Posted by: heykro | June 5, 2009

End of ANTH213

Well, this is my last blog! I thought the blogs were a good way to stay engaged in the course material and communicate with other students in the class. It was sometimes difficult to keep a regular blog due to essays and tests from other courses, and simply being busy in general. However, I think it was a really good idea and would recommend it for other classes.

I hope everyone did well on the test this morning! I feel like mine went alright, I just wish I had more time to write. There was so much more I wanted to say!

Good luck on the rest of your exams & have a great break. Cheers!

Posted by: heykro | June 3, 2009

friday’s test

Unfortunately I missed Tuesday’s lecture, and as I understand we discussed the test on Friday. Just to clarify… its open book about marriage? Is it only about marriage rituals? Any help or pointers from you guys would be great – exam time is so stressful!!


Posted by: heykro | May 29, 2009

Death denied and the Tangihanga

Sinclair’s article about the Maori tangihanga funeral rituals was very informative. As an exchange student from Canada, I don’t know much about New Zealand history or Maori culture. It was really interesting learning about the complexities of the interactions between Pakeha and Maori.

The Tangihanga can be contrasted with Phillip Aries’ descriptions of societal reactions to death in his article Death Denied. For example during the funeral period, mourning dominates Maori life. It is normal to show emotion and grievance. Aries depicts quite the opposite in his analysis of modern reactions to death. He claims that mourners hide their grief from the public, as it is taboo to display emotion. Also, a tangihanga involves the entire community. In fact, hundreds of visitors come to pay their respects. Aries claims that while this was once the norm, families now do not invite neighbours over to offer their condolences, but wait until the funeral. Instead a funeral is a very private thing. One aspect that was consistent in both articles was the concept of the body being dirty or polluted. The Maori believe that the corpse was polluted and dangerous, and required that guests wash their hands before entering into the normal world. Aries describes the taboo on death as being fueled by the improperness and dirtiness of death. These two articles worked nicely together to depict different views on death and funeral rituals.

Posted by: heykro | May 29, 2009

death denied

Philippe Aries’ article “Death Denied” was both very insightful and terribly long! However, I took the plunge and managed to get through the lengthy reading.

I thought it was interesting how he used literary examples to back up his claims about how people handle death. He utilised characters from Leo Tolstoi and made reference to Mark Twain and William Shakespeare. I have never before read an anthropological article which derives its evidence from literary works, and I quite enjoyed it. I began as an English major, and this article tied together literature and anthropology. I thought this might be an enjoyable read for anyone doing a double major in English & Anthro. One criticism of using literary figures however, is that they are indeed fictional. The evidence is not historical or factual, but rather is invented by the imaginations of writers. True, writers often depict their own living conditions in the context of their own historical period. However, a fictional story cannot be relied upon as the only evidence to back up an argument.

One part of this article which spoke to me personally was the notion of silence regarding death. It is a taboo subject. My grandfather passed away three years ago, and I have never spoken about it. I was not close at all with him and his death barely affected me – however it definitely affected my dad (whose father it was that passed). There seems to be this tension about my grandfathers death, as my dad never speaks of it, nor of him. Therefore, it has set the norm in my family to react to the death of my grandfather with silence. I have often tried to bring the subject up with my dad, but he appears obviously uncomfortable discussing it. This notion is illustrated in Aries’ article, as he writes about society banishing death.

This latter portion of the article focuses on funeral parlours in the United States. Everything is taken care of by the funeral director, who arranges everything from embalming to the coffin selection. Funeral homes have become businesses. This reminded me so much of the television series “6 feet under”. It is about two brothers who take over their deceased father’s funeral home. It is a very insightful show about the ritual aspects of funerals and everything that happens during the process. The show won a couple of emmy awards and is really quite good – I would recommend it to anyone. It really gives insight on death as a natural phenomena and how we have ritualised it.

Here is the opening credits for the show. It gives an awesome visual depiction of death and the funeral process. It is rich with symbolism & I think really captures the essence of death.

Posted by: heykro | May 24, 2009

Kobe Princess Factory

The article on the Princess Palace was absolutely fascinating. The large scale production of weddings by a single company was such a strange concept to me. While reading about it, I couldn’t help but think of factory work. Each sector had their own tasks and worked on various wedding parties throughout the day. There was no special significance placed on any certain wedding, each was just another part of the factory line. Hairdressers worked on several brides a day every day, paying no particular attention to any one bride, just doing their job, working on hair. I felt like this takes the ‘specialness’ out of the wedding. Everything was planned for the couples and their wedding was exactly like all the others. It was a ‘cookie-cutter’ wedding. Weddings are meant to be a sacred ceremony, binding two people who love each other together forever. Forgive me, but if my wedding were anything like the weddings at the Kobe Princess Palace, I would be severely disappointed. I think that weddings should be a unique celebration of the couples’ love. Maybe I am a little unorthodox, but tradition just doesn’t interest me. I wouldn’t want to do it like everyone else. I feel like it would lose its meaning in the ritual itself. Reading about the Kobe Princess Palace was still very enlightening and very interesting!

Posted by: heykro | May 24, 2009

Hey big spender

Vassos Argyrou’s article on Cyrpus weddings in the 1930s introduced the concept of fouartas, which meant ‘big-spender’. This male disposition requires that men demonstrate that they do not respect money. After all, “money has no soul. It is people who do” (75). They spend money to give the appearance that they do not want anything in return, deomonstrating their kindness and generosity. Those who are stingy with their money are not respected, “because no one can reach their pocket or their hearts” (75). I found it interesting that spending lots of money is both a macho thing and a sign of generosity and a good heart. It is a symbol of real manhood to be able to spend lots of cash and men compete wtih one another – weddings being one way to compete for prestige and authority. It was really neat how the concept of fouartas tied into wedding celebrations. Weddings are about the union of two people, but also about power and status. ‘Big spenders’ ususally extend beyond their means to put on a wedding, which as Surridge puts it “leads peasants to cripple themselves” (74). I think it is unfortunate that men must spend beyond what they can afford, just to show up the other men in the community. However, I do appreciate the gesture behind the spending – acting generously and kindly towards others.

My question is, what do you think about the fouartas of our time, and in our society? Do big spenders spend out of generosity? Out of competition amongst others? Out of the goodness of their hearts? To seem macho/manly? Or merely because they have the expendible cash?

Posted by: heykro | May 24, 2009

Cyprus weddings and singles

While reading Argyrou’s article on weddings in 1930 Cyprus, many thoughts come to mind. This article covers various aspects of ritual, rites of passage and the hierarchal relationships between age groups and amongst adult men. In Cyprus, weddings are viewed as the most important cultural celebration and the entire community takes part. There is a huge emphasis on weddings and marriage. One thing that struck me was that single men and women are regarded as social misfits. Argyrou writes “for Greece, single men, and particularly women, are not simply an oddity. They are liminal entities, almost not quite human” (61). It would be fair to say that in many cultures marriage is important, and being single is something to be avoided. I found it very interesting that singles in Cyprus are not even seen as human! I wonder what they would think of Western society! Which makes me wonder, how do you feel our society views single men and women? Do you think there is a stigma attached to singles? Perhaps thirty or even twenty years ago, I think most people were expected to get married and had they remained single, would be seen as “an oddity”. Now however, many people are focusing on their careers and forgoeing marriage. Do you think people still see them as social misfits? Is marriage truly that important in our culture? What are your thoughts??

Posted by: heykro | May 24, 2009

Hauka mimicry

The Jean Rouch film we watched in class was really interesting. It would have been more appropriate had we watched the film in week 4, or had we read Paul Stoller’s article on Horrific Comedy closer to the viewing of the movie. Regardless, the film tied in nicely with the article and provided a great visual of the ritual. The Songhay use this ritual of spirit possession as a means of cultural resistance to colonialism. They use mimicry to mock the European institutions, reaffirming the validity of their own beleifs and customs. It is also a way to link them to their ancestors. I found it really quite shocking to watch these men and women being possessed. They were foaming at the mouth, writhing and twitching, and their eyes were rolling to the backs of their heads. It makes me wonder what kind of physiological changes are happening to them. Are they really being possessed? Or do they merely believe they are, and act accordingly? Its hard to fake foaming at the mouth, which makes me wonder what is really happening to their bodies. Brigitte said that this could be due to dehydration and excitement. I wonder though, is this spirit possession merely psychological? Or could it be real?

Posted by: heykro | May 24, 2009

boys to men

These last few weeks have certainly been busy! Essays have taken over my life, and therefore I have neglected my blog. I’ll try to post a bunch of blogs to make up for my lack of these past weeks.

Alves’ article on urban boys’ initiation rites in Portugal was about nine and ten year old boys who created their own initiation rites. They went on rampages through the city, creating havoc and destroying property. Afterwards, they created personal narratives of their adventures, telling the other boys about their rampage. This article tied in nicely with Van Gennep’s “rite de passage”, as the boys transitioned from one state to another involving changes in their social status. Through these self-created initiation rites, the boys gained status as men in the community. Their antisocial behaviour was an appropriate way to express their marginal condition during the liminal periods of “rites de passage”. Their narratives reflected a state of communitas. There was also a fair amount of symbolism in this ritual, such as the walls which served to separate private from public spaces. When the boys walked on the walls, it represented an ambiguous state. This article was a fine example of a ritual which incorporated all of Van Gennep’s liminal experiences. The article itself was quite long though, and I found myself skimming through the narratives of the boys, as well as the linguistic information. What was relevant though, was the construction of an initiation ritual which enabled these boys to become men in their own right.

Posted by: heykro | April 27, 2009

Bartok’s Funeral

bartok1The article by Susan Gal on Bela Bartok’s funeral was quite amusing. I found it a bit humourous that Hungarian politicians used the figure of Bartok and created this image of him as a national hero to strengthen their own political goals for Hungary. Bartok served as a mediator between conflicting ideologies of being Hungarian and being European, combining patriotism with progress. The government was weak and the citizens felt it lacked “hitel” (trustworthyness/financial credit). By bringing Bartok’s body back to Hungary 43 years after his death, the government regained favour – at least temporarily. It caused a great media stir and put the spotlight on Hungary. Thousands of people attended his funeral, despite their distrust of the government who arranged the ceremony. Bartok was a hero for both sides: a populist and urbanist, a Hungarian and a European. His funeral served as a means to legitimize, justify and strengthen the Hungarian government’s moral claims on the population. I thought this was a bit amusing, as nobody seemed to care about his death for 43 years and suddenly it became a sensation! I wonder what Bela Bartok himself would have thought about this!

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