What’s That Smell?

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Despite one of our dominant senses being smell, our culture lacks the language to describe smells. In the Banthad Mountains of southern Thailand, a few hundred people speak the language of Maniq, which has fifteen different terms to identify smells. Furthermore, when identifying smells the Maniq use abstract sensory properties that “perceive patterns, such as which smells are more likely to attract tigers to their settlements” (Downey). In comparison, instead of using scent terms, we identify the source of the smell. We simply do not have the language to identify these smells.

Susanne Langer asserts that each language gives us access to a different symbolic system; therefore, our language does not have a proper referent to the reality—the smell. In his piece, “What’s in an Aroma? Languages with odour vocabularies,”  Gregory J. Downey states, “the researchers argue that these are “basic” aroma terms in the same sense that we talk about “basic” colours: one-word descriptors, shared by almost everyone in the group, that do not refer to the source, and are used for a variety of objects.” The English language does not have the capacities to identify smell in  the same way in which the Maniq classify smell, thus, leaving us at a disadvantage to the behaviors and vocabulary of the olfactory system.

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Violence in Colombia

Lesley Gill, an author and professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University, took a trip to Colombia where she conducted research on the impact of political and economic violence on the workers of Coca-Cola and SINALTRAINAL, a Colombian labor union. On July 22, 2006, Gill attended the “International Day of Protest Against Coca-Cola” in Barrancabermeja; workers performed street theater, rather than the usual political speeches. Workers protested in order to show the degradation of work that was brought about by the shift to neoliberal capitalism, and, furthermore, to denounce the corporate’s involvement in the murder of eight Coca-Cola workers by the paramilitary.

There is strong direct-political violence in the Coca-Cola workers lives, as well as the SINALTRAINAL union. Many had been living with death threats for years from the paramilitary, and many had suffered through multiple assassination attempts. In particular, Carlos Montes, a SINALTRAINAL board member, who Gill had known while she was visiting, was murdered by the paramilitary while walking home. Montes had received many death threats because of his union activities. Many workers and union members walk around with multiple body guards to try and ensure their safety. The violence that the workers and unionists suffer through displays their need to fight for better working conditions, and ultimately, a better life.

References: Fighting for Justice, Dying for Hope On the Protest Line in Colombia By Lesley Gill

Reclaiming National Identity Through Sports

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Nations often use athletics and athletes to redefine their national identity. In post-Mao China, the bodies of athletes became the image of “new China”—an image of discipline and modernity.

Sports, as well as the body, have always been an important factor of Chinese culture. As Nancy Nu-Chun Chen states, “from the Tang and Qing dynastic periods to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China illustrates how the body has always been closely allied with the national body politic.” In the post-Maoist period, Chinese athletes began to compete in international sporting events once again. As a way to demonstrate not only to the world, but to their people as well, this reintegration into international events presented a sense of modernity. Furthermore, the recognition of athletes in international competition brought glory to China, and cultivated Chinese nationalism.

Similarly, Brazil attempted to redefine their national identity through the hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. By hosting the World Cup, as well as their vigorous national campaign to win on home soil, Brazil was saying something to the world about itself as a new national power. However, about 61% of Brazilians thought hosting the World Cup was a bad idea due to the funds it would take away from education, health care, and other public services. Additionally, 72% of Brazilians were dissatisfied with the country’s current state, which was intensified by the choice to host the World Cup, rather than address domestic problems. The government ignored the grievances of the nation in order to present a clean, national image. The prestige and recognition of their athletes in the World Cup would bring glory to Brazil, as well as propel the nation into the world system; unfortunately, Brazil lost 7-1 to Germany in the semi-final.

References: Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People’s Republic of China. Susan Brownell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. xl + 393 pp.

Brazilian Discontent Ahead of World Cup President Rousseff Gets Poor Marks on Key Issues

Unification in Sport

Sports are a huge part of American culture. Participation in sports is encouraged from childhood through high school, and, if one wants, they can often pursue sports at the collegiate or professional level. Furthermore, professional sports and athletes are vigorously publicized. Why is it that sports are so strongly encouraged, as well as so highly publicized?

In “What do Eurovision, sport, and ritual warfare have in common?“, by Erin B. Taylor, she describes the similarities between Eurovision and sport. Taylor believes that “it is worth stopping to think about why [Eurovision] is so popular and has been going for so long” because “it can give us insights into what it means to be human.” Taylor then parallels this point to the culture of sports. Taylor believes that Eurovision “unites Europeans more than it divides them.” This element of unification is a strong aspect in why sports are so strongly encouraged and publicized. Playing a sport teaches you how to work together with different types of people, and unites these individuals under one team with a goal. This fostering of unification strongly develops human relationships. Also, the promotion of professional sports displays to the masses this image of unification among a team. Furthermore, professional sports teams bring fans together with the same desire: for their team to succeed.

Sports illustrate the notion of unification, thus the reasoning behind their popularity. Sports, just as Eurovision, are “a common tradition, full of rituals and cultural memes” that individuals “participate in and that are understood, and appreciated.”

Our Social Media Image

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Although Crystal Abidin’s blog “#hashtagmylife” outlines the social media usage of commercial lifestyle bloggers, the habits of these bloggers epitomize the habits of everyday social media users.

Everything that is posted on social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat—has been altered in some way to portray a specific, public image. Abidin questions, “…how calculated are your posts?” Posts are always calculated, but to varying degrees. Through personal experience, I know I always calculate a post—no matter how small. I wonder who is going to look at it, and what these individuals are going to think. These thoughts deeply affect the way in which I want to be perceived by others. Consequently, as these thoughts run through my mind, I will alter the post to fit the image I want to be viewed.

The trouble with our social media image is that this image is not our true self. In life, you cannot add a filter, you can only be yourself. Social media is by no means a negative mechanism; however, it can have negative affects on people’s lives. The constant feeling that one must update their profiles or feeds, in order to stay relevant, is hindering. We feel gratification when we receive likes on our posts, and, conversely, we feel unhappy when our posts aren’t appreciated to the degree we believe it deserves. The sentiment that one needs to update and maintain their social media image is constant, but one must take a step back, and truly question how important this image is.

Sources: http://popanth.com/article/hashtagmylife/

The Constraint in the Dichotomy of the Sexes

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As Agustin Fuentes reveals in his blog, “Busting Myths of Human Nature,” “since ancient times humans have endeavoured to provide a concise description of human nature.” It is within these concise categories that the topic of sex and gender becomes chaotic. American culture strongly divides both sexes, male and female. This rigid dichotomy of the sexes not only creates deep, self troubles for individuals, but also prevents the chance of liberating oneself from these fixed categories.

There is a commonly accepted belief that men and women are two distinctly different beings.  Our differences range from our very core to our purposes in society. Fuentes specifies this view “holds that our innate difference is visible in our behaviour, desires and internal wiring.” With this innate idea underlying our culture, the way upon which these roles are thrusted upon us from birth are possible to see. Immediately, we are divided by gender with the colors of pink and blue, and continuously throughout childhood, we are further divided: girls like pink dollies, while boys like rugged trucks. These gender stereotypes never cease, and are continuously propelled on to us throughout life.

The dilemma in the separation of the sexes is the limited identifications and roles it attributes to individuals. Under this perspective,” the possible range of ways to be and become human and express our sexual and social selves is extremely limited.” If we can start suppressing these gender roles, individuals, along with relationships, can flourish in a culture that allows the possibility of diversity.

Sources: http://popanth.com/article/busting-myths-of-human-nature/