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a203-11f-04-CultureAsMeaningCultureShock - Introduction to...

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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Class 4 Culture as meaning and culture shock: Constructs that affect us profoundly Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Culture as meaning - As we discussed last time, one view of culture is that is it is a learned system of meanings attached to objects and actions - we learn what things mean - and then respond to as much, or more, to those meanings than we do to the objects or actions themselves - These meanings are socially constructed (again, as we saw last time) - I called them “a sort of unplanned consensus” - I illustrated this concept of meanings using a “Stingray” bicycle - which had certain meanings to me - youth, rebelliousness, modernity, etc. - but completely different meanings to a dignified older gentleman riding one in a highland Peruvian town in the 1980s - who probably saw it as a practical tool for transportation, - maybe socially appropriate because it was imported and cost more money than many people would have - but without any meanings about youth, transgression, etc. - But these bikes are an even richer example than that - they are also the basis of a new cultural construct: the “scraper bike” - Background - the style of bike I illustrated was made by Schwinn and marketed as a “Stingray” or “chopper” bike starting in 1963 - they were inspired by customized “chopper” motorcycles - the bike referred to, reminded you of, or “meant” a chopper motorcycle - the meaning of Stingray bikes came from that association: youth, rebelliousness, modernity - the concept of the Stingray or chopper bike was spread by advertising and customized bikes that appeared in the TV show “The Munsters” - both aimed at young people, especially boys - this is the meaning that I learned as a kid - “scraper” bikes as a category of bicycle did not exist until around 2005 - they were inspired by “scraper” cars - which are older American large cars, now inexpensive, tricked out with oversize rims, a bright paint job, and loud sound systems - probably called “scrapers” because the oversize wheels scrape inside the fenders - many scraper bikes are made from old Stingray or chopper bikes, - but the key features are the decorated wheels, paintjobs, etc. - the meaning involves youth, urban and African-American identity, being creative and stylish by repurposing old, available resources, etc.
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Culture as meaning, culture shock p. 2 - in 2007, some guys in Oakland formed a rap group called the Trunk Boiz and posted a rap video on YouTube about scraper bikes - the video “went viral”, and has been viewed over 3 million times now - what does this show? - culture is symbolic : a system of meanings - we react to the meanings as much as to the things themselves - scraper bikes are much more than just tools for transportation - it is the meaning that we read into them that matters - that culture is integrated , in that it is a system of meanings that fit together coherently - both the “Stingray” and the “scraper bike” concepts drew on existing meanings attached to other objects -
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