Courtney Frank and
Buried Cities and Lost
Treasures – New World
22, November 2017
1) Define the following terms from cultural materialism:
mode of production, the 4 major modes of production, base and superstructure.
Now, use a cultural materialist analysis to analyze a cultural change within
The phrase “mode of
production” comes from cultural materialism, and the term refers to the various
ways humans collectively produce means of subsistence to survive and enhance
social being. The four major modes of production are the following; communism,
feudalism, capitalism, and socialism. In communism, popular among small hunting
and gathering tribes, food, jobs, and belongings are shared among the people.
Nobody owns the land, and nobody is exploited for labor. In communist
societies, people work together towards a common or shared goal. In feudalism,
large agricultural units are owned by landlords who force peasants to pay rent
through labor, produce or fiscal tributes. In exchange, peasants can invest in
small individual landholdings and access forests and pastures. Capitalism
refers to the systems of organizing production and distribution in capitalist
societies. Capitalism is characterized by; the private ownership of production
means, the extraction of profit and being market-based. In socialism,
production is coordinated through economic planning and the distribution of
economic output. Social relations are characterized by the working class having
complete ownership of the means of production and livelihood.
According to the Marxist
theory, human society is composed of the base and the superstructure. The base
consists of the relations and the means of production, people enter both to
produce life’s necessities. Determining society’s other relationships and
ideas, the base shapes the superstructure. As an ideology composed of
everything indirectly related to production, the superstructure consists of;
medicine, religion, culture, politics, family, and education. With its
components, the superstructure helps maintain the base of society.
Since my birth in 1999,
one major cultural change has been media entertainment. In the late 1990s and
early 2000s, people used cassette tapes, VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs to listen to
music and watch television shows and movies. In the modern era, people use
streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO and YouTube Red
to access entertainment media. Media streaming services make it easier for
people to access a large variety of entertainment media for a relatively cheap
price. Unlike VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs, television shows, movies and music
accessed through streaming services do not take up physical space.
2) Describe the three
ways cultures change. Use an original example to elucidate ONE of the ways
cultures change. Remember, your job in your essay is to convince me your
example exemplifies one of the three concepts of cultural change.
Cultures change through;
assimilation, syncretism, and domination. Cultural assimilation is the process
by which a person’s or a group’s culture and/or language comes to resemble the culture
and/or language of another group. Immigrants or native residents are often
culturally dominated by another society. According to the “melting pot theory,”
an ethnic minority will typically sacrifice its original culture to integrate
into society. Full assimilation occurs when new members of a society become
indistinguishable from members of other groups.
Syncretism is the
process by which two or more independent cultural systems or elements are
blended together to form a new and distinct system. Syncretism is the fusion of
differing systems of belief, practice, art, architecture and/or culture,
syncretism is the accommodation of one belief system within another. As one of
the most important factors in the evolution of culture, syncretism is most notable
in the evolution of religion.
Domination is the
process by which a more powerful culture is promoted over and eventually
overtakes a lesser known or less desirable culture. The dominating culture is
usually more powerful economically and militarily than the dominated culture.
Rulers or entire civilizations use overreaching philosophies or religious
beliefs to focus their power and ensure conformity among their subjects. For
example, the indigenous culture of Native Americans has been dominated by the “Anglo”
culture in the United States. Though seen as part of their own tribe’s culture,
Native Americans simultaneously take part in the dominant culture of the United
3) How is the
intangible system of sex and sexuality historical? In your answer, compare and
contrast Ancient Pompeiian systems of gender and sexuality with our
contemporary system in the United States.
In chapter 6 of the
book, “Ancient Lives: An Introduction to Archaeology and Prehistory,” “Studying
the Intangible,” Brian M. Fagan compares sexuality in the past with sexuality
in the modern world. The intangible system of sex and sexuality is historical
as throughout history, though norms have changed, the roles sex and sexuality
play in society have not changed.
When comparing Ancient Pompeiian
systems of gender and sexuality with our contemporary system in the United
States, one can identify many similarities between the two systems. Like
ancient Pompeii, in the United States, female sexuality is encouraged within
the confines of marriage. Prostitution remains one of the few money-making
careers available to those of lower economic classes. Additionally, people in
lower economic classes were and still are sexually exploited and abused by the
rich and powerful. Young women are illegally sold as sex slaves and on average,
female prostitutes make more money than male prostitutes.
Evidence of romantic
relationships between those of the same gender is present in the ruins of
ancient Pompeii and our contemporary system of gender and sexuality in the
United States. Scholars like Michel Foucault argue that labels for romantic
relationships between members of the same-sex did not exist previously, rather
same-sex relationships were part of the culture and the labeling of these
“different” relationships is a result of human nature. As humans, we seek to
identify unique characteristics of ourselves to explain why the group of people
we belong to is superior to other groups.
female sexuality has been encouraged within the confines of marriage and people
have engaged in sexual relations with those of the same and opposite gender.
Though times have changed, prostitution and other forms of exploiting women
remain some of the highest money-making careers available for those of lower socioeconomic
status and, on average, female prostitutes make more money than their male
structure, anti-structure, and the relationship between the two. What’s the
risk to social structure without the presence of anti-structure? Provide
an original example of this relationship (and remember to convince me your
example is structure-anti-structure)
Structure promotes the
idea of human actions being guided by beliefs and symbolic concepts, and
symbolic concepts being supported by ways of thinking about the world. A
structure is a domestic and political system causally conditioned by
infrastructure. Structure verifies all institutions, relationships, roles and
norms constituting a society serve a purpose. The structure is synonymous with
a hierarchy, order, authority, and different forms of organizing human society.
In structure, there are limited interactions between individuals, there is
heavy emphasis on individual goals and differences, people have the tendency to
focus on themselves and secular, profane and commercial experiences are common.
Anti-structure is a
liminal and existential revolt against structure, anti-structure is the
sanctioned adoption of behaviors originally considered to radically violate
social norms. Philosophical anthropologist Victor Turner attributes the
contribution of structural functionalism to the rights of passage and the
limitations of rituals. Collaborative interactions, shared goals, attenuated
differences and sacred, detached and authentic experiences are common.
Anti-structure argues there are formal rituals governing people’s behavior
inside and outside of everyday life and leisure is the ritual designed to take
people outside everyday life. The concepts of liminality and communitas are
involved in the process of taking people outside everyday life. Liminality is a
transitional stage from the every day to outside the every day. In liminality,
a purer form of play exists because the stage is free of societal norms and
structures. Communitas is a temporary sense of social fellowship.
The concept of
communitas is present in structure and anti-structure. Turner characterizes
“communitas” as an absolute inter-human relation beyond any form of structure.
The drama of everyday life affects social change and without the presence of
anti-structure, the existing social structure would invite new possibilities.
For example, if people from lower classes are given the opportunity to advance
their socioeconomic status, they would not know their defined societal roles.
5) Describe Gramsci’s
idea of hegemony and counter-hegemony and the relationship between the two
terms. Provide an original example of how hegemony helps to maintain social
ranking systems (describe the social ranking system and then analyze that
system using hegemony).
According to Italian
politician and philosopher Antonio Gramsci, intellectuals create hegemony and
counter-hegemony. Hegemony occurs when one state has predominant political,
economic or military influence over another state. Hegemony is a form of social
control and a means of symbolic coercion, stabilizing when the majority of a
group adopts the dominant ideology. Cultural hegemony refers to domination
achieved through ideological and cultural means. Cultural hegemony is most
strongly manifested when people ruled by a dominant group come to believe the
economic and social conditions of their society are natural and inevitable.
“counter-hegemony” refers to attempts to critique or dismantle hegemonic power.
Confrontation and/or opposition to the existing status quo and its legitimacy
has been observed in; politics, history, media, and music. Unlike hegemony, in
counter-hegemony people resist influence and control over a state, choosing to
take part in traditional practices instead.
Social ranking, or
social stratification, is a social hierarchy where distinctions are made among
individuals, communities, and other units of society. In social stratification,
people are perceived as being different and superior or inferior. Typically,
the higher one is ranked, the greater their power.
As a form of control,
hegemony promotes definitions of reality and views of the world expressed by
those in the dominant class. When successful, the promotion of definitions and
views held by those higher classes establishes their views as common sense
among all classes. In the United States, hegemony helps maintain social ranking
systems through tax laws. The wealthy have the most influence politically and
economically as they have the resources to bribe government officials to modify
existing and create new policies favoring those of the upper class.
Watch the documentary
“We Were Here” (Weissman and Weber 2011). This documentary addresses the AIDS
crisis of the 1970s and 1980s. Using one of your theoretical tools (structure
and antistructure; cultural materialism; hegemony and counter-hegemony;
structural functionalism) provide an analysis of the ways HIV/AIDS affected
change in American culture.
In the 2011 Netflix
documentary, “We Were Here,” directors David Weissman and Bill Weber address
the AIDS crisis of the 1970s and 1980s through the voices of four homosexual
men and a woman. The San Francisco-based story illuminates the profound
personal and community issues raised by the AIDS epidemic and the broad
political and social upheavals the crisis unleashed.
Prior to the AIDS
crisis, people in the Castro area of San Francisco experienced sexual freedom
and experimentation. The HIV/AIDS epidemic influenced hegemony in American
culture, specifically, the crisis reclassified sexual activity between members
of the same sex as “dangerous.” Images of people affected by the disease were
dispersed with warnings attached. After reading “gay disease” propaganda, one
can be led to believe voluntarily engaging in counter-hegemonic sexual
relationships (non-heterosexual) will result in consequence. As a result,
members of the LGBTQ community experienced uncertainty, fear, blame, and flight.
Today, HIV/AIDS in the
United States primarily affects racial and ethnic minorities in the LGBTQ
community. People in the LGBTQ community continue to experience homophobia,
lack of access to health care and high poverty and unemployment rates because
of their engagement in counter-hegemonic relationships. Political, financial,
and social barriers continue to keep the most effective prevention and
treatment strategies from reaching people with the highest risk of exposure,
minorities and homosexuals.
Fagan / University of
California, Brian M. “Chapter 5 / Individuals and Interactions.” Ancient
Lives: An Introduction to Archaeology and Prehistory, 5th ed., Pearson
Saddle River, NJ, 2011,
Fagan / University of
California, Brian M. “Chapter 6 / Studying the Intangible.” Ancient Lives:
An Introduction to Archaeology and Prehistory, 5th ed., Pearson
Saddle River, NJ, 2011, pp. 149-176.
Fagan / University of
California, Brian M. “Chapter 7 / Explaining the Past.” Ancient Lives: An
Introduction to Archaeology and Prehistory, 5th ed., Pearson
Education, Upper Saddle
River, NJ, 2011, pp. 177-202.