Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

Our class discussions and the article both focus on social norms and values, or mores. There are so many little things in everyday lives that are norms. Many of these norms are subtle things, like washing your hands after going to the bathroom, yet they govern our lives. What is the most amazing thing about these mores is that almost all of them are communicated completely without words (and yet we are still expected to abide by them- crazy right?).
In the article, Edward and Mildred Hall delve into the topic body language. Body language follows its own set of norms and is also widely used to express one's opinion of said norms. So much of our culture, actually all cultures, is communicated without any words. An eyebrow raise. An eye roll. A nod. This can make mixing different cultures very difficult. In an example in the passage, there is a Mexican businessman and an American business man. The Mexican keeps moving closer to the American, which shows trust and togetherness. The American is moving back because he feels that the Mexican man is being aggressive and invading his personal space. In this case, the miscommunication is not ignorance, but instead a cultural gap.
For me, and all other students, body language is very important at school. We nod along with the teacher and keep eye contact to create the illusion of listening, because we know that if our body language shows our disinterest (yawning, slouching, resting on our desks), we will get called on or punished. Just today I got called on in English during a discussion when I had not idea what was going on. I imagine that i was slouching and not making any eye contact. There was no hiding my daydreaming. I was being quiet, but my body was screaming that I was not paying attention.
Both the boy and girl are sitting quietly, but body language makes it pretty apparent which one is listening.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Doing Fieldwork Among the Yanomamo 2!

As we continue our journey with Chagnon, the researcher trying to learn the ways of the Yanomamo indians of northern Brazil, he begins to overcome his initial culture shock, but then needs to figure out their vastly different societal values.
At the end of the first half of the story, Chagnon discovers that the Yanomamo value sharing as a sign of respect and kinship. However, the manner which the Yanomamo go about seeking something they would like to have shared with them is quite different. You see, the Yanomamo also value being feared (which they consider respect), so when they want something they demand it angrily. And if you timidly deny them, that is disrespectful. You need to be loud and assertive to get your point across. This is not to say they completely value openness, because they do keep a tiny amount of reservation- they do not call each other by name. Also, if they see weakness, they exploit it through teasing and horseplay. Most shockingly, violence is a widely accepted and supported way of disputing conflicts (one indian beats his brother with an axe over a woman and this is okay). To sum it up in the words of Chagnon, they valued being "sly, agressive, and intimidating"(P.89).
All societies have values, because cultures form common ideas and beliefs among the masses. Since the Yanomamo were formed in completely different conditions than us, it is unfair to judge them based on our standards. From their point of view, my being a less intimidating and feared person would make me stand out as weird to them. It is all about perspective. I have never met someone from a distant counrty, but I imagine my American culture would seem crude and unusual to them, but the values of mine that contrast with theirs would probably make them seem unusual to me.

This is an example of the living conditions of the Yanomamo that may have shaped their lifestyles and values

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Doing Fieldwork Among the Yanomamo

       As a whole, the article Doing Fieldwork Among the Yanomamo is about a fieldworking anthropologist who decides to study among the Yanomamo people of Southern Venezuela. However, the Sociological aspect that stood out to me most was not the Yanomamo's behaviors, but the anthropologist's ethnocentrism.
The article begins with the anthropologist, Napoleon A. Chagnon, arriving at the small village that he has preconceived as "primitive man" (P.84). Upon meeting the Yanomamos, he immediately notes that they are "... naked, filthy, hideous, men..."(P.83). This is a strong example of ethnocentricity. Because the villagers do not meet the standards of appearance and cleanliness that he is accustom to, the villagers are filthy and hideous. Upon living with the villagers awhile, he learns that his standards of appearance are nearly impossible to uphold. That shows that there may have been practicality reasons for the way the Yanomamos were dressed (or not dressed). When a native blows his nose in his hand, he tells him "your hands are dirty" (P.85). Where in the world are the natives supposed to get a kleenex so that he is not disgusted? Ridiculous.
The Yanomamos are still very actively at war amongst their surrounding villages. Rather than acknowledge the conflict theory, and that the wars may have purpose in their society (such as deciding who receives resources, etc.), Chagnon decides that they are very barbaric and deems them "the fierce people" (P.83). He also claims that they want to be known as fierce, never considering that they have to have to maintain a fierce lifestyle to survive.
As Chagnon continues his life with the Yanomamos, he continues to eat the foods he is used to, never trying the foods of the natives or offering them some of his food. Little does he know, the Yanomamos always share food as a sign of trust and friendship (maybe they aren't as barbaric as he initially thought). At this point, Chagnon's ignorance has led him to disrespect the natives culture.
That is where I stopped reading for this entry. For me, the article was, so far, all about ethnocentricity. I hope Chagnon learns to broaden his horizons. Because, had he been more open minded, he would have experienced less "culture shock" (P.83).
I suppose I cannot really blame Chagnon for his ethnocentricity. I can't imagine living in the described conditions of the Yanomamos. It is very easy for me to be judgmental, because I was not there and I just spent several days of class learning about ethnocentricity. I suppose a Yanomamo would find it strange that I put so much effort into cleanliness, and do not fight whenever I feel like it. But, that's what I have been getting at this whole post. Different is not necessarily wrong, and you should not predetermine anything about other's cultures.
These are Yanomamo children, they do not look like "naked, filthy, hideous" people to me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sociology Chapter 1 Analysis

So far in Soc, we have covered the historical aspects of Sociology. The interest  for such studies was originally derived when men started to question the beliefs that everything was divinely pre-decided. Once men began to question such beliefs revolutions would occur. Amidst these revolutions, visionaries began to observe the psychological and sociological effects on humans.
          Sociology is considered a science, because it is practiced through observation, statistics, and data collection.
         Among the ideas of sociology is sociological imagination, which is discussed by C. Wright Mills in the paper The Promise. Sociological imagination is the ability to determine the difference between large scale social factors and the actions of individuals. Mills discusses how people have the capacity to relate individual events with historical change.

Here is a website with a ton of fun Sociology games:

Who Am I?

I am a senior High School Student in the Chicago-land area. I have  two sisters and two dogs. I spend summers in Wisconsin, where I love to swim. For the most part, I am quiet around people I do not know very well, but If you do know me I am quite outgoing. I am a very die-hard Chicago sports fan, except the Cubs (not to offend anyone, but 100 years is way too long for me). I like to draw, but in the last couple of years I have shifted my focus to graphic design. For those unaware of what that is, graphic design is creating, editing, and composing imagery and information in a visually appealing way. I have taken four semesters of classes on it, and it has become a hobby and career interest of mine. I plan to attend a four year university, and hopefully study graphic design and/or advertising.
This is a Blackhawks Stanley Cup Playoff poster I designed in my graphic design class.
This is a custom Madden 11 cover I designed.