Body Modification and Contemporary American Rites of Passage.
The term "Rite of Passage" describes any rite or ritual which marks or induces a change in an individuals social position. These life changes include birth, puberty, initiation into social and familial groups, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, and death. In most pre-industrial societies these rituals are the keys to determining the social hierarchy of the community.
In societies emphasizing technology, where life is based on individual achievement and is less dependent on communal cooperation for prosperity, such rites have become increasingly inconsequential to mainstream social life. This divergence may also be the result of the lack of a single set of spiritual beliefs within the society. For example, since there are many belief systems in North America, there are no culturally universal rites of passage. While some pseudo rites of passage do exist, including receiving a driver's license, going to a High School prom, and graduating from High School or College, these "rites" are not all-inclusive and are not necessarily required for participation in society. .
Arnold Van Gennep's metaphorical description of society as "a house divided into rooms and corridors" (Van Gennep, 26) may also aid in explaining why our more complex society lacks the rites of passage that are so crucial to smaller and less complex societies. He explains that the more complex the society, "the thinner are its internal partitions, and the wider and more open are its doors of communication. In a semi-civilized [i.e. less complex] society, on the other hand, sections are carefully isolated, and passage from one to another must be made through formalities and ceremonies" (Van Gennep, 26).
In our society everyone is steadily exposed to people of various cultural and social backgrounds who are part of the same general community. In addition, there is a large amount of public space (that is, land or buildings that are not open exclusively to a single social or cultural group or family).