Cows: Mans Best Friend?


There is the question of whether or not dogs should be given the title of “man’s best friend.” According to Larry Stout’s article, “Forget cats and dogs, cows are our best friends”, cows are more important than domesticated pets. Cows have provided humans with meat, milk, clothing, fuel and weapons for thousands of years. Having cattle is seen as being practical, whereas having a domesticated house pet is often seen as the complete opposite. In different parts of the world, cows is associated with power, wealth, and religion.

Throughout the world there are different versions of “cow culture.” The relationships between humans and cows originated in the Mediterranean. In ancient Mesopotamia and Persia, bull horns were symbols of power, and would also occasionally be used as decorations in tombs. In other areas, cows were so sacred that they had their own burial chambers. In some cultures, they were used as sacrifices for feasts. The Egyptians showed warriors wearing helmets with horns on them to demonstrate strength. In other cultures, deities have been shown riding in a cart pulled by a bull. To Hindus, the cow is seen as a sacred part of their culture. In other areas of life, such as in US sports, cows are used to represent power and status. Cows are also seen as aiding people in their economic status. Cattle can be used to promote investments as well as used as trade, which can guarantee funds for families and businesses. Cows are present and a very intricate part of many cultures and ways of life.

Cows demonstrate the “triple threat:” they have economic and cultural power as well as exhibiting practicality. They would have to be one of the most diverse animals living. Even though having a cow is considered to be economically practical, it is not very practical at all. Having a dog or a cat may not be economically practical but they are amazing companions. I am going to have to say my parents are not going to let that one fly. However, even though cows cannot provide companionship like dogs and cats can, they are still an intricate part of this culturally diverse planet.



Inequality in an Earthquake

And inequality strikes again. This time, it came in the form of an earthquake. In Nepal, “many of the places and peoples most severely hit were the poorest, those in villages close to the epicenter where homes are made from mud and wood” (McGranahan). This 7.8 earthquake rocked in addition to Nepal: Bangladesh, India, and Tibet. Even places unknown are still being discovered as effected by the earthquake. To this day, people are still being discovered as alive in the mess left. As for the victims in Nepal, the area mostly affected didn’t even have vehicular roads. Communication is already hard for the people living here, so now after the earthquake, rescue and recovery is becoming very difficult. Nepal was at the time trying to rebuild its government after a ten-year civil war. Government here is almost nonexistent, there is no constitution, and there was no legal government from May 2012 until January 2014. This left many areas with no governmental services. So now, after the earthquake security forces are now involved in search and rescue trying to help as many people as they can. Even though the government is trying, many Nepalis say they want more from their government. They want more from a country in which, inequality is very apparent. And they want more from a government trying to rebuild itself. Nepal, resilience and resourcefulness are a national traditional. The rebuilding of this country has to start with the people, the people who know what kind of a country they want to live in, not what the politicians say it should be.

Lack of support for social sciences

In the article We need more mainstream social science, not less the author discusses the lack of development for social sciences. Natural sciences “are doing 96% better than the social sciences “ because “they receive 96% more funding”. Out of the 5.5 billion dollars from Congress to spend on research 4% of it was spent on social sciences. Much larger percentages were spent on areas such as biological sciences, engineering, math and physical sciences, and Geosciences. More funding obviously allows certain subjects to develop more and social sciences “have always been seen as secondary to sciences witch more directly serve federal goals”. The social sciences are also accused of not developing enough overtime, but the author argues that social sciences seem like they are not developed as much as natural sciences because they are nowhere near as old. There is also fear that the lack of funding will cause research in several social sciences to stop.

The lack of funding and public support for social sciences is incredibly unfortunate. Social sciences, such as Anthropology or Sociology, cause people to think about other societies and the reasoning behind what they do. A more public support/ discussion of social sciences would cause people to think about living in a very large world with many different people, instead of thinking of their culture as “right” and others as strange.

Pocket God

In the article Pocket God the author talks about a popular app on the apple store in 2009. The app allows users to control and torture an island of characters. The issue addressed in this article is the racism of this app. The characters are supposedly meant to be “fictitious primitives” and not an ethnic group but are represented as pacific islanders. The author asks why this game is not only okay with Apple, but was at the top of the app store for weeks, while a game that involved the torture of African slaves or Jewish people would never be allowed on the App Store. The issue that comes with the popularity of this app is the fact that thousands of people do not see the issue. Controlling and torturing an ethnic group dehumanizes them and subconsciously instills an idea of racial superiority in the person playing it. Playing a game where people blindly manipulate an island of characters represented as an ethnic group makes that ethnic group’s culture and history seem invalid and unimportant, which is the opposite of what individuals should be doing. With this app we see that in our society it is seemingly okay to play with certain cultures but not others. If the app were a game where the player tortured a group of specifically Jewish people it would be removed immediately due to anti-Semitism. This App was not as attacked as other variations of it would be because there has never been as strong of an opposition to pacific islanders as there was for Jewish people and African Americans in many places. The app shows us that all people need to expand their minds and openly think about and respect all cultures.

Elevator Girls

In the article Elevator Girls the author Laura Miller discusses the use of elevator girls in Japan. Japanese Elevators girls are trained to speak with exaggeratedly high pitch voices in an effort to avoid conversation while working. They also all were the same uniforms, stripping each girl of her individuality and making them all into the nameless fantasy of the elevator girl. They have become cultural phenomena in Japan, showing up as characters in films, cartoons, commercials, fantasy media, and pornography. With the constant use of the elevator girl and use showing them as hyper feminine forces them into a role of a symbol of women. Having a sexualized image symbolize women in the media and popular culture would cause an inequality to be ingrained into that culture, the idea that women are to be seen as sexual objects and not individuals.

How to Interact with Strangers

Erin B. Taylor compares her personal experiences of interacting with strangers in London, England and Sydney, Australia in her article Hug, Hit, or Ignore? Cultural differences in dealing with strangers.  The cultural norms for interacting with strangers is very different in Sydney and London.   In London it is unacceptable to interact with any stranger on the subway even when the train stops suddenly with no explanation.  While in Sydney stranger strike up casual conversation about career goals and travel plans just about anywhere.

There is stark difference between two cities that were once ruled by the same power.  Taylor creates a theory of social code for each city and explains why each city might be the way it is.  In London and in all of England there are major social class difference when it comes to wealth and royalty.   Social norms of not interacting with strangers prevents movement among social class.  Social norms in Sydney and all of Australia are very different.  Taylor describes that “In Australia, we believe that egalitarianism and ‘mateship’ are at the core of our identity.”  The identity of ‘mateship’ might come from the common reason people first settled in Australia.  Australia was started as a colony for convicts from England.  Unlike wealth and royalty separating people in London, the fist citizens of Sydney were forced to settle because of the commonality of being convicts.  Taylor takes an anthropological view of how we treat strangers based on cultural history.

Love Marriages vs. Arranged Marriages

In the United States, we have become very accustomed to the idea of love. The eternal quest for love and finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with is ingrained culturally into our society. Each person is expected to find that one other person who they want to be with. The idea of love almost seems universal. However, in many countries such as India, marriages are not based off of love. Instead, individuals are matched by their families with other individuals who they believe will create a good match and will protect the reputation of the family. Recently, there has been an uprising among the youth of India where they are fighting for the right to marry who they love. This article discussed the battle between those who would like to incorporate love marriages into Indian culture and the government who wants the practices of marriage to stay traditional. This article was incredibly interesting to read, however I felt as if it was biased and did not look at the situation from an anthropological perspective. Although the idea of arranged marriages seems very foreign and constricting and many of us from the United States do not agree with it, anthropologists have to examine how the practice of arranged marriage makes sense in that cultural context. I don’t think that this article really examined why the tradition of arranged marriage has been occurring in India and other countries for so many generations and only talked about the subject from a Western mindset. I think especially for anthropologists it is important to remember that all cultural practices have a reason for happening, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense in our cultural context.

Hidden value in Famous Movies

The article by Erin B. Taylor is a review of the book Hollywood Blockbusters; The Anthropology of Popular Movies by Anthropologists David Sutton and Peter Wogan.   The article explains that the book exemplifies a new way of using anthropology.  Sutton and Wogan use an anthropological view to discover what makes famous movies famous.  They find that the most renowned movies like The Godfather (1972) revel a part of American Culture in a way that others do not.  The movies almost subconsciously revel aspects of ourselves that are hard to distinguish.

The author explains that every culture has myths that are passed down from one generation to another.  “But it can be difficult to identify just what is the Thor, Medusa or dreamtime spirit of our place and time.  This is partly because societies tend to blend into one another as people and cultural products move fluidly around the world.”

Movies however can capture a spirit of a time period that then can be passed down from generation to generation.  They can explain a culture and attitude of a decade or just common human nature.  In the case of The Godfather it is explained that when food is offered it binds people together and when it is not tension or violence emerges.

Showing is telling and a picture is worth a thousand words.  It makes sense that movies can almost subconsciously capture an essence of American Culture and the ones that capture it best are the movies that are passed down from one generation to another.

Being a Local versus Belonging

One might think that if you are a local to a certain city or town then you are a person who “belongs” there. However in her article “When ‘Being a Local’ is Different to ‘Belonging’”, Sophia Slavich describes how these words can mean different things by looking at an example of the region of China known as Xinjiang. The author describes how there are two major ethnic nationalities in this region: the Turkic Uyghur and the Han Chinese. Slavich describes the Hans as “the stereotypical face of China” whereas the Uyghur “speak a guttural Turkic-Altaic language with an Arabic-based script” and some even have light skin and western features. In the Chinese nation the Uyghur are considered an ethnic minority but in Xinjiang they have been the largest ethnic group in the past and present. Over the past several decades however this region has been developing to incorporate more modern Chinese politics and economy. There has been a larger flow of Hans into the region and the Uyghur community “feels increasingly threatened and marginalized”. The author asks a Han taxi driver if he is both a local and a person from Xinjiang. At first the driver does not know how to respond but then he says that indeed he is a local but does not consider himself from Xinjiang. He says that people from Xinjiang are the ethnic minorities, the Uyghur. When Uyghur travel to other parts of China they are recognized as “Xinjiang ren” meaning from Xinjiang. The author says that no matter whether these labels represent harmless curiosity or derogatory attitudes that “these markers are indicative of otherness”. Slavich ends by saying that “in an environment where inter-ethnic relations are tense at best, common examples like these shed light on the extent to which ethnic rifts affect people’s sense of belonging”.

The Culture of Birds

The concept of culture is normally restricted to the human species and sometimes to the closely related primates. However, recent studies have shown that aspects of human culture can be found in many other species, most significantly birds. In his article “Culture is for the birds… and the bees… and the dolphins, etc.”, John Hartigan discusses how there are many species of birds that display aspects of culture that in the past would have only been considered as human traits. One aspect of culture that he discusses is how “experimentally induced innovation lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds”. This aspect of culture is shown in a bird known as the Great Tit which are highly innovated foragers. Two of these birds were caught and trained to open doors to get food in a lab and when they were released back into the wild these birds carried on these techniques which then spread as “traditions”. The birds also preferred to use the behavior that “was locally established, conforming to the local foraging practice” which is an act of aligning with conventional behavior and “belonging” to a group, an act that is seen within human culture.

Parrots are another bird that Hartigan discusses that share similar cultural qualities to humans. He states that “both parrots and primates have similar relative brain volumes, are long-lived, have extended development periods, live in complex social groups, and show evidence of advanced cognition”. However, he also states that parrots share a quality with humans that not even primates do which is the ability to “display vocal learning”. Social factors have a strong influence on vocal learning for both humans and parrots and is a fundamentally socially driven phenomenon. Hartigan says that a “deeper understanding of why parrots learn calls from certain individuals can provide insight… into the evolution of vocal learning and social complexity” all of which has to do with culture. Hartigan describes that right now conservation efforts mainly focus on the genetic traits of the animals being protected, but maybe it is time to start considering the social and cultural traits of animals just as much as the genetic traits to have the most biodiversity among social groups, populations, and species.