Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mardi Gras

There is much more to Mardi Gras than meets the eye. There are societies, traditions, and an entire hierarchy that is behind the celebration. The issue with these Mardi Gras societies is that, for the most part, they are still segregated.

We watched a movie highlighting this segregation and it was disturbing to say the least. The two societies were aware of each other, but never intended to mix- mainly from the white side. The white hierarchy was made up of a king and a queen that were almost pedigreed to become Mardi Gras royalty. They had lavish parties and a very big social life before the start of Mardi Gras. The African American society was more family oriented and it seemed to be more of an all-encompassing community event.
The most disturbing thing to me was the wait staff at the white parties. The fact that the queen's family was a former slave owner is just the icing on the racism plate. In one scene they have all African-American men wearing tiny cowboy hats serving the food and cleaning up.

Although we are very focused on being a free and equal society, acts like these prove this sentiment to be false.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Food, Glorious Food!

This week we talked about the relationship that food has with culture. It is intertwined and unbreakable and we can tell a lot about a person by what they eat, the way that they eat, and the superstitions that they have around food. We talked about food encounters that we had with other cultures. I was one of the only Mexicans at my elementary school and when it came to the age of sleep-overs, I began to notice the differences between my friends and me. Every Sunday morning my family eats menudo. It is a tripe soup that is seasoned and mixed with hominy. It never had occurred to me that people would look at this as strange.

Although our family does not go to church, it is customary for Mexican families to go to church and then flock to the local taqueria to get menudo. Few of my friends ever tried it and most that did were not fans.

I remember in elementary school looking at other kids eating their lunches and noticing the difference between my lunch and my best friend's who was Korean. I always got the cafeteria hot lunch, but my friend's mom packed her lunch daily. She always had intricate tupperware. One was always filled with rice and the others had veggie rolls, seaweed, or meat. She had a Yakult to drink daily. I remember thinking that it was so odd to eat seaweed and refused to try it. (It is now one of my favorite snacks.) You can tell a lot about a person based on what they pack for lunch.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oral Narratives

Our focus was on oral narratives this week. There are four types of oral narratives. These include myths, folktales, legends, and personal narratives.

Although myths are often thought of as being fictitious, they are actually more of creation stories. They are usually of a religious descendant and explain questions that could not otherwise be answered by mere empiricism.

Legends are stories that had once greatly impacted the given culture, so much so that the oral word had been passed down generations. There is usually something that can be learned from a legend. The validity of legends often come into question.

Folktales are known as stories that are false, but are more of cautionary tales. They are passed down from generation to generation to ensure that knowledge from the ancestors is passed down to the newer generations. One that is commonly known in the United States is, The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Finally, a personal narrative is a first-person account about what happened to the person telling the story. It is a representation of what happened to first-hand and is retold to strike a chord with the audience.

All of these oral narratives are meant to educate the audience and it seems as if it is a human's constant desire to progress their culture through knowledge of the past.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dialects, Accents, and Slang! Oh My!

This week we focused on the differences between dialects, accents, and slang. This is a topic that I had never given much thought to before, and I probably would have grouped them all together, but, in fact, there are many differences between the three. A dialect is a variety of a language that differs from other varieties on three different levels. First of all the pronunciation is different. Secondly, they use different grammatical rules. Lastly, they have their own vocabulary that differs from other varieties. There are two t and social dialect. Regional dialects are different areas that share the same dialect. An example of this is the Southern United States. Social dialect pertains to particular social groups. An example of this is Ebonics. Ebonics is a shared dialect in a social group.

An accent is the pronunciation of certain words within a language. There is no difference in syntax. Both the accent and dialect and our "social address" that identify ourselves regionally and socially.

Slang is a different vocabulary, usually short-lived, and informal.

Understanding the differences between dialect, accent, and slang give a deeper understanding into language and culture.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sambia Tribe

The Sambia are a people in New Guinea that have a unique culture. They value masculinity because of the life experiences that they live in. They reside in a hostile environment and are in constant battle with their neighbors. Their life is portrayed in the movie, The Guardian of the Flute. The boys need to be initiated into manhood. It primarily starts about the age of seven. They are taken away from their mothers, usually at the mother's dismay. The boys are given a mentor that carries the boys on their backs when they are too tired to walk, as they are not able to eat or sleep in the beginning to show their strength. The boys participate in a number of rituals. They are thrashed with sticks, hit on the head with branches, and brushed with stinging leaves. The boys are then introduced to the flutes. The flutes represent the penis. The blowing motion on the flute is useful in one of the final initiations into boyhood. The Sambia believe that strength comes from semen and young boys do not produce semen yet. The young boys are expected to drink the semen of the older boys to help develop strength within them and help them to produce their own semen.

It is important when looking at other cultures that we use anthropological objectivity. There are actions that are different from the ones that we make in our own culture, but it is important not to make judgments, so that we can get the most thorough and unbiased information as humanly possible

Research Methods

Research Methods

This week we talked about the different ways that research can be conducted. The four ways are questionnaires, interview, observation, and participant-observation. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

The questionnaire is quick, relatively efficient, and can reach a large number of people in a short amount of time. It is also the cheapest option that takes the least amount of manpower. The problem is that it is not in-depth and there is no way to gauge whether or not you are getting the truth.

The interview is the next level up. It requires more time, money, and manpower, but does yield more in-depth information. It also allows the anthropologist to “go with the flow” of the interview. If there is something that is particularly interesting, more emphasis can be placed on the question. It is also a tool to physically gauge the reaction of the interview and get a more honest response. During the interview, the researcher can stop interviews that they feel are not truthful. This is something that cannot be done on paper because one is not able to see the physical reactions. A flaw with interview, however, is that people sometimes think that they are being honest, but they are not being honest with themselves.

Observation also has its share of advantages and disadvantages. It is very time consuming, as the researcher has to spend many hours watching every move of the given culture. There are drawbacks to observations as well. If the party knows that they are being observed they tend to not act naturally until they get totally used to the observer being there. In the past, while observing children in daycare, there were one-way mirrors that allowed the researcher to see into the class, but the children were unaware. This is an ideal situation, but usually in the field, this scenario does not happen.

To get the most thorough idea of a given culture, participant-observation is used. In this research method, the researcher fully immerses themselves in the culture. They become a part of the culture. An example of this was given in the movie that we watched in class. The researcher wanted to gain more information on the cheese-maker culture. The researcher not only conducted interviews and took extensive field notes, but they also have to help make the cheese, so that they fully understand what it means to be a cheese maker. It takes a long time for the researcher to be fully accepted into a culture, and, therefore, there is a lot of time spent in the culture making relationships to gain trust.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Redefining Folklore

Folklore was always somewhat mystical to me. I used to think that folklore was restricted to stories of the past. I also wrongly thought that it was contained to certain non-urban cultures and mostly from people of ethnic background. I am pleased to learn that I take place in my culture’s folklore. Folklore or folk culture is spread through direct contact, usually from family or peers. It can be shared in three ways. The three genres of folklore are verbal folklore, material folklore and customary lore. Verbal folklore is something that is very prevalent in my Mexican-American subculture. Something that was used in our family is the use of naming practices. In my family, the grandfather chooses the first name. The middle name is a saint name chosen by the child at their confirmation. They have two last names, the first the paternal name and the second the mother’s last name, usually marked by the initial. For example my grandfather’s name is Aquileo Guadalupe Reyes H. When he moved to America, he dropped the maternal last name. We all have legal American names, but are well aware of our “Mexican” names.
I think it is important to understand the traditional culture of your family. Knowing the naming techniques of my family gives me a valuable insight to the folklore of my family. It gives me a connection to the past and makes it more apt that I will continue my family traditions into the future. Verbal folklore is important in creating connections as well. I believe of the three genres, it is the most engaging and creates the most long-lasting connection between family members. Verbal folklore covers a wide variety of types including traditional phrases, jokes, stories, traditional prayers, folk songs and many other verbal interactions.
There are other questions that still arise regarding verbal folklore. First of all, if these stories are written down and passed on as an heirloom is still considered verbal or does it cross into material or customary. I am interested in learning the effects of technology on folklore. Is it helping to continue folk culture or impeding it by making families less close and less likely to pass on verbal folklore? I am excited to learn about specific folklore and hopefully more stories from fellow classmates.