Unformatted text preview: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SYMBOLS Lyman Lane straight down until you see bungalows 413A and the door will be open. Abu Lughod "On Television" -she did her research in Egypt -anthropologists don't really study TV (They leave this for cultural and media studies) -in the past they didn't do so because villages are too remote for TV but it doesn't apply so much now -TV studies poses problems for anthro because TV portray elements of culture that are not local (originates in the capital, village viewer) -when people are watching and reacting cultural values completely different from their own? Multiple meanings are problematic and complicated. TV and other media bring together different worlds and meanings...she shows how they intersect, how power is built in this culture -culture is produced, censored, and paid for and broadcast across the nation -a lot of representation of elite and middle class values on TV but not poor working people except in America (plotter for humor) -this type of influence and power through media can shape local dynamics, people are internalizing it and filter to view their own lives, people in the community are able to distinguish themselves with prestige symbols -people can buy consumer goods, people manipulate their own symbols -fancy cars, if you have the money to drive this type of car, -national programs disseminate government values that they want people to internalize (IE family planning) portrays the way the world should be, distributes to local communities -point! The same cultural texts may have different meanings for people -middle class have different relationship with what they see on TV than villagers -TV collapses cultural difference between people living far away from each other -television forces us to represent villagers in the habits we are familiar with -a final point! If we really want to understand media, it's not enough to do ethnography, but multi sided ethnography (research in multiple places and beyond just one village) just to get a sense of what the idea was when show was broadcast on TV Symbolism -why is it important? In everyday life and culture? -common in everyday human process -symbolic representation is a significant part in human activity -language is the best form of symbolic representation (words coming from her mouth intelligible to those who understand English) -humans are hardwired to understand symbols What is a symbol? -something that is arbitrary -symbol that represents something else, something that conveys meaning -building blocks of culture -people share and store -culture without symbols cannot be -symbols are ways of storing information -meanings of symbols can be complex, have emotional aspect as well (middle finger, money, flags, cross, funeral, Flag meanings -unity -sovereignty -pride, patriotism -corruption -history -freedom, independence -nation -territorial unit -inculcated with flag -particular political system -amoral view of the world -you can't always infer a meaning of the symbol unless you understand context that it's being used -flag burning (when Iraqis burn the flag, US is the enemy) (action and context can be very different) -symbols tie individuals to social collective (they only make sense in reference to a whole system) -a system of codes shared by a group of people -IE BMW only means something when you think of it in terms of a larger cultural systems -arbitrary nature of symbols -symbols don't always travel well from one culture to another -the gesture in Indonesia for our go away is their come here -clothing in appropriate in our society is not in another one -arbitrary nature of symbols -even in the same society, symbols may have different meanings depending on context -it's something that's changed over time -why is the tie a symbol of formality? -a rat may symbolize poverty in a movie, a tree symbolizes fertility, car symbolizes represents mobility or wealth Turner's Article -is very dense, don't worry about not understanding -focus on pages 19-30 -beginning of his article he defines ritual ==ritual is as prescribed forma behavior for occasions not given over to tech routines having reference to beliefs in mystical beings or powers Symbol is the smallest unit of ritual -ritual has religious symbol -ritual marked in specific ways out of routine of different life -highly significant quality to it -discusses a debate an anthropology debate in their role in interpreting symbols--either ask people what their symbols mean and record that beyond asking, you can only speculate Native exigecies -anthro needed to look beyond what people say about their symbols -how can an anthro justify his claim their interpretation that is deeper than native's beliefs (IE French anthro comes here, studies me, and claims to know better about the true meaning of graduation more than me... -culture is so internalized that they don't understand the symbols they use on a day to day basis, -problem of perspective, even if we live in the same society, we have different persepectives depending on who we are -our interpretation of culture is biased because of our experience -turner believes anthro is trained at objective analysis ===counter Turner's point makes some sense, he talks specifically about what he says -they might report it objectively, -why it's not enough to list interpretations and stop right there -possible problem with asking people for interpretations, they might just talk about positive aspects of symbol because they don't want to represent the negatives of society s NAMBU -symbols represent social harmony and social conflict -people are only willing to discuss positive meanings -negative meanings are quite clear just by observing -he came to the conclusion that powerful wishes or thoughts that are somewhat taboo that can be found in symbolism -he can see more clearly than people themselves as objective figure -they don't want to see conflict behind symbol but in the setting of the ritual, it's taboo to mention (IE Thanksgiving) ...
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- Spring '08
- Abu Lughod, SYMBOLS Lyman Lane