This course has centered a lot around what things mean to different cultures. This meaning making is how different cultures perceive and interact with their environment. The interesting thing with this subject is that due to cultural differences, two different groups of people can have a different meaning for the same object.
Respect is a very important topic in practically every culture that has existed. Everybody wants to feel respected, but what each culture places respect in can differ. Looking at Bourgois’ “Poverty at Work: Office Employment and the Crack Alternative” in week 4, we can see just how true this fact is. The article focuses on a man named Primo who was torn between wanting to working in an office or being a crack dealer. In his neighborhood, more respect was given to crack dealers and those who worked “soft” jobs were looked down on. This idea can come as a surprise to people in higher income brackets. They would think that a crime related job is despicable, and does not garner respect. Whereas Primo’s neighborhood places much respect in crack dealers because they are dangerous, powerful, and stay true to their culture.
In week three, we watched the video “Languages Lost and Found” which focused on languages that are only spoken by few and some in danger of extinction. In the video there is an island among the canary archipelago called La Gomera. On this island there is a whistled language called El Silbo. To anyone who does not have experience with the language would just think it is just plain whistling. But to someone who has trained and perfected the language, it can be used to communicate short phrases and stereotyped messages. This small island has given meaning to certain notes and pitches so that they can communicate over long distances. However, outsiders would not be able to tell that the people are actually communicating other than the two parties whistling back and forth for no reason.
For week four, in Rosman and Rubel’s “Ties that Connect: Marriage, Family and Kinship” the meanings of relationships are explored. Different cultures value different relationships with varying viewpoints. For one culture, blood may mean everything and another it is not so necessary for close relationships. One example is the concept of dowries, bride service, and bridewealth. In our culture today, these constructs are not present in official terms. However there are still cultures today that practice these concepts. In our modern culture, we see this as somewhat degrading, as if one spouse is paying for the other. But in different cultures, one family may be losing a valuable member of the household who provides labor to another house.