Italian-Australian activist Anna Moo talks about her attraction to social justice and how she worked with a group of migrant women in the 1970s to achieve policy changes on migrant women’s reproductive health. Moo says:
We really wanted to connect back with the women that we were advocating with. They were not aware of health services that might have been available to them. The W.I.C.H. [Women in Industry Contraception and Health] education project was developed in conjunction with Australian women and women from many different backgrounds with the support of a number of organisations.
And the fantastic aspect of that education kit is the fact that it was taken to the factories by women who were themselves from multicultural backgrounds. Each worker spoke a language, a community language, whereby women could actually ask questions and be supported through the discussions. You know, what’s really amazing is that we still have Women in Industry Contraception and Health, it’s called a different name but it’s still that organisation…
It’s really a testament to what women can do together.
Why are spelling conventions in English so peculiar, such as with the silent “b” in “doubt”? It’s due to the influence of Latin culture and symbolic capital. Symbolic capital describes the immaterial resources that people draw on in order to maintain or improve their social status. Language, literature, the arts and other forms of culture act as symbolic capital that signal our belonging to a particular class. Language and culture are also used to elevate the authority and economic achievements of dominant groups.
Throughout history being able to speak and write Latin has been a sign of being upper class. Latin was also important to the religious elites who acted as scribes that documented culture and history.
Latin drew on French language rules as French grew out of Latin. The French word for doubt has a “b” which is why Latin scribes used it when they started to catalogue English in written texts. English is a Germanic language that was spoken by the masses long before it was written down and so the elites reflected their own linguistic norms on the English written form rather than following the spoken rules.
This Chalking Points video documents this history on brief.
Sudanese Australians use music to reflect on their war experiences. This group performed for the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) in Western Sydney. One performer says:
When you’re happy, you sing it out; when you’re sad, you sing it out… You talk to people, you make an announcement – anything at all, you make a song.
Another singer says:
It looks like fun, but it’s not fun… I’m not a young woman, I’m an old woman. I can’t come if it’s [just] fun. We want the people that doesn’t know what happened a long time in the past, and that is why we are here.
STARTTS Chief Executive says:
Dance brings people together, but also brings people together in a way that turns thoughts and feelings into action, and that’s tremendously therapeutic.
So one of the questions we need to reflect on as anthropologists interested in engaging the public is: Who is our audience, and how can we best reach them? Is blogging the key? If so, what platform, what format, what language do we use? …de Koning notes that it’s somewhat ironic that anthropology blogs largely focus on a Western audience and topics related to Western ideologies, when we’re the primary field that prides itself on a cross-cultural and often non-Western focus. I endorse his call to create “a more global and plural anthropological community” (2013:397). We need more anthropologists writing in a variety of languages about a variety of cultures and topics, specifically engaging the public in our attempts to explain the fascinating biocultural nature of humans around the world.
Melbourne private school teacher and literary curmudgeon Christopher Bantick argues that Gen Y don’t understand “serious” Australian culture. Writing for The Age, Bantick believes that Gen Y’s engagement with popular culture over the classics will lead our nation to decline:
The vanity that is lauded as virtue pervades the culture to a corrosive extent. Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy. Instead, they hang on every word of their latest celeb mouthing inanities….
So who’s at fault? Schools need to do more about bringing a little elitism back into the awareness of culture. High culture: fine art, opera, serious drama and music that requires patience and understanding needs to be embedded into the curriculum.
In Australia, elitism is a dirty word. But maybe our jingoistic egalitarianism has gone too far with the sense of cultural equity. Who knows what a sonnet is, a partita, a motet, or who was Goethe or Christopher Marlowe? As for ballet, forget it. There are many other examples.
In a fun rummage through vintage sociology, I found an interesting study by Isidor Thorner. Writing in 1951, he used a survey of Americans from various backgrounds to determine the relationship between New Year’s Resolutions (NYR) and Protestant values. Below I take a look at the major findings of Thorner’s study, exploring the historical and cultural variations of resolutions.
Protestant culture highly valued the idea of being in full control of one’s emotions. This meant being organised and denying oneself frivolous pursuits so as to be free to fulfil religious duty. Not adhering to these strict values brought about great personal shame.
Thorner argues that the New Year’s resolutions helped Protestants to manage their emotional baggage, and that over time, this practice lost its religious connotation and spread more widely.
NITV news reported from Buunji, the National Indigenous Education Conference in early November.
Organiser Lillian Gordan says they are promoting Indigenous identity, Indigenous diversity and Indigenous sustainability and an improved delivery of education in a way that won’t interfere with traditional culture.
It’s about bringing everybody together. Buunji is a Wiradjuri word meaning ‘to share,’ that everyone is coming together pretty much from all across the nation, what they’ve done and what they’ve seen and what their hopes are into the future for Aboriginal education.
I’ve been doing a visual sociology of the Western Suburbs of Melbourne via Instagram, which is why I loved this story. The Western Sydney suburb of Granville had been hosting a bus tour highlighting the cultural diversity of Sydney’s architecture. People could also visit sites on foot and get historical and cultural information via their iPads. Tour curator John Kirkman says they focused on sites that had once been dominated by Anglo Australian businesses and had now diversified:
I think it’s really special because it’s a great representation of what Australia really is… When I grew up here it was mainly Anglo people. Now it’s not. It’s people from the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific, people who come to make Australia home live here.
The Western suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne have the highest proportion of non-English-speaking migrants in Australia. They are also predominantly working class suburbs that are often a source of derision amongst mainstream media. Most Australian news tends to only report on these suburbs when there are crimes and other social problems, such as so-called “race riots.”
Pisac is a Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley on the Urubamba River. The village is well-known for its market every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, an event which attracts heavy tourist traffic from nearby Cusco. One of its more notable features is a large pisonay tree which dominates the central plaza. The sanctuary of Huanca, home to a sacred shrine, is also near the village. Pilgrims travel to the shrine every September. The area is perhaps best known for its Incan ruins, known as Inca Písac, which lie atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. The ruins are separated along the ridge into four groups: Pisaqa, Intihuatana, Q’allaqasa, and Kinchiracay. Intihuatana includes a number of bathes and temples. The Temple of the Sun, a volcanic outcrop carved into a “hitching post” for the Sun (or Inti), is the focus, and the angles of its base suggest that it served some astronomical function. Q’allaqasa, which is built onto a natural spur and overlooks the valley, is known as the citadel.