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date: 19 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In his 1961 book, Asylums, Goffman introduces the concept of the “total institution,” a formal institution in which the staff has near-total control of the lives of the “inmates,” including where and when they sleep, eat, and socialize. Typical total institutions in American culture include hospitals (mental and otherwise), prisons, military basic training camps, other isolated military settings (e.g., onboard ships), boarding schools, summer camps, nursing homes, and cloistered religious institutions. The fact that the control is “near-total” rather than total opens the possibility that the “inmates” or “residents” will create their own folk traditions, including oral, material, and customary folklore. The folk cultures of residents serve their psychological and social needs, and the folklore often centers on resistance against the regime of control and surveillance by the staff.

Keywords: camps, ceremony, folklore, inmates, military, organizations, play, prison, ritual, total institution

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