Welcome to the ANTH 2100 Blog—Fall 2014!

Welcome to Anthropology2100, a cultural anthropology course blog for Fall 2014.

Anthropology 2100 was originally created by the undergraduate students and graduate student TAs of Professor Carole McGranahan’s Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course, Fall 2010 at the University of Colorado. The second version was the Fall 2013 ANTH 2100 course. We are now doing Round Three of this blog in the Fall 2014 semester.

This blog was designed so that students could read and engage others’ work, rather than solely writing for their professor or TAs.  Our goal is to create a space for discussion and debate outside of the classroom.

Over the course of this semester, students will write essays on three topics: food, love, and music.  Students will address these topics from anthropological perspectives, specifically using two different theories in each essay to gain a sense of how anthropological scholarship and argument unfolds.  Depending on what point in the semester the students write any given essay, the theories they are using might be a bit old-fashioned or might represent contemporary theories in cultural anthropology.  Either way, our intention is for students to learn anthropological theory by putting it into use.

(Don’t know much about anthropological theory? Check out our course Theory+Anthropology Wikipage, created by students in the 2010 version of this course.)

We will choose a handful of student essays to put up on Anthropology2100.  As part of their assignment, students are also required to participate in the blog through commenting on posted essays.  Everyone is invited to join in the conversation. Respectful, civil exchanges, questions, and disagreements are welcome; rude, snarky, and/or mean-spirited comments will be taken down.

Thanks for reading, and here’s to good intellectual conversation and anthropology!

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Gender Disparities and representations of Female Sexuality in Food Advertisements

by Chase

“I’d let you peak, but I don’t deliver what you’re hungry for.” These are the words of a cartoon woman in a delivery service advertisement. The advertisement is pasted to the ceiling of the bus I take home. The woman’s hair is long and blond, her eyes big and framed with dark lashes, her lips form a plush half smile, and she sports a short red dress that she hikes up to her hip. She stands next to a picture of a pizza and a foot-long sub. I take note, not because this depiction of a woman is unusual, but because of the advertisement’s intrusion into my daily commute. Advertisements such as this have become normative in American media and consequently they often go unnoticed. They compose a repertoire of images depicting half naked women next to the product their sexuality is intended to sell: food.

The fast food chain Carls Jr. markets their burgers with women washing cars simultaneously chomping down on a double cheeseburger, sauce dripping in places that they think deserves a close up. It is said that sex sells, but these food advertisements sell more than a product. They sell ideas. Food becomes a symbol of pleasure when it is placed next a hyper-sexualized woman. Women’s sexuality is depicted on the same plane as a cheap sub or a greasy pizza. The woman appears ready to be consumed and the result is a less than human representation.

To say that mass media’s representations of women speak for the entirety of American culture would overestimate their power, however their reoccurrence shows acceptance of their practices. The scrutiny of contemporary Feminist Theory[1] questions America’s acceptance of practices that sell women’s sexuality next to the five-dollar foot-long. It underscores the advertisements detrimental effects as part of a larger system of inequality. Though the effect of these advertisements is not a causative one, I argue that images depicting women as objects of pleasure, next to food products waiting to be consumed, feeds into a culture of acceptance for gender inequality. This inequality is perpetuated in pay disparities, in the prominence of violence against women in American society, and in every other realm where women are not seen as fully human. They are evidence of the gender hierarchies in American society.

American society (women included) continues this hegemonic cycle while simultaneously challenging it. Anthropological Practice Theory[2] questions how these advertisements have come to be seen as normal in everyday life. Their representations of women are accepted and supported by continued consumer support of their products. They are also challenged. For example people are “cutting the Carl’s” in a counter campaign that argues, “women are more than meat.”[3] Women’s dehumanization in food advertisements continues because of consumer participation and is simultaneously challenged by consumers choosing to boycott their products.

Food advertisements are visual representations of American practices that reinforce gender hierarchies. The normalcy of these practices in daily life shows acceptance of them, their rejection by many members of American society challenges their reinforcement of gender inequalities.

[1] Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology, 8 October 2014.

[2] Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology, 6 October 2014.

[3] http://www.beautyredefined.net/cut-the-carls/, accessed the 9th of October, 2014.

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The Food of Life

by  Logan

 

Korea has a wide variety of foods. Among Korean foods however, the one that can be said to have the most cultural meaning would be the food called soojaebee. The food can be described as a hot soup with water, rounded pieces of flour, throw in a bit of salt, and there you have it, soojaebee. Does it sound rather unappetizing? But, to Koreans, it will forever be one of the most delicious foods.

The reason Koreans love this strange food, called soojaebee, is that this was the only food most people could afford during the times of Japanese colonization. Those were very tough times for Koreans, and this is where historical particularism of Boasian Anthropology comes into play. Soojaebee, if it can even be called food, was the only thing people could call food. Where they had nothing else, they had water and flour. The only thing the people could make was this thing called soojaebee. During this bitter time in Korean history, this was the food that allowed survival, the thing that brought life. So then, how can the people ever forget the taste of the thing that brought them life? The taste could be nothing but delicious. The history behind this food makes it so that the people can never abandon this food because of the way it served them during their darkest times.

Soojaebee has become somewhat of a symbol in Korean culture. From our great-grandfathers to the present generation of college students, this food holds still a significant meaning. Koreans usually eat this food during the winter and sometimes just any time of year. But especially during the Korean New Year or Korean Independence Day, people will eat this food. Some of the elderly folk will eat it even today and remember the tough times they had experienced during Japanese colonial times. That’s when the stories of olden days and the great heroes who shaped modern Korea will be told to the younger generation. Then the children also learn the pains of the people. So soojaebee holds a symbolic meaning in the culture of the older generation of Koreans. The younger generation may not know the history that soojaebee holds, but nevertheless, its meaning is there. In present day Korea, the food brings families together during the making process. Because of its simplicity, even children can help to prepare the food, and whenever the food is eaten, it warms families together. It warms people bellies as well.

This very simple and rather unappealing food may seem strange to others. But to the Korean people, it will always hold a great meaning. It is the food that allowed them to survive another day. The food that provided their bodies a means to be nourished. It is the thing that brought life to the people.

 

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Wanna get drinks and then get married after?

By Dana S.

If you’re a college student, in your very late teens through mid-twenties, you probably live in a hookup culture. Americans have been long known to seek out that which will gratify us the soonest; we’re always looking for the quick fix with the easy getaway. Enter Tinder, the popular “dating” app that almost everyone in my age group knows about and that most people have probably used at least once. According to the Vox article “Seven questions about Tinder you were too embarrassed to ask,” a little more than thirty percent of users are on Tinder because they’re just curious, a little fewer are there because it’s entertaining, even fewer because they’re looking for a relationship, and the fewest are there because they’re looking for a quick hookup [i].

If a practice theorist were to look at young adults in America and their ideas about hookups and love, they would see something quite different than what those statistics say [ii]. In my experience as a human who occasionally uses the app, I have learned that most of us probably want some epic love story to come out of a date you snagged on Tinder, but when it comes down to it, we’re all perfectly happy to meet up with someone for a hookup. Are hookups love? No, probably not, but if you’re a college student looking to have some fun, either because “you’re just curious” or “you’re looking for a quick hookup,” [iii] Tinder could be the way to go. But (some of us might hope) maybe one out of thousands of Tinder hookups will lead to love down the road.

A feminist anthropologist could also examine the gender rules associated with Tinder [iv]. When posting photos for your profile, don’t post them with another girl (if you’re a guy) or with another guy (if you’re a girl) unless, of course, you specify in your blurb that he or she is just a cousin or a friend. The guy usually sends the first message, and he’s allowed to be as creepy as can be. “Wanna get drinks and then get married after?” is a one-liner that seems to be pretty popular. Girls have a lot of options: they can take that first creepy message and run with it, or they can turn it down quickly and easily. Of course, if girls message first, they can also get turned down, but it’s more likely that the guy will message the girl first. If things lead to a casual hookup, then other rules come into play, rules not necessarily associated with Tinder. It’s clear that Tinder has a lot to say in reflection of American love and hookup culture, and there’s a lot that can be explored with other dating apps and websites as well.

[i] Matthews, Dylan. “Seven questions about Tinder you were too embarrassed to ask.” Vox. Vox Media, 3 July 2014. Web. 10 October 2014.

[ii] Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology, 6 October 2014.

[iii] See footnote [i] above

[iv] Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology, 8 October 2014.

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The Infinite Possibilities of Polyamory

By Chris K.

Growing up in America, we are socialized to believe romantic relationships are shared between two people. However, not everyone follows the typical monogamous path that we are taught to take. Polyamorous relationships are those that consist of multiple partners without sexual exclusion. Those who participate in polyamory “have made a conscious decision to have other partners while maintaining their connection and commitment to their original partner”[1]. The practice of polyamory, or “group love” breaches U.S. social norms and brings a whole new definition to love.

From a feminist perspective, polyamory may be seen in a positive light because it liberates women to express love in various ways. A feminist anthropologist would inquire whether there is female oppression or a gender hierarchy in the structure of a polyamorist relationship. The anthropologist would discover that in opposition to a classic, monogamous relationship with hierarchical gender roles, polyamory resists the notion that a man possesses his wife and that women are constrained to one sexual partner. Similarly, polyamory can be any variation of gender relationships. For example, a polyamorous relationship can be between two women and one man, where all three partners have sexual relations with one another. The non-rigid lines of polyamory “embraces sexual equality”[2] and, furthermore, allows women to express their sexuality in any way they desire while simultaneously keeping strong emotional ties among all partners in the relationship.

An anthropologist that adheres to the theory of culture and personality would examine the patterns in a polyamorous society and draw from those patterns to find out more about the individuals who participate in the alternate love style. A culture and personality anthropologist may examine children in polyamorist families to attempt to extrapolate trait patterns that are reflective of child rearing practices. Polyamory stands on an open minded, free-loving platform, and therefore the culture and personality school would most likely discover that on the individual level in a polyamorist society, people tend to be more liberal and free thinking about issues not only about love, but as well as other social political topics. The polyamorist society believes that “knowing yourself and improving on the knowledge of yourself in such a way that your are in harmony, co-existence and integration with your partners”[3] is crucial to a functional society. These values are the platform of the polyamorist community as a whole but, according to the culture and personality school, also represent characteristics on an individual level. While polyamory may not be the typical relationship structure in modern America, the ideals that coincide with the alternative lifestyle are reflective of gender equality and individual characteristics that are representative of their cultural patterns.

[1] “Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 8, Dec. 12, 2005.” Commitment in Polyamory. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

[2] “Polyamory Society.” Polyamory Society Self-Improvement Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

[3] “Polyamory Society.” What is Polyamory?. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

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What’s the Safe Word?

By Jamie L.

BDSM is probably one of the more common fetishes, and is often mentioned in modern media, though is rarely taken seriously. There are a wide variety of practices involved in BDSM, but for the sake of simplicity I will focus on the dominance and submission aspects, wherein one partner exerts sexual control over the other. The fact that there are no clear gender roles in the practice is particularly interesting. In fact, it is quite common that a female is dominant.

Anthropologists proscribing to feminist theory would most likely find this particularly fascinating. With the female taking a strong, dominant role in sexual conduct, it is a clear breach from standard gender norms, particularly in the 1960’s and 1970’s when BDSM was on the rise[1]. For Domme women it is a power shift. In a world which is largely male dominated, they have now are willingly given power, and they are able to take on a role that is different from what is seen to be the norm. A main point about BDSM that is often misconstrued is that it is all fully consensual. While many of the actions performed are forceful, it is built on a relationship of trust within the partnership. In a heterosexual pairing with female dominant, the male is willingly giving up his power to the female, and it is exhilarating for her.

Not only is BDSM changing up the normal gender roles of our society, but it is also differing from the expected rules of society. Practice Theory would look at modern America’s ‘rules’ of how sex should be and who would take on which role. While today, different sexual preferences, beliefs and practices are more widely accepted, people still rarely openly talk about sexual practices that are seen as taboo, so that people who participate in BDSM are unlikely to say so openly, leading to a gap between their public speech and private practice. Things are changing, but a large number of Americans still think sex should be between a man and a women who are married and that it should be for the purposes of creating new life. Sex should be “Biblical” (although, sex in the Bible is very different from what I assume these people are thinking of), and the man should have a dominant role in it. With female dominant fetishism, very few of those boxes are being checked. It doesn’t have to be a man and a woman, you don’t have to be married, it is rarely for the purpose of conceiving and gender or sex doesn’t really have in part in deciding who takes on what role.

[1] http://historyofbdsm.com/, accessed 8 October 2014

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Food, Memory and Storytelling by Oakley

My people have a saying that sums up just about every Jewish celebration: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” Jewish holidays are filled to the brim with culinary symbolism, from the much-discussed seder plate of Passover to the slightly more subtle round challah of Rosh Hashanah. I cannot think of a single Jewish meal that doesn’t involve some sort of religious story or representation. Even Hanukkah, though it is not a hugely important holiday, tells its story through the use of oil in cooking. In fact, Jewish food and storytelling go hand in hand. Holidays are more than an occasion to receive presents or light candles (though those are important too), they give us a chance to tell our stories, remember our history, and keep our culture alive through the traditions of food.

Since Jewish holiday food is deeply symbolic, it seems only fair to consider how a symbolic anthropologist would analyze it. Discussing the symbolism of the foods that we eat is actually a major part of most holiday services. On Hanukkah, we eat foods cooked in oil to represent the oil in the lamps that lasted for eight days and eight nights. The Passover seder tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt using food to symbolize slavery, freedom, and other aspects of the tale. However, there is more symbolism to these meals than that which is explicitly stated. Jewish meals symbolize tradition, resolution, survival. This food has endured for thousands of years, through violence and discrimination, to reach us today. Jewish meals are representative of our history as a people.

An anthropologist using practice theory would take a different stance. We may talk about the symbolism of our food, but what are we actually doing when we eat the holiday meals? Besides the obvious “eating for survival”, Jewish meals are meant to bring people together. Literally. Cooking these meals requires quite a few hands, so people in the community have to be together in order to make the proper holiday meal. This serves the purpose of getting as many Jews as possible to join in the holiday. With everyone together, we can relive our history and tell the stories of our people. We reinforce the importance of carrying on the Jewish religion and educate the next generation. Although there is little in the Jewish religion that is not discussed at length, some of the things that are taken for granted can tell us a lot about different religious denominations. Does your Bubbe clean every crumb of bread from her house in the spring? Does your family choose pastrami over cheeseburgers? Does your favorite cookie have a name that nobody can pronounce (hint: they’re hamentaschen). Some of the foods that we eat are hard to explain, because that’s just the way we’ve always eaten. A practice theorist would look at these eating habits that we don’t really think about.

Food is a critical part of Jewish history and ceremony. We have to remember, and the symbolism of our holiday meals is one way of doing this. From the outside, eating jelly donuts on Hanukkah or parsley in salt water on Passover may just appear to be a delicious or confusing quirk of the Jewish religion. But food, which may be a fairly mundane part of everyday life in the secular world, becomes a method of storytelling and cultural renewal when brought into the world of the sacred.

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The Language of the Chant

By Phoenix F

The inside of the palatial church is crowded. I have can scarcely move without brushing against another person. My candle is held close to my chest, its little flickering flame illuminating the bulletin I collected when I walked in. Although my knowledge of Modern Greek is negligible at best, I know what is happening in the service as soon as I hear the first chant. It is Great and Holy Friday: the most solemn service of the Greek Orthodox Church year. We are holding a vigil at the tomb of Christ. The chanters begin the first verse of the Lamentations, and I join in the chant—with the same tune I have sung every year since I was a child.

The Greek Orthodox, whether in Greece or abroad, find their ethnic identity through the traditions of the Church. Among these are traditions of the specific architecture of the church buildings, their icons and the imagery they present, as well as the wearing of crosses and the wrapping of prayer ropes around their wrists. One of the most unique and unifying elements of the Greek Orthodox Church is its music. Members know by heart the tunes of the eight ‘tones’ – the basic chants the Church cycles through every eight weeks. They know them in the same way that all Christians know the Lord’s Prayer and can recite it anywhere without effort.  The eight tones of Greek Orthodox music are a common liturgical “language” through which Orthodox Christians express their devotion in worship no matter where they are. They share the tones not only with members of their local churches but also with other Greek Orthodox Christians in almost every Greek Orthodox service across the world.

This phenomenon in Greek Orthodox music can easily be approached from a functionalist perspective. The liturgical church year cycles through multiple feast days which mark different seasons of the year: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and so forth. Within these seasons are also smaller feasts which celebrate individual saints. Each feast day has its own hymnology—its own approved liturgical text which is read and sung on the occasion—and each of these texts are set to the tunes of the familiar eight tones . So, instead of having a hymn book filled with hundreds of hymns as the Protestants do, the Orthodox simply apply one of the eight chants to the different liturgical feast day texts. This way, not only can the choir and chanters sing new text with relative ease, so can the members of the congregation who have heard these tunes all their lives. The tones meet a need for a simply way to set hundreds of texts to song.

The eight chants server a bigger purpose than limiting the musical repertoire.  In fact, an interpretive anthropologist would find a wealth of symbolic meaning within the music. The Byzantine chants are simple tunes, created so they are easy to apply to a text and also so they are easy for everyone to remember.

Byzantine chants of text were performed first and foremost because of the church’s deeply held belief that if a text is read aloud, the reader may impose his own interpretation of the text in the inflection he lends to the words and sentences as he reads them aloud.  This is avoided when the text is set to the tunes of the eight chants. The familiar cadences of the chant ensure that all readers read the text objectively, without personal inflection.

The chants also create a sense of unity for the Greek Orthodox which I little understood until I set foot in Greece myself. I was a foreigner, traveling alone in a country where I often understood little or none of what the people around me said, but these familiar chants were soothing to me. Being able to sing along with the music gave me a sense of unity with the people singing around me in the church. In America, in Greece, and in all other countries where the Greek Orthodox Church stands, Byzantine chants are the common worship language unifying the Greek Orthodox world: a language we all speak and understand.

Posted in Music Essay (2014) | 34 Comments