Making meaning in spaces: Restrooms

In the article Sex changes and changing rooms, Elizabeth P. Challinor discusses the differences between the words “sex” and “gender” and how they have been misused in the context of labeling bathrooms. As well as issues with the actual design of restrooms and changing rooms. Challinor observed multiple instances where bathrooms and changing rooms were labeled as separated by “gender” rather than separated by “sex”. She says, “We could say that sex refers to the biological body and that gender refers to cultural interpretations of biological differences which produce differentiated social roles and attributes for the sexes.”

The rest of the article focuses around the idea that architects who design these sex-separate bathrooms are not only disadvantaging those who identity as women in terms of their ability to fully utilize most restroom spaces, but also setting women up to be stereotyped. She argues that by designing spaces in which people who identify as women are forced to stand outside of the actual restroom area in long lines, others are more likely to see this image of women lined up together as an opportunity for gossip and other stereotypically feminine acts. This relates to the topic of making meaning in spaces. The labeling of sex-separated bathrooms creates a dynamic in which spaces are inherently limiting and dividing people ambiguously.

Women in the Political World

In years past, women could not hold government positions because there were laws against it and they were looked upon as unequal to men. Nowadays, what is holding women back? There are not any laws against it, but women still serve a different role and stereotype than men in society.

In his post, Dove Ideology, P. Kerim Friedman mentions how if a woman candidate’s appearance is discussed, than it removes her from the political world and puts her into a beauty pageant. It does not matter if she is beautiful or ugly. Why should a woman’s look matter if she is running for a political position? Our country focuses more on if beautiful women are running our country than smart and talented ones.

A factor that ties into this would be masculinity. Right now politics is mostly dominated by men. They could feel emasculated if a woman beat them in an election because men are supposedly the ones that are powerful and in control. Another factor is the media. The media loves to look at things in the wrong light, but that is what makes thousands of people listen to it. The media wants to fill the role of assessing the beauty of a person rather than their talents. Media mainly assesses women because the women in society are supposed to be the beautiful, submissive, elegant ones. So they feel they have the right to put each woman on a scale to see where she fits, even if it is a politician whose role in society should not matter on her looks.

Who has control when you’re dead?

Even if someone writes down what they want to happen to their body once they die, it does not mean that it will be carried out. Once that person passes, it is up to the people close to them to decide what to do with the body. They could bury it, burn it, give it to science, or even show it on television. According to Sara Perry, in her post titled The travels of a head, a scientist by the name of William Matthew Flinders Petrie gave consent to have his skull given to the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) for students to study. However, this was never carried out and a television show asked them to use it. It got denied because it only wanted to attract more viewers to their show.

When most people die, they want to be respected and mourned for. Should each case be determined individually? If the person gives consent to giving their body to science, then does that make it so television shows are allowed access to it too? Or should nobody ever get access to dead bodies, consent or not? It is believed by some that bodies should be used to benefit society. However, it depends on who is asked for how to society can be benefited. It also depends on culture. Some cultures, mostly Western, want to use science to benefit society. Others want the dead to make the gods happy with them, so that they help the society in the future. Once people are dead, they have no control over what happens with their body, it depends on the culture of where they lived.

Commit to Indigenous Rights

innnnnnReduction in cultural diversity can be detrimental because it causes declines in worldviews, languages, diversity, the way we perceive things, options for the human races, loss of cultures, and we then become less adoptive to our environment. The importance of indigenous ways of living are invaluable. In “Contesting the Terms of Inclusion” by Heather Wurtz, she explores the challenges the Kichwa Midwives faces when the states break their commitment to protect indigenous rights.

In efforts to both maintain indigenous practices and preserve culture, while improving health services, the Asocio and the local Ministry of Public Health are pushing forward the idea of an intercultural collaboration. Intercultural health will integrate indigenous and biomedical practices based on principles of equal participation, shared decision-making, and the respect and exchange of complementary knowledge systems.

Since the collaboration began, the Asocio midwives are no longer supported by non-governmental organization and with no financial support from Ministry of Public Health, midwives must now charge patients for services and herbal medicines compared to free government biomedical healthcare for pregnant women. With these inequalities (no pay, no external funding) imposed on midwives, their practice has been severely restricted. This predicament provides little hope for preserving their cultural heritage, let alone ensuring future growth.

Financial resources are necessary to sustain their practices, which they don’t possess. Younger generations will not be attracted to practicing thus diminishing all the knowledge midwives have.

“I want to leave the Asocio in the hands of the youth. If not, the Kichwa culture will not continue to exist; everything will be lost. It will fall into the hands of the Westerners.”

According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the practice and preservation of indigenous health systems is fundamental right of indigenous people, yet the rights of Indigenous groups to maintain their cultural, territorial, and linguistic integrity have not been met.

Although being progressive in areas such as health care is important, protecting cultural property should also be included in advancement.


Graffiti: The Silent Revolution

Ricardo Campos, the author of the article Struggles on the walls: Political graffiti in Portugal, tells of the use of graffiti as a vehicle for political expression in Portugal’s tense political climate. Campos suggests that graffiti has become “a common language and shared mechanisms for the production and evaluation of an identical aesthetic.” Graffiti has been a prominent way in which peaceful revolutions manifest themselves since the 1960’s and 1970’s. However, in response to a recent economic and social crisis in Portugal, graffiti has taken a new and important form in Portugal’s urban areas. Colorful and bold displays of defiance through words and art are being painted all over the once-bland walls of city centers.

In the United States we often view the act of doing graffiti as a mindless criminal act. Maybe this is because we often see it in the context of gangs. In reality, many of the graffiti artists in the U.S. start by “tagging” or writing their customized signature or logo on public property. This is an act of forming and shaping identity. This gradually evolves into the artist gaining a sense of who they are as an artist- not just a tagger. The process in Portugal seems to be similar, but more focused around the end goal of making bold political statements to a broad audience (passers by).

From what I have observed living in and traveling to urban areas in the U.S., I see that graffiti can often be found in the form of art, and is less often making a blatant political statement. This contrast appears to show that in the U.S. people are generally using graffiti as method of forming personal identity, while graffiti in Portugal tends to have the goal of reshaping the perspectives of those who view the art, not those who create it. Thus forming more of a collective identity.

High School Anthropology

In an interview between Dexter Chapin and Erin Dean, Dean questions Chapin, a high school anthropology teacher about his experience and opinions of his classes. Chapin raises a few important points on the topic including a list of reasons why it is important, projects he orchestrates, and the benefits of these lessons.

Bergenfield_High_School_2He first brings up a quote from Ruth Benedict, “The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.” This is an important way to use anthropology, as a method of understanding. Particularly in a high school classroom is can allow young students the techniques and mindset allowing for them to cultivate their world knowledge.

Chapin also brings up another important aspect that teaching anthropology allows, the fact that it encourages interdisciplinary studies in a place that is very subjective of different disciplines. This promotes real world problem solving and thinking, as the world is not truly split into math, science, humanities, but rather is crosses and blends together.

The combination of both of these aspects allows for a very wholesome kind of learning in an important time in many young students lives. Learning the process of how anthropology thinks is an incredible tool combating people with the ability to look beyond into the meanings behind practices and behaviors of cultures unalike their own, and to truly make the world safe for human differences.


Thrift Shop Archaeology

When Macklemore’s song “Thrift Shop” went viral in 2012, the mainstream media exploded with talk of the up-and-coming artist. While the general focus on the song’s catchy hook meant good publicity for Macklemore, the message of the song seemed to go somewhat overlooked. Dawid Kobiałka, however, explores the anthropological implications of the hit song in his article, Popping tags: Thrift shopping with Macklemore.

In “Thrift Shop” Macklemore raps about all of the obscure and outdated items he has acquired by shopping at thrift stores, he also brags about how little money he has spent on them. Macklemore’s thesis appears to be in alignment with that of many other “hipsters”. Through an ostentatious presentation of his thrift shop finds, and by saying things like “Coppin’ it, washin’ it, ’bout to go and get some compliments” and rapping about how spending fifty dollars on a t-shirt is “some ignorant bitch shit”, Macklemore makes the clear statement that buying thrift store items, specifically clothing is trendy. Kobiałka discusses the similarities between Macklemore’s thesis and the work of archeologists, who work to uncover important artifacts of the past.

The concept of creating style from what is used and inexpensive is fairly new to our western culture. Not only are the trends of the 1980’s and 1990’s returning in the “hipster” movement, but so are the actual garments themselves. This is an example of how people are beginning to make meaning of their own physical appearances by reflecting back on the past, and look at how they would have wanted to perceived in a previous decade, and how they can portray that in the clothes they choose to wear from past decades.

Scent Perception Has Nothing to Do with Your Nose

Have you ever smelled a particularly strong odor, but not been able to describe exactly what you were smelling? Or perhaps the closest you could come to describing the smell was to compare it to something else. This inability to smell accurately has become so ingrained in Western culture that, according to Gregory J. Downey in his article “What’s in an Aroma? Languages with Odour Vocabularies”, the sense of smell has come to be considered our least important sense as humans.

Rather than blaming the ability of our own noses, however, Downey suggests that this inaccuracy of smell may all be thanks to the languages that we speak. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is an anthropological hypothesis that the language a person speaks directly affects the culture that person experiences, an idea that can be directly applied to Downey’s theory. The reason that we cannot smell accurately thus may have more to do with the words used to describe smells than the act of smelling itself.

This idea is further supported by study of several cultures that speak languages in the Austraoasiatic language group. These cultures, rather than basing their descriptions of scents off of other sources the way that Western cultures do, instead have their own scent categories and terms similarly to the categories and terms Westerners use to describe colors. This allows them to demonstrate a higher accuracy of smell despite the fact that they are smelling the same scents as Westerners.

In addition, the speakers of these languages were able to identify scents of items (such as paint thinner and gasoline) that they had never before encountered. This is further proof that the languages we speak directly impacts our perception of culture, not the least element of which is our ability to smell with accuracy.



So What Bring’s You Here Today?

Unknown-1In Mara Buchbinder and Dragana Lassiter’s article Script, they bring up an important issue of government involvement in the dialogue between a patient and a practitioner in the event of an abortion. Legally the practitioner is supposed to inform the women of the procedure, both of the benefits and the risks. This conversation although is slightly scripted, it is meant to be informative and act as a form of consent to the procedure. To begin this conversation, the practitioner is supposed to pose it as a question of “What brings you in today?”

This poses a few issues in regards to the women, the doctor, and the states involvement. As for the women, this kind of scripted dialogue acts as a form of control over their bodies. Many clinicians avoid it due to its “performative nature” rather than being an informative practice. In the case of the doctors it has been seen as condescending. Given that there is already legal recognition of a consent form prior to this conversation. Lastly this issue was raised due to an unconstitutional proposition, that before an abortion was performed the clinician was to show the women an ultrasound and explains the image.

That states involvement and the need for scripts show another form of control. By looking at things like cultural scripts, it is easier to understand social norms and rules. In this case, it might show the beliefs imposed by the government on the attitude around abortions and the stigma still prevalent behind it.

Anthropology and Climate Change

The world is coming to an end climate change is taking over. However according to anthropological research done by Merrill Singer through the report of the August 13, 2014 issue of Arctic News says that “A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding in the Arctic Ocean. Huge quantities of methane are erupting from the seafloor of the East Siberian Sea and entering the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean”. Research done by scientists from Sweden, Russia and the U.S. This affects the world according to Merrill because the USA still thrives on the belief that Climate Change does not exist. In Texas many six grade textbooks were altered to state that climate change does exist but it is not caused by human behaviour. Thus avoiding the education that todays younger generation needs to improve the planets future. According to the article many scientists have proven that climate change is due to human behaviour however Republicans refuse to acknowledge this fact.

With the research done and everything stated hopefully the views of the people in power will change and educate minors in what is happening with out bias and using facts. Questioning science is a mundane thing however rejecting or refusing to believe the facts will affect the future and maintain the ignorance of society.