Wednesday, August 29, 2007

John E. Kicza and Native Cultures of the Americas

Our first course reading is "The Native Societies of the Americas before contact," from John E. Kicza's book Resilient Cultures: America's Native Peoples Confront European Colonization, 1500 - 1800.

Here's a link to Kicza's website at Washington State University, where he's the chair of the history department:

Kicza uses a somewhat different terminology from what I have introduced thus far in class to characterize general types of societies in the Americas. Specifically, he frames his discussion in terms of "sedentary imperial societies," "semisedentary societies," and "nonsedentary or nomadic societies." To translate this into terms more frequently used by anthropologists, Kicza's "sedentary imperial societies" would correspond to agricultural states, "semisedentary societies" would correspond to horticultural tribes and chiefdoms, as well as a few relatively sedentary intensive foraging societies, and "nonsedentary or nomadic societies" would correspond to nomadic foraging bands.

Food, Culture History, and Globalization

Foodways are a critical component of any culture. What people eat, and the ways they acquire and prepare food offer important insights on a culture in general. Likewise, as cultures change through time, foodways change as well - new foods are added (e.g. the "Colombian Exchange" and introduction of New World foods, like chiles, maize, most beans, or potatoes, to the Old and Old World foods, like pork, rice, or chickpeas, to the New); new preparations are introduced (e.g. frozen entrees); while at the same time, old foods and preparations ("gopher soup" in Pensacola - see below; grinding corn by hand in Mexico) may become rarer or fall to the wayside altogether.

This Food Time Line provides a fun and insightful window on global cultural history, including especially some of the major cultural changes and changes to food ways in the context of the globalization of the last 5 centuries.

For perspectives on how things have changed and stayed the same in our local area, check out the link to the "Pensacola Souvenir Cookbook" from 1900. I myself was intrigued by the two gopher soup recipes (where for those not familiar with, perhaps now archaic, local lingo, the gopher in question is not a mammalian gopher [those don't exist around here] but the gopher tortoise).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Reginald T. Dogan on Reading

Local Columnist Reginald T. Dogan has an engaging piece on the importance and the pleasures of reading in the Pensacola News Journal, Reading a Skill and a Passion Worth Developing and Nurturing.

Here are just a few selections from Dogan's essay:

"As we need nourishment for the body, we also need it for the mind. Books stimulate the mind, create understanding and cultivate knowledge and wisdom."

"You don't see folks sitting around reading like they used to. At airports, everybody is yapping or sending text messages on cell phones. In bookstores, of all places, they are sipping mocha or taking naps.It amazes me every time I watch the MTV show "Cribs." As the rich and famous give tours of their palatial homes, decorated with expensive furniture, with plasma TVs and exotic fish tanks, they never showcase their bookcases.More distressing is a report that says 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Importance of Reading

For success in this or any other course, it is absolutely crucial that you keep up with the assigned reading.

Beyond success in the class, if you want to have the most fully rewarding learning experience possible, I encourage you to be a student and scholar of life and not just a student meeting set requirements in a specific course. Read everything you can get your hands on. Learning through reading is not a replacement for learning through experience (which is one reason for the hands-on observation in the field exercise assignment) as much as a complement to it – a different way of learning. Reading broadly and thoroughly allows you to access the experiences, perspectives, and arguments of countless individuals. The more you read and learn through reading, the more you’ll understand your own experiences of the world or the materials you encounter in courses such as this one.

The following are links to useful reading available online that are directly relevant to anthropology, though again, I encourage you to read broadly and beyond a single academic discipline (and not just online).

Anthropology and Academic News Sites:

“Anthropology in the News” is a digest of links to news items directly relevant to one of the sub-fields of anthropology:

“Science Daily” posts a wide variety of news stories focusing on different sciences, including anthropology:

“Arts and Letters Daily” posts links to essays and articles pertaining to humanities disciplines (which can also include anthropology, as in many ways anthropology straddles a divide between the sciences and humanities):

World News Sites:

Keeping up with current events around the world can be interesting in itself and is important for relating anthropological study to current and changing realities. The following sites provide extensive coverage of particular world areas.

Middle Eastern Times:

Asia Times:

Latin American Post:

Indian Country Today:

Anthropology Blogs

There are a growing number of blogs written by anthropology graduate students and professionals that present a variety of interesting perspectives from within the discipline. The following are some I find regularly insightful (plus the last one on the list, written by me, that I hope is insightful):

Culture Matters:

Anthropology Net:

Hot Cup of Joe:

Nicolette Bethel’s Blog:

Savage Minds:

Robert Philen’s Blog: