Claudia Blunt: Week 2

CLAUDIA studied Social Anthropology in her first year and failed the paper. This week she offers up her ethnography of tribal culture in Cambridge clubs.

Blues cambridge clubs Cindies claudia blunt column columnist don't stop believing Nightlife Rugby social anyhropology tribal culture week 2

The author finds herself having spent two years of serious immersive study in a province known to the elite as Cindies. Cloaked in confusion, this earthquake zone is understood to other less experienced researchers in the field as Ballare (Latin: To shake ones body in a rhythmic manner before immediately vomiting enough alcohol to kill a small yak).

Dancing the ego-tango in this most hallowed of establishments is a ritualistic custom amongst the crème de la crème of the University. A rite of passage for each and every one of Cambridge’s innumerable tribes, some individuals will enter but once. Brought in by leaders of their various institutions during a seminal investigative period known as fresher’s week, it is in this period of the social almanac where it is established which of the new intake will crumble, shunning the opportunities of procreation with individuals that are blinded by the habitual ceremony of swapping (my fieldwork has not led to the discovery of what exactly it is that is swapped on these occasions, other than perhaps bodily fluids).

The largest displays of peacockery come from a minority defined simply as Blues. These individuals attempt to astound the female sex with garish clothing under the banner of stash. (For further reading on these displays of idiocy see Smith, W: Booze, Abuse and Playing Blues, The Tab, 2012). Proficiency in some kind of sporting activity seems to allow this kin unwarranted female attention. Unknown for their sociolinguistics, this small group assert their alpha male potential in a section of the region deemed ‘John’s Bar’. It is at this watering hole that researchers have witnessed traditional gift exchange politics. A hybrid of vodka and garishly coloured carbonated additives are shamelessly presented to beautiful women in the hope that the transaction will end in sexual favours. Equally, tribal leaders go through the ritualistic debasement of necking in an attempt to assert social dominance over their rivals.

It was a surprise to this researcher to see the effects of collective drinking and how the behaviour of sensible homo sapiens degenerated after numerous jaeger bombs.  This seemed particularly true of the female collective, who will, without warning, emit deafening shrieks and fling their arms around lost or forgotten kin as a standard form of greeting. Indeed, different clans appear to identify one another through often-striped appendages worn around the neck. Be these scarves or ties, they allow Cambridge’s alcoholic contingent to take an immediate impression of the rival groups present.

In truth, tribes are able to attire themselves in whichever way they themselves deem appropriate. This also came as a shock to the author. It is here that fancy dress, smart casual and nearly naked come together in a melting pot of silliness, and allow the subjects to really flounce and attract potential partners. They do this while simultaneously moving to a mix of music from their early childhood (popular chants are identified by increased squealing from the women and more violent Massai-esque leaping from the men).

Some of the contingent appear to pass most of their time in the region by partaking in a group act of smoke-induced suicide. This appears to happen, despite any threat of rain or snow, in a large outdoor pen. Kinsfolk who would normally dismiss such acts will attempt to enchant potential mates by striking up cigarette related conversation. One can deduce that Cindies is the preferred spot for Cantabs partaking in the art of social smoking. This act involves moving in a circular direction through the club and into the outdoor enclosure. Treating the one-way system with respect, while also allowing the body temperature to fluctuate so significantly, feelings of fever are often induced as a result.

As the night bears on, the social diaspora thins as mating partners gently slip away into the night in search of pre-coitus sustenance. Those who remain are drummed into the night by the tribal anthem Don’t Stop Believing. They limp back to their respective establishments while they “hold on to that fee-ee-eeeling” until the following week, when the process repeats itself in exactly the same fashion.

Coda: The fieldwork completed by the author has received widespread tribal recognition and has subsequently earned the author the accolade of “70-somethingth Biggest Name on Campus, Drinking Societies” – the author’s finest achievement to date.