Entries tagged with “Elementary Education

Language and World View
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 21: 381-404 (Volume publication date October 1992)
Jane H. Hill and Bruce Mannheim
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest lady,

It’s approaching the one-year mark on my friend’s death. May is the month of his birth and his death. For the last several months I’ve found myself repeating more frequently the phrase, “I feel his presence.” I have a feeling associated with saying those words. I find that I’m unsure what those words mean or what that feeling means. I don’t have the same feeling in saying, “I remember him,” or “This reminds me of him.” I wonder whether I have the same facial expressions and intonation as the people I observed saying those words in my childhood. Is the feeling the same feeling they had?

I am fascinated by the conversations people have without thinking, with how much of life is scripted. There are so many intimate and personal moments and interactions that have these settled upon words. When I was younger, I made bigger efforts to avoid the scripts with a surprising amount of “success.” I now often feel that I am missing shared cultural “stuff” because I didn’t wholly internalize some of the scripted phrases.

I do feel a certain comfort in saying, “I feel his presence,” despite not knowing what it means. I wonder what all goes into which scripted phrases are heavily internalized and which are not? We all have certain popular words and phrases with which we don’t identify, right?

In elementary school, kids often had discussions about confusing words/meanings in common cultural expressions. It seemed that by middle school, these conversations dried up. Kids were less concerned about what the expressions meant and more concerned with using them correctly.

I read “Language and World View” to get a sense of what types of things were being said and which names were being mentioned (the same as with every article). Of course there was much mention of Boas, Sapir ad Whorf – all on my to-read list for this topic. There was also mentioned of someone else who more recently made my to-read list, George Lakoff. Some time ago, I bookmarked a YouTube video of a lecture he gave somewhere (George Lakoff “The Brain and Its Politics”).   Haven’t watched it, yet.  I even checked out some of his books from the local public library, but I didn’t get around to reading them (still working on regaining the ability to devour books). Anyway, one of the nice things about reading these review articles is that I not only get a brief discussion of some of ideas put forth by Lakoff, the authors also pointed me toward someone, Naomi Quinn, who offers criticisms of Lakoff. So, there was a little bump in my excitement to read both scholars.

I’ve been saying for quite some time that I need to widen my reading. This is becoming more pressing. I enjoy reading the review articles, but I find that I’m growing more and more bored with the way that I interact with the text. I feel as though I’m having the same five thoughts over and over. I’m trying not to be overly harsh with myself since I said that I was giving myself a year to casually graze in anthropology. And, there is something building from doing this reading… I trust.

Ever enjoying the sweetness and light of you,

Directions in the Anthropology of Contemporary Japan
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 20: 395-431 (Volume publication date October 1991)
William W. Kelly
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

Kelly writes separately of Shinto and ancestor worship.  My memory from elementary school is that I was taught that the two were almost synonymous.  W. G. Aston writes that this error of belief came about due to statements by Captain Francis Brinkley, and quotes Brinkley as saying, “Ancestor worship is the basis of Shinto.”  I didn’t have access to Aston’s whole article…sigh.  When I wrote on Monday that Kelly noted some things about Shinto that helped me better understand the connection I felt when first learning of Shinto, what I really should have said was that Kelly noted some things about ancestor worship.  Here’s what he wrote:

[Ancestor worship] expresses a concept of a life continuum in which the household comprises a circulation through, and mutually dependent relationships among, the yet-unborn, the recently born, the “fully” living, the recently deceased, and the long departed (252).

Kelly goes on to say that the term “ancestor worship” is doubly misleading as the practice is not limited to direct ancestors and worship does not give proper attention to the notion that “the living and deceased are linked in reciprocal flows of assistance and dependence.”  The “concept of a life continuum” as described above was very much alive in the rural Mississippi town of my childhood.  Recently, I’ve been thinking more specifically on the way my family life encouraged a connection with the “yet-unborn.”

Speaking with friends and acquaintances with very young children, I’ve made casual notice of the increasing level of parent-to-child attachment from birth.  It appears takes many people at least a couple years to reach the level of attachment that seemed present at birth in my extended family.  I had a nickname before I was born; this was common practice.  At the earliest stages of womb implantation, the anthropomorphizing of the fetus began.  The fetus was talked to and talked on behalf of in full baby-speak.  There were full-on, two-way conversations.  For example, if my pregnant aunt were eating, she might say in baby-speak, “Ooh, Mama, I like that food!”  Someone might respond (to the fetus), “Do you really?  I’m gonna get more of that for your Mama.”  Or, if she were sewing something or shopping for something in anticipation of the birth, she might ask the opinion of the fetus.  The interactions were plentiful and, perhaps, more robust than my examples.  And while fetus-speak might originate with the mother speaking “the mind” of the fetus, others would start to do so more and more as time went on.

The recently deceased were talked about as being present in guiding what a person might say or guiding a person to a beneficial opportunity.  A long-deceased person might be present in the fact that a tree grew in a odd way, maybe leaning to one side in similar fashion to the deceased person.  Both the recently deceased and long deceased might help with acquainting the fetus with family life and the like.

I haven’t read enough about ancestor worship in Japan to have a clear idea of whether the things I remember about the “life continuum” from my hometown are similar to how that concept is expressed in Japan.  I look forward to fleshing this out more.