Friday, October 22, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol 12

Another week, another Reader! After getting off to a rough start this week—I left my wallet at home on Monday, did not have my commuter's pass and had to get off the LIRR at an unknown station, and was majorly late to work—I was glad to find some super things on the web. So, this week zero-sum relationships and baseball fans, the culture of poverty, and a little horn tooting.

As always, folks, you're invited to share anything of interesting you may stumble across in your web travels with me for the Reader, either via Twitter @anthinpractice or through email.

Let's get to it ...

Unfortunately for me, the postseason means watching the last of baseball from my sofa, gritting my teeth, and hoping for a NL champion when the dust clears. The winter months are just around the corner though, so I'm glad it's been an interesting series because these have been some fantastic final games. Channeling the spirit of baseball, Patrick Clarkin has a great post on group identity and fandom. A long time Red Sox fan, Clarkin explores the depths of connectivity that can spur violence, dividing families and provoking even normally mild mannered folks. It boils down to an Us v. Them opposition in which there must be a winner:
Conflict is more likely to arise when interactions between two parties are zero-sum, and one party’s success (+1) necessitates another’s failure (-1). Most sports work this way, except those that allow a draw. Baseball games cannot end in a draw, and in theory two teams will play for eternity until one of them wins…  unless it’s an All-Star game. Obviously, many types of interactions are not zero-sum, and it is possible for parties A and B to both gain something. This is a non-zero sum interaction (+1 & +1 = +2). Trade works this way, as does any form of cooperation, whether between genes, cells, individuals, or groups (Wright 2001). When two groups are interdependent, attitudes toward each other tend to shift toward the better.
As teams are eliminated in the march to the World Series, it is interesting to note the expansion of Us and Them as sides are chosen for the final showdown. 

Fans united for the last seventh inning stretch at Shea before it was torn down:

Next up, the NYT ran an article on the Culture of Poverty. The article states that a new generation of scholars are resuming poverty studies by "rejecting the notion of a monolithic and unchanging culture of poverty" and attributing "destructive attitudes and behavior not to inherent moral character but to sustained racism and isolation." While the discussion is interesting, it sparked some responses from the blogging community which felt that the article could revive some of the original problems associated with this concept—essentially, that the poor are solely responsible for their own woes.

In response, Daniel Lende offers a great analysis of the "culture of poverty" debate at Neuroanthropology:
This reduction of culture – shared and meaningful – to individuals and beliefs will do little to change the pernicious social logic that sees the main route out of these types of neighborhoods as “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” It goes against the dominant narrative of the American dream, where an individual person comes here and does well for him or herself.
In addition to Daniel's post, you may want to read "Moving Out of Poverty" by Duncan Green who blogs at Oxfam's From Poverty to Power. He writes:
Oscar Lewis was wrong: there is no ‘culture of poverty’: ‘Poor people are not listless, passive and alienated. ‘Instead, they take initiatives, often pursuing many small ventures simultaneously to survive and get ahead. Some do manage to move out of poverty. In country after country, when we asked movers to name the top three reasons for their move out of poverty, the answers most frequently emphasized people’s own initiative in finding jobs and starting new businesses.’ In contrast, the reasons for falling into poverty are more varied.
Then, head on over to The Atlantic where Ta-Nehisi Coates draws on his own experience to highlight how embedded behaviors and beliefs can come to be—and the ways these ties can be restrictive:
I suspect that a large part of the problem, when we talk about culture, is an inability to code-switch, to understand that the language of Rohan is not the language of Mordor. I don't say this to minimize culture, to the contrary, I say it to point how difficult it is to get people to discard practices which were essential to them in one world, but hinder their advancement into another. And then there's the fear of that other world, that sense that if you discard those practices, you have discarded some of yourself, and done it in pursuit of a world, that you may not master.
Altar, Trinity Church.
And to wrap things up, I want to share two things of my own. First, I wrote up a history of Trinity Church at The Urban Ethnographer. I enjoyed writing it, and as an accompaniment I created a photo essay on Facebook which has some great images.

I also had a feature in the Smithsonian Food and Think blog's "Inviting Writing" series. I shared the story of my first Halloween in The Candy Drawer.

See you guys next week!

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