The Financial System Depends on Language

In the article In Whose Interest by Mauro Rodriguez, language defines the way people perceive interest, or “the extra money [needed] to clear a debt” (Rodriguez). Although charging interest defied the laws of many cultures, the Portuguese translation of interest seems to imply that individuals hold a right by law to get paid back their money with interest (Rodriguez). This article relates to anthropology through the topic of language and thought.

Depending on a person’s culture, people think about certain ideas based on the language spoken in their society. The enthnography, How Language Shapes Thought, by Lera Boroditsky discussed the different languages spoken within different cultures. In the enthnography, Boroditsky talked about the Pormpuraaw, an Aboriginal community in northern Australia. People of the Pormpuraaw tribe spoke Kuuk Thaayorre, which caused these people to “talk in terms of absolute cardinal directions” (Boroditsky). Since the Pormpuraaw talked in terms of direction, they possessed the ability to determine their orientation in space. Thus, the Pormpuraaw tribe perceived direction and their location in space differently from other cultures.


Figure 1: A Portuguese banknote worth ten escudos

The language of the Pormpuraaw people relates to the discussion of the Portuguese word for interest because both cultures perceive certain ideas differently from other societies because of their language. Most cultures use relative spatial terms to provide directions, so those cultures possess a different perception of space compared to the Pormpuraaw. In addition, most cultures prohibited the charge of interest for loans because their perception of interest related more to an act of kindness rather than a requirement (Rodriguez). Since the term for interest in Portuguese, taxa de juro, means “a tax on a promise” (Rodriguez), the Portuguese community perceives the idea of interest a right individuals possess by law.

Words and ideas differ among cultures because of the differences in the languages spoken within cultures. The way Portuguese people perceive money and loans will differ from the way other cultures perceive that idea because of the different languages spoken among cultures. In addition, the translation of terms between languages will seem different depending on the way the terms translate. For example, the term for interest (juro) in Portuguese literally means “to vow” or “to promise” while interest in the many other European languages means to pay a fee to the owner for borrowing money (Rodriguez). One translation appears more like a requirement while the other appears more like a recommendation. Since both words possess different meanings, Portuguese people will perceive interest differently from other cultures. Therefore, depending on language spoken, the perception of ideas and material objects will differ among cultures.

The Perception of Love Cross-Culturally

The article The Brain in Love by Erin B. Taylor discusses love cross-culturally and explains studies of love correlated with the brain. Anthropologist Helen Fisher studied the different brain regions related to love. She conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on individuals in love or those who recently experienced a break-up. The results showed that a specific part of the brain relates to intense romantic love, calculating gains and losses, and deep attachment (Taylor): the ventral tegmental area.

Fisher’s studies relate to cultural anthropology through the study of biological anthropology. She needed to conduct biological tests, through the use of fMRI, to determine if certain parts of the brain actually correlate to feelings of love. These studies showed that the ventral tegmental area contains “cells [that] make dopamine, a natural stimulant that is released in response to rewarding experiences” (Taylor). When someone experiences love, these cells release dopamine within the brain. Since Fisher performed these brain tests on individuals from numerous cultures, the fMRI tests prove that people across cultures experience love in similar ways.


Figure 1: Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher

In addition to experiencing love in the same way, Fisher claims that people tend to fall in love with individuals in the same social class, economic status, and level of physical attraction. The enthnography Arranging a Marriage in India by Serena Nanda discussed arranged marriages between Indian men and women. One of the major concerns for parents when arranging a marriage related to matches “only within the same caste and general social class” (Nanda 92). Along with that, the boy and girl must appear similar in the level of attractiveness, or those individuals would seem like an imperfect match.

Most cultures seem to evolve around the idea of falling in love and marrying an individual within their same social, economic, and physical status. Although lacking in research, Fisher thinks that a biological drive pushes people towards others that share similar connections with them socially, economically, and physically. Thus, Fisher’s research could potentially explain the differences among cultures when finding someone to fall in love with even though people experience love in similar ways.

Medical Apps: A Tool for Maintaining Beauty and Forming a Cyberculture

The article, App-ograph: A Critical Perspective on Medical and Health Apps, discusses the role of apps in the medical field and the different reasons medical professionals and the average citizen use these apps. Deborah Lupton, the ethnographer behind this research, found that “the most popular of these apps were related to monitoring exercise, diet and weight” (Lupton). Using these apps to maintain a certain body type relates to anthropology through the study of culture and each culture’s perception of beauty of the body.

The article Where Fat is a Mark of Beauty by Ann Simmons discussed the beauty behind fat women. In order for these women to gain weight, they lived in a “fattening room”, in which they maintained a starchy diet and an inactive lifestyle. After gaining a certain amount of weight, these women left the “fattening room” and married.

Simmons’s article relates to Lupton’s article because, in their respective cultures, both the “fattening room” and medical apps act like “sociocultural products…active participants that shape human bodies” (Lupton). In Nigeria, the “fattening room” acts like a tool for Nigerian women to follow their cultural traditions of gaining body-fat before entering marriage. Contrasting to the fattening process in Nigeria, Americans use medical apps like a tool to maintain a thin and lightweight physique. Both cultures perceive beauty of the body in different ways and use different tools to help maintain their society’s ideal of beauty. Since their cultures shape beauty of the body through social ideals, the tools they use will aid in maintaining those ideas of beauty. Therefore, medical apps allow Americans to remain thin and lightweight while the fattening room allows women to gain weight, both ideal body types that represent beauty in their respective cultures.

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In addition to maintaining beauty through sociocultural products, medical apps allow for the formation of a cyberculture among Americans that use these fitness and health related apps. Many apps “often invite users to generate and share digital data about themselves” (Lupton), forming a virtual world among these individuals. This idea of a cyberculture relates to anthropology through the idea of “space and place” in cyberspace. When individuals use medical apps, the space appears like “a world of pure information freed from its physical substrate, configurable at will, and infinitely accessible” (Gessler and Read) while the meaning (place) behind the use of medical apps relates to the many ways an individual shares about their progress with other individuals involved in maintaining a thin, lightweight body-type.

Ultimately, Lupton’s research on medical apps connects to anthropology through the sociocultural ideals of beauty, particularly the body, and the formation of a medical-related cyberculture through the idea of “space and place”. Since many Americans share the same perception of beauty and actively participate in online networks, medical apps allow individuals to maintain America’s standards of beauty while sharing their progress with others that actively participate in that lifestyle. Furthermore, her research could potentially lead to the study of other cybercultures formed through the use of apps.

Brace for Impact

Those currently afflicted knew it was coming… yet what preparations were made? Scientific data offered warnings. Of these warnings nothing came; Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Tibet are now all experiencing the repercussions.

Kanak Mani Dixit states that “This was a very class-conscious earthquake, in town & country it targeted underprivileged households with mud-mortar construction.” It is no coincidence that those who have been most affected by the earthquake are also those oppressed by poverty and weak communication infrastructure. I found it interesting that for many, the main form of preparation came in the form of prayer. Why was no preparatory action taken by the government or by members of the U.N.? Perhaps for the same reasons sea levels of New Orleans were never addressed.

On Saturday, April 25th 2015 an earthquake with a 7.8 magnitude rocked central Nepal. Carole McGranahan speaks to the many unknowns that remain stating that there are “entire regions from whom we have not heard”. This being said I was surprised to learn that social media is the primary form of communication in this crisis. However, this reliance on social media must only further damage and prolong the effects of the earthquake.


A Place for Poor People?

Issues presented in the blog post A Place for Poor People? Peri-Urban Land and “Development” in Lesotho by Charles Fogelman and the anthropological article Vulnerability and Place: Flat Land and Uneven Risk in New Orleans by Craig Colton emphasized the importance of social stratification. Both accounts highlighted the unequal social repercussions experienced by the poor due to disparities caused by “economic growth” (i.e., the changes that impact the rich, but do not “trickle-down” to the poor). Interestingly, both authors seem to have alluded to individuals being able to help themselves. Fogelman emphasized the latter by stating, “the poor need to truly be at the forefront of planning and execution”. Though this appears to be a feasible approach, Colton presents a real world issue, which stems from the divergence between the wealthy and the poverty stricken.

Structural violence is oppressive and can be underscored in both accounts. In general, the social limitations, which are placed upon the poor, inhibit them from accessing their basic needs. In Vulnerability and Place, the individuals of New Orleans are prevented from remaining safe via their topographical location (i.e., below, at, or above sea level). Where as in A Place for Poor People the individuals of Lesothlo are unable to achieve social and economic growth based on the government’s decision to develop a golf course on land used for small-scale agriculture.

In general, cycles repeat themselves and the tendencies that form each cycle are difficult to change, especially when entrenched in a static and/or steadfast social setting. Would changing these stagnant environments be feasible or are there specific places that the poor do not belong?


Vulnerability and Place: Flat Land and Uneven Risk in New Orleans by Craig Colton.

“Savage Minds Reader Survey Results Part I: Demographics”

The blog post “Savage Minds Reader Survey Results Part I: Demographics” depicts the ethnicity, age, gender, and educational background of its blog visitors. A total of 430 people responded to the survey over the course of one month, with most of the visitors stating that they were from North America (270 people). It is amazing to me how this group dominated the survey. I expected a higher percentage of people to be from Asia (specifically China and Japan) and Europe, since there are more developed countries in those regions. Perhaps the reason why there were very few readers from these regions is because there are not many people familiar with the site, or perhaps not many people possess the technology they need to access the site. The blog also stated that most of its followers go to the site when they see something interesting on Facebook or other social media sites. This may be a big reason why North Americans account for the overwhelming majority of people who visit Savage Minds. North Americans love social media, especially Facebook, and it is one of the main ways Americans get their news. It is estimated that for every 5 webpage views, 1 was made through Facebook. What did not surprise me was that the age group of the sites most frequent viewers were in their 20s and 30s (32.1 and 37.7, respectively). This is most likely due to the fact that 90% of social-networking Internet users fall between the ages of 18-30.

I think it was clever how Savage Minds conducted an anthropological survey regarding its anthropology blog site! I think to make the survey better and more valid concerning its viewers, there would need to be a lot more than just 430 survey respondents, considering that 31,003 people visit the site, according to Google. There is also a risk that when you put out a survey, people will not answer it truly. To be more precise and have a better understanding of the groups visiting the site, more data must be taken.



In American culture a unsettling issue with many Americans is interactions with those who have disabilities. Parents often scold kids when they are very young when they see someone with a disability to “not stare or point.” Often times the subconscious message given off is to ignore people with disabilities and to “just keep looking forward.” This shows a form of inequality toward people with disabilities. The story of the article talks about a woman’s experience with a man who greets people at the door of her local grocery store. While she comments on his genuine kindness and ability to brighten her day with his smile. The problem she has is that she does not know his name because that would require her to look down at his name tag which might seem like her looking down on him because of him being confined to a wheel chair. In our culture people with disabilities are treated as second-class citizens in the way people feel and treat them unequally and have their self image damage by daily insults such as people looking away. an Estimated 32 million people in the United States have a disability and some of the most able and strong people in the United States. Culturally there should be an different perspective on the way people with disabilities are treated and approached, with a change in the way situations are handled we can make changes to the inequality in that people with disabilities unfairly receive.

Love isn’t always a choice

Cross culturally love is not always seen as a primary goal or worth “striving for.” While in America, we have the Hollywood aspeact of always striving for true love marriage and searching for soul mates, in other cultures such as India  marriage for love have traditionally been forbidden. Arranged marriage is traditionally how marriages are set up by wiser parents. During the last decade love marriages have become increasing more common,the influence of other cultures on India has brought this issue  has lead more “old school” parents voicing in politics. The disagreement of the perspective of marriage by love is damaging family ties and disrupting the idea of “pure” family. this is because of inter caste, inter religious and inter class relationships. This unaccepting nature of the ability to chose a partner is a form of inequality with in the fragmented society and culture.  There is a democratic right as humans  that is becoming lost in the establishment of their culture. Cross culturally this seems a violation of rights in the eyes of western cultures. It is due to the different way in which we act in our cultures. This is similiar to how christmas in the Kalahari is. When an American anthropologist tried to join in the culture and bring a cow which is part of the Kongo Tradition. Although the cow he brought was an excellent cow the way in which he went about it, boastfully, was seen as wrong in the culture in he immediately paid the price. Cross Cultural experiences and traditions are very sensitive and should be looked at through the way in which those of the culture make meaning of them.

Sex Change and Changing Rooms

When in Portugal at a public area such as the local swimming pool, one might come across a sign reading, “Children who need help to get dressed may only be accompanied by one person. Children who are over eight years old must go to the changing room that corresponds to their gender.”  Gender is a word used to describe characteristics pertaining to masculinity and femininity. Often times it is confused with sex and is often used in place of it due to peoples fear of misspeaking and being politically incorrect.  Cross culturally gender and sex have many different meanings. In American Indian religious culture there are three major genders men, women, and beardache. Beardaches being a morphological male  who does not fill societies standard male role. In American Indian culture compared to Portugal culture gender roles are not as black and white and much more accepted. another instance in which gender roles in a different culture are more open is in India there is third gender which is neither male nor female. This gender is referred to as Hijras. Like beardacehs, hijras have a special and significant role in their respective culture.  Gender and sex are two different things and should not be grouped as one and gender roles are different cross culturally and as cultures become more accepting are becoming less and less “black and white.”

Nature vs Nurture: The Role of Epigenetics

Genetics is pretty cool. Its complexity is mind-boggling and the study of it is at the forefront of science. The fact that a combination of four nucleotide bases (adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine) that makes up our DNA creates an enormously dense genetic code, leading to the makeup of every single cell in the human body is simple amazing. But can each person be categorized by their “code”? The answer to this question is that it is much more complex that we can even imagine. Aside from the “code”, environmental factors have an enormous impact on how these genes are coded for and expressed. The hot field of epigenetics attempts to answer these questions. What we know is that the genetic code is susceptible to the factors of epigenetics, which include DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling, and micro-RNAs. These processes can greatly effect gene functioning, regulation and thus their expression, permanently changing an individual. Psychological stresses and traumatic events during childhood can lead to permanent changes in DNA, which leads to permanent results one the DNA is coded for a proteins are made.

It would nice to if every human had a code that could be broken down and used to explain their inner workings as well as psychological processes, but the fact is that environmental influences can have an enormous effect on the genetic codes themselves. Very interesting stuff when considering the “nature vs nuture” debate, and how we have come to be who we are.