glimpsing the process of ritual, symbol, and experience in the development of the concept of "the town" in Western culture.Based on extensive fieldwork in the town of Selkirk, The Mother Town looks at the Common Riding in detail, uncovering pre-Reformation symbolism and pageantry - often medieval and Catholic - in a region that has been Protestant for over four hundred years. Neville shows how the ceremony is a model ofthe way civic ritual serves to construct a system of towns which gives rise to the modern world. Further, she contends that these civic rituals create a ceremonial setting in which the contradictions between tradition and modernity can be temporarily resolved and where past and present live side byside. Neville offers a provocative and illuminating study of how the ritual of Common Riding makes a dramatic statement about local strife, communal independence, and Protestantism in the towns of the Scottish Borders.

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Horses with riders trailed by foot processionals, silver bands and pipe bands, furling medieval banners, lavish costumes, and singers and actors - the "Common Riding" is an elaborate, little-studied ritual phenomenon of the border towns of Scotland. In this vividly written and insightfulanalysis, Gwen Kennedy Neville uses this civic ce...

Gwen Kennedy Neville is Elizabeth Root Paden Professor of Sociology at Southwestern University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:176 pages, 9.25 × 6.14 × 0.39 inPublished:May 26, 1994Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195090322

ISBN - 13:9780195090321

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"This study shows how secularization may expropriate rather than destroy ritual and symbolic activity. Neville has thus adroitly produced a virtual etymology of civic ethics and practices, one that illuminates the place of post-Reformation towns in northern Europe as a critical stage in thecomplex expansion of identity -- partly through the production of a diaspora -- from the level of the kin-based village community to that of the industrialized nation-state. The Mother Town is thus a significant contribution to the anthropological literature on the shaping of modernity." --Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University