B. Wyss – Week Seven – Final Reflections

Looking back across all of the lectures, readings, and films that we looked at these past weeks, I’m struck by how so many of the themes tie together. In last week’s post, I discussed how intercultural exchange really emphasized a lot of the lessons we’ve learned so far, bringing a new dimension and further depth to much of what we have already looked at. This week, I decided to look back at everything through the lens of meaning making.

A lot of the things we discussed relate back to meaning making in that they incorporate rituals of some variety, and as a result create some level of meaning for the people and the society that engages in these rituals. Kinship, for example, is ritualized through marriage ceremonies, as well as the bridal and baby showers that come with the addition of a new member to a family unit. The wedding ceremonies, especially, can be explicitly religious in nature.

In week five, we discussed systems of exchange. We learned about the circular system of reciprocal exchange in an archipelago, which resulted not only in exchange of goods, but also in the accrual of meaning to those exchanged items. Although they didn’t specifically discuss the ritual that accompanied this exchange, it is pretty obvious that meaning was created in the process of that exchange, and that cultural connections were built and reaffirmed by the exchange of those items.

That week, we also talked about manners of subsistence, and how farmers and horticulturalists and such live their lives. In the film about the rice farmers, it was interesting to see how ritualized their agricultural system was, and how religion played a very real role in their daily work and life,

Finally, in week six, we discussed globalization and an interconnected world.  Last week, I talked about how other cultures intermingle, and how I see evidence of that in my daily life from several different directions. I think that, like the documentary about languages being lost brought up, we don’t realize the rituals and religions that we may be losing as cultures come together and synthesize. I think the rice farming film did a great job of pointing out the impact that globalization may have on these communities and their methods of creating meaning.

I think meaning making, and the rituals and such that go along with that process, are probably more widespread than we usually think. From looking back at the course, I definitely don’t think I would have realized how interrelated many of the topics we looked at actually are if I hadn’t taken this course.

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