Archive for March, 2008


Shantytowns right here in the United States

   Posted by: Jill White    in national news, Uncategorized

In my cross-cultural classes, students read Nancy Scheper-Hughes work on mother love and child death in the shanty towns of Brazil.  It is always difficult and sometimes heart-wrenching for many of us to try to put ourselves in those womens’ shoes. 

This week I came across video that suggests our fellow citizens may be finding it easier and easier to understand such situations, as they themselves have been forced to live in whatever shelters they can put together in the margins and outskirts of our major cities due to losing their homes in the recent mortgage and foreclosure crisis.  These tent cities grew up during the Depression – they were referred to as “Hoovervilles,”  and they have occurred locally from time to time after natural disasters. 

There are a lot of important questions that we should be asking ourselves, but the first one I would pose is this: How many of you have heard of these tent cities on the national news? 

You can see a BBC video here.  And an article from the Oakland Tribune here.  I’ve been unable to find out much else about them in California or in other cities, and I’d love to have your help.  Please use the comments to help us all learn about this phenomenon.


New York Photos

   Posted by: Jill White    in Uncategorized

Jim and I in Times SquareIn all of my classes this semester we have been talking about symbols.  In Cross-Cultural Human Development, it has recently been in the context of language learning, and the connection between language, cognition and emotion.  In Human Sexuality, we have been talking about how sexual culture can be studied through looking at a people’s myths and dreams.  As I was looking through my photos, I realized how much symbolic content there is stored on my laptop that we could fruitfully consider.  So here are a few photos from a trip my husband and I took to New York.  I will leave it to you to interpret the symbolic statements being made. . . with perhaps a nudge here and there.

One of our first stops was St. John the Divine – one of, if not THE best example of gothic architecture in the United States.  So plenty of multivocalic symbols to explore:

stjohnthmb.jpgThe doors are cast bronze, like Bernini’s, and depict Biblical myths – sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Doors at St. John’s In the Children’s Garden, we found this wonderful sculpture. 

Fountain at St. John’s 

Since at least the 1970s, St. John the Divine’s has made itself a place of refuge for the homeless and of memorial for those who perished in acts of genocide.  The lost are represented symbolically.  Here are two:

Holocaust Memorial This one is for the Jewish Holocaust in WWII.  And the next is for those lost in Rwanda/Burundi.
Rwanda Memorial

Leaving St. John’s (even though there is SO much more there to see), it seemed interesting to us that one still signs all over the city like this:
Terrorist Signs I mean everywhere: subways, restaurants, bathrooms, city streets, parks, hotels, buildings.  Since people are being constantly reminded to be on the alert, and thus constantly reminded, symbolically, of the attacks, doesn’t this contribute to the heightened anxiety and fear that surveys demonstrate New Yorkers feel, over other parts of the country?  I am not all wishing to downplay the effect of the location of Ground Zero itself, but I do think these contant reminders probably also play a role.  What do you think?

On a lighter note, we wondered if this was something we ought to report?  I mean, we SAW something.  Should we SAY something?  As a symbol, how safe does it make you feel?
Bomb Squad big

Never fear – Spidey is on the job.  Unfortunately, it took him nearly 10 minutes to get his hat on just the way he wanted it, but hey, a good fit is important, right?
spidermanFinally, what do you suppose we, or Madison Avenue, or New York City, or the makers of Cup O’Noodles, is saying here?  What effort does it require, how much energy, to make a giant cup appear to steam on a 65 degree night?  And why is that important?


Campus R.A.W. Presentation coming up

   Posted by: Jill White    in Campus Events, Presentations

Come to my workshop on ethnic slurs:

Thursday, March 27 – 2-3:30 Christie Theatre

“Derogatory Terms: Past, Present, and Future”

The point of derogatory terms has always been to make it easier to hurt other people. Have times changed? What is a derogatory term for your race/religion/background? Does it offend you or do you see it as just a word? How has pop culture influenced the way America views derogatory terms and issues? Hear what scholars and your peers have to say about it.

In fact, if you’d like to help me get ready for it, you can contribute by commenting here about the particular ethnic slurs you have heard as a resident of Wisconsin. 


Hello world!

   Posted by: blogadmin    in Uncategorized

Welcome to my new site!  I am very much still under construction.  There should be a few things added over the next couple of weeks, as I gradually find the time.  Please come back soon!