SEPTEMBER 2016 / Cristina Planas Leitao and Sofia Mavragani
playforPORTO studies PRAXE: A tradition/game meant to initiate the freshmen into the University institution and to encourage the loss of social inhibitions. Its roots go as far back as the 14th century. Praxe comes from the Greek praxis
Praxe is all the methods and traditions existing among the students of a University. Older students produce funny situations and jokes with the freshmen; giving a welcome to them through initiation rituals. Most of the rituals are performed collectively in order to avoid open ground for abusers.
Praxe is Games within a Game of many rules and roles.
The roles follow a very strict and complex Hierarchy. Players of Praxe from the weakest to the stronger are: The bugs, The parachutist, The freshmen, The Semi-kids, The Kids, The lamps, The double lamps, the stuffed lamps, The veterans, The dux
The first ones are generic categories of Animals, students to be integrated/mobilized. The last ones are generic categories of Doctors, students to provide and execute the methods of integration/mobilization.
A complex set of rules – a code of conduct – defines relationships, dress code, distribution of power and actions allowed among the categories.
Objects/Symbols used in Praxe are: The spoon, The stick, The scissors
Mottos of praxe: Dura Praxis Sed Praxis (Praxe is harsh, but it is the Praxe) / What happens in Praxe, stays in Praxe
Praxe is a durational game. It goes on throughout the whole year and it develops through the years.
The older students sometimes take the Praxe too far, and the initiation rituals, jokes and traditions are degraded into humiliation and violence. Some of the games have provoked the death of students transforming Praxe into a polemic subject nowadays.
A discourse is taking place in the country concerning the symbolic power of this tradition, its safety and its contextualization.
Praxe takes place in the city as a site-specific event. The system of the game is exclusive to the players – both the Animals and the Doctors. No external interaction is allowed.
Throughout our in-situ research, we followed groups of students, we stalked the mass, we traced their trajectories, we stopped when they stopped, we walked when they walked, we sat down to observe, we wrote down questions to ask, we tried to go as close as possible, we discussed several subjects, such as: Is Praxe a performance? How much does it reflect the society? How it incorporates social change? Which is the psychological portrait of each role? How does the element of humiliation work? How far can a game go? What makes some one adhere so strongly to it? Does union really make strength? Where is the voice of the individual within a group? Does power always means oppression? We entered the Law Faculty from the back entrance, the side entrance, the front entrance trying to figure out where they were, we didn’t talk to the “doctors”/ guards standing at each gate of the University, we were prohibited of taking pictures, we felt like freshmen, we felt like doctors, we didn’t see any freshmen alone, we got afraid by the black-caped figures. We followed this mass(ive) performance through the city without being able to play. Instead our own game has been created and that was to discover the city from the back door.
Supported by BACteria Assotiation and FINGERSIX