Material Girls and Lumpenproletariat


Sometimes I think of myself as a “material girl” but then I remember I’m not young, I’m not a girl and I’m not fond of Marvin Harris. Harris was a material girl, in the sense that he argued, as Madonna said, “we are living in a material world and I am a material girl”. In other words, it all comes down to material culture for Marvin Madonna and Marilyn.

For Madonna, “only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day, ’cause they are living in a material world and I am a material girl”.
The music video for “Material Girl” (left) was inspired byMarilyn Monroe‘s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (right), from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

sacred-cowFor Harris, the lyrics might have gone something like this:

“Only cows that pull and poop (and lactate) make my theory sway” (bonus points to any who can decipher that cryptic line).


ON OTHER HAND, Philippe Bourgois is cool, looks cool and has some very good points to make. Maybe his appellation caused this but he seems to be the least bourgois (i.e., in Marxist contexts, “upholding the interests of capitalism; not communist”) Bourgois I can imagine.

I am most impressed by Philippe Bourgois‘ resurrection of the word “Lumpen”. In his Lumpen Abuse: The Human Cost of Righteous Neoliberalism (2011), he states,

This chapter argues for re-framing Marx’s concept of class through a redefinition of the problematic but creative category of “lumpen” to develop a “theory of lumpen abuse under punitive neoliberalism.” To do this, we draw from Foucault’s understanding of subjectivity and biopower, Bourdieu’s concepts of symbolic violence and habitus, and Primo Levi’s insights on the invisibility of Holocaust-like gray areas in routine daily life and we re-define the lumpen as those vulnerable populations for whom biopower (the state-mediated forces and discourses of disciplinary modernity that are normally life- enhancing) has become abusive rather than productive. Our era’s economy, its structures of service provision, and the symbolic violence of individual achievement and free market efficiency condemns increasingly large proportions of the transgressive and unemployed poor to processes of lumpenization, which decimate bodies and amplify suffering. (2011:7)

The term “lumpen” comes from lumpenproletariat (lum·pen·pro·le·tar·i·at) or for the linguistically inclined, /ˈləmpənˌprōləˈte(ə)rēət,ˈlo͝om-/ . It is a noun in Marxist terminology and refers to the lowest of the lower classes. Those poor people that are so unorganized and unpolitical that they are unaware of their victimization. Consequently, they are on no use to Marx’s ideas about revolution and in fact, may be an impediment to it. In grad school, they made us read The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. This is the first and likely last time it will be of use to me!


Bronisław Malinowski


Malinowski is considered to be one of the “fathers of anthropology” and a leading innovator in what came to be known as “functionalism.” Born in Kraków, Austro-Hungary (now in Poland,) Malinowski spend many of his early years studying theories of exchange at the London School of Economics. Because of his Austro-Hungary citizenship, he was considered an enemy agent of the British when World War I began in 1914.

Initially in British-controlled Papua New Guinea during the outbreak of the war, he was not allowed to return to London. However, Malinowski was allowed to travel to the Trobriand Islands in Melanesia, where he conducted extensive studies of indigenous customs. Malinowski’s interest in exchange theory led him to take particular interest in the Kula Ring ceremony. During a certain time of year, groups from the various islands of the “ring” would travel around and give gifts to show their wealth and strengthen alliances. These observations would later influence French Sociologist Marcel Mauss’ The Gift, which proposed that there was no such thing as a “free gift.”

During his time on the Tobriand Islands, Malinowski lived among the people he studied and took part in their daily lives. Malinowski contributed to the role of participant observation among British anthropologist the same way Franz Boas and his students did here. Malinowski was surprisingly modern in his approach to understanding his subjects, wishing: “to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world.” His interest was in understanding the individual and his perception of his society. Malinowski combined this “data” with his own “analysis,” the outsider’s objective understanding of society as a whole. The methods of participant observation described in his introduction to Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) remain central to modern ethnographers.

Equally important was Malinowski’s contribution to the theory of functionalism. Functionalism is, by its very simplest definition, the theory that social institutions in any given culture serve some purpose for the betterment of the individual. In essence, it is the idea that everything has a purpose. In the example of the Kula Ring, Malinowski observed natives giving gifts to people on other islands. He postulated that these “presents” served to show the wealth and generosity of the giver as well as cementing bonds between the islands. The functionalist theory has been used to explain the purpose of countless religious, political and social institutions since its foundation by Malinowski.

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown


Malinowski’s functionalism must be contrasted with his contemporary, the Englishmen Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. Radcliffe-Brown is considered the father of a powerful competing theory: structural functionalism. Radcliffe-Brown, an admirer of the work of Durkheim, believed that human societies functioned as “organism” through which the individual was the “cell.” This put him at odds with Malinowski, who believed that it was through the satisfaction of individual needs that societies function. Radcliffe-Brown’s beliefs on the matter can be succinctly identified in the following quote:

“Malinowski has explained that he is the inventor of functionalism, to which he gave its name. His definition of it is clear; it is the theory or doctrine that every feature of culture of any people past or present is to be explained by reference to seven biological needs of individual human beings. I cannot speak for the other writers to whom the label functionalist is applied by the authors, though I very much doubt if Redfield or Linton accept this doctrine. As for myself I reject it entirely, regarding it as useless and worse. As a consistent opponent of Malinowski’s functionalism I may be called an anti-functionalist.”

-A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. 1949. ‘Functionalism: A Protest, American Anthropologist 51(2): 320–321.

Like his rival, Radcliffe-Brown was also instrumental in expanding our understanding of anthropological theory. However, Radcliffe-Brown was far more focused on the group than Malinowski. This interest in the “societal organism” led him to focus on patterns of kinship which may be observed cross-culturally. Radcliffe-Brown would also later come to influence Lévi-Strauss through his work in analyzing myth structurally.


Read the following quote:

“Yet it must be remembered that what appears to us an extensive, complicated, and yet well ordered institution is the outcome of so many doings and pursuits, carried on by savages, who have no laws or aims or charters definitely laid down. They have no knowledge of the total outline of any of their social structure. They know their own motives, know the purpose of individual actions and the rules which apply to them, but how, out of these, the whole collective institution shapes, this is beyond their mental range. Not even the most intelligent native has any clear idea of the Kula as a big, organized social construction, still less of its sociological function and implications….The integration of all the details observed, the achievement of a sociological synthesis of all the various, relevant symptoms, is the task of the Ethnographer… the Ethnographer has to construct the picture of the big institution, very much as the physicist constructs his theory from the experimental data, which always have been within reach of everybody, but needed a consistent interpretation.”

Who said it? 

Read The Introduction to Malinowski’s (1932) Argonauts

Outdated and racist terminology aside, what point is this author trying to make?

Think of instances in your own daily lives, do you ever notice examples of this?

How does this concept of the individual clash with the “super-organic” proposed by other theorists?

Quotes to Ponder

An animal organism is an agglomeration of cells and interstitial fluids arranged in relation to one another not as an aggregate but as an integrated living whole. The system of relations by which these units ate related is the organic structure. As the terms are here used the organism is not itself the structure; it is a collection of unites (cells or molecules) arranged in a structure, i.e., in a set of relations; the organism has a structure. The structure is thus to be defined as a set of relations between entities. Over a period its constituent cells do not remain the same. But the structural arrangement of the constituent units does remain similar.

Who said this?

How can you apply the relevance of this author’s theoretical approach to a contemporary issue or problem?

Historical Particularism


Franz Boas distinguished American anthropology by challenging the tradition of unilinealism that was the long-standing theoretical model used by European anthropology. He discredited the method of evolutionary theories due their erroneous logic. He also fundamentally disagreed with the use of evolutionism to prove the racial superiority of Northern Europeans because he believed that all humans, regardless of their ethnicity and level of technological achievement, were equal. Boas’ viewpoint on the equality of humanity provided the model for cultural relativism, an attitude to be maintained by a researcher while conducting ethnographic research. In order to explain culture, Boas emphasized the need to examine it in its environmental and historical context. The latter was the most important influence on the development of a culture; it can be understood if we accept that societies could reach the same level of culture development through different paths. Boas was indifferent to theory and thought that it was a premature method of ethnography. Instead, he encouraged the use of inductive reasoning based on large amounts of data gathered from direct observation of a society to draw conclusions, which differed from evolutionists who tended to search for data that would fit their theories.

A Breakdown of “The Methods of Ethnology”

Boas begins by calling out the two forces in Anthropology that he felt needed to be contended with, Diffusion and Social Evolution. The former stating that Culture is not present naturally, but is imported from its root source; the latter, purports that cultures go through a series of classifications before they have reached that of the standard: European Societies. As you may recall, Boas believes in the equality of all persons and therefore all societies. It is important to note that Boas’ primary concern is the methods by which Ethnographic studies are conducted, not the theories behind them. As Boas would have it, ethnographers would collect data and interpret the data to form a conclusion, in direct contrast to the scientific method which calls for a theory or hypothesis that is to be tested, the text simplifies by calling Boas’ an inductive approach. The study of the Zuñi serve as a prime example of his concept of the supremacy of historical connections as the mold from which culture is formed.

A.L Kroeber was a student of Boas’ and expressed many of the same beliefs, like the necessity to have a historical perspective to understand culture and the equality of humanity. However, he differed from Boas in his assessment of the influence that the individual has on culture. For Kroeber, individuals did not play a significant role in cultural development and change; rather, historical trends and culture in society determined individual action. His concepts argued that culture cannot be reduced to individual psychology and that culture is a pattern that exceeds and control individuals which determines their human behavior.

A Breakdown of “Eighteen Professions”

In this reading, Kroeber outlined the items of belief that he believed should form the bedrock of anthropology.

1.) History is concerned with how social facts and society come together.

2.)Anthropology is not to  be concerned with the man, but rather what he has accomplished.

3.) Civilization, though a product of humanity, remains a superorganic, apart from humankind.

4.) Each subject has his own mind, but it should not be viewed as the source of his actions.

5.)History studies what an individual or group has done, its purpose is not to speculate as to the underlying causes.

6.) The individual serves no purpose to historical studies, not to say that they are invaluable, but they hold no truths for historical research.

7.) Civilization is not caused by geographic location. Kroeber uses agriculture to support this claim, agriculture is demanded by society, society decides how it is to be performed based on the specific environment, the environment did not spawn agriculture.

8-14.) In the intervening professions Kroeber states and restates the notion that despite their appearances, all societies have equal propensity for civilization, and each individual has the propensity to as educated or wise as the next. Therefore, there can be no stages of civilization, social standards, “ethnic minds”, or hereditary influence. This is an egalitarian perspective that is reminiscent of his teacher, Boas. The position that all

15.) Unlike the various sciences, there are no strict rules by which history must follow, the Illiad being a prime example of the age-old adage, ” all’s fair in love and war”, i.e. there are no rules. Paris can steal away a Grecian king’s wife for love, and countless men can lay down their lives and those that they laid low in the intervening conflict for the honor of “king/queen and country”, etcetera; Operation Iraqi Freedom, various other conflicts in the mid and far-East, and the “War on Terror” are no exceptions to this overarching theme.

16.) History is concerned, strictly, with what actually occurred with no interest given to what may have been the underlying causes of any specific event.

17.)From the 16th profession, it is apparent that what history lacks, as it should per Kroeber, is a study of the ultimate causes of any specific event.

18.) Kroeber ultimately rended a gap between History and the other sciences, saying that we could not be more different at a basic level of methodology and determination.

Discussion Questions

Contrast Boas’ approach to anthropology through historical particularism with the approach of cultural evolutionists, like L.H. Morgan. If the similar development of societies cannot be attributed to the existence of a universal, predetermined evolutionary pattern, then why, according to Boas, do these parallelisms appear?

What is Kroeber’s attitude toward the role and influence of an individual within a culture? How does it differ from Boas? What does it mean that society is “superorganic”?

Founders Dread

What is the differentiation of social fact vs. social current? And how did Durkheim come up with them? How did Suicide create Sociology? How is it different than Anthropology?


Nineteenth-Century Evolutionism

Nineteenth-Century Evolutionism

This was a period in science and human thought that affected great changes in how people understand the world and human development.

Notable people of this era include:
Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace,
Herbert Spencer,
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor,
Lewis Henry Morgan,
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Notable publications include:
-Herbert Spencer, The Social Organism (1860)
-Lewis Henry Morgan, Ethnical Periods (1877)
-Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook (1845-1846)
-Edward Burnett Tylor, Science of Culture (1871)


1. Herbert Spencer The Social Organism (1860)

2. -Lewis Henry Morgan, Ethnical Periods (1877)

The readings from this section share some similar tendencies, one among these is the idea of human interaction as an evolutionary process.  Spenser’s theory is very unilateral in suggesting that civilization progress, or evolve.  His writing gives an analogous view of civilization and human interaction as a biological organism, suggesting that the social factors of human interaction have evolved from simplistic to more complicated.  This is also intertwined with  authors such as Taylor, who also compare anthropology with the natural sciences, echoing the sentiments of Darwinian theory by applying the idea to human civilization.  Feuerbach takes this idea a step further with the productions of intercourse, adding more specific elements of human interaction into what is basically the same idea presented by Spencer and Taylor.   It is important here to focus on material and its role as a driving force in this evolutionary theory.

Based on this idea, and the more in-depth literature that supports it, we would like to discuss the following:

In the spirit of 19th Century Evolutionism:  Explain the evolution of culture in the terms of the evolution of life, or as an analogy of a living organism or body, or a progressive process of change, or as the development of mental capacities.  You may want to consider: the evolution of simple to complex societies, interdependency, class structure, religion, materialism, technology innovation or art, knowledge/ education, subsistence, roles and structure of the family, government,  division of labor, or speech.  How are all these ideas related, or how are all societies related to one another?  Is there a progression of society, and if there is, what is the ultimate goal of society?

Slides on Unilneal evolution(Mullooly)

Class and Busyness

Busyness is an understatement for the majority of people. Busyness can be overwhelming because it involves constantly moving from one place to another, formal and informal conversations, and thinking of what else needs to be checked off the list. Individual’s obligations to their family, school, work, organizations, and other activities define ‘busyness’ in Darrah’s book, “Busier than Ever!” The question remains: Is all obligations essential to living and functioning well if people are growing unconscious of their reasons for their busyness?

It is quite impossible to be consciously aware of all decisions and actions we do throughout the day. As creatures of habit, humans grow accustom to doing these in a particular way because they do not have waste time thinking why they do something a certain way. The habits were already reasoned to be beneficial and helps conserve time. The families found eating dinner together as essential for maintaining a healthy family; However, I argue that solitude is equally essential because it is important to have time to think, reflect and question on actions and decisions to prevent miscommunication with others and decompress from being overwhelmed. Many times families were aware of their structure within their family and their agency in choosing the activities they centralized their ‘free time,’ around. By stating their goals for their family and themselves which often were economic and social success, they assumed all their decisions and actions were towards their goals.

As a philosophy student, it is necessary to immerse myself into solitude. Introspection helps bring awareness of my actions, decisions, and desires. It allows me to refresh my mind of why I am doing certain things, what I am doing wrong and what can be changed? Should it be changed or is it something else distracting me? The time to deliberate and weigh out my priorities are extremely changing. Sometimes technology helps me stay on top of things. There are many productivity apps which I use to set reminders and make daily lists, but they are simply reminders not motivators. I can only motivate myself to do the right things, but it is difficult when the wrong distractions are constantly present.

There are always going to be distractions in life when you are busy with work, papers, classes, and other priorities. It has been a challenge for me to choose the right distractions when the wrong distractions are immediately pleasing. For instance, this semester I spent most of my days in the library or in the Philosophy’s department conference room. If I was tempted to go over a friend’s house I would have to think about it and when I saw one of my professors walk into the conference room it reminded me of what I should be doing since I know what is the right thing to do. Especially if I saw my professor for ancient philosophy after hearing the lectures and reading Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle there was a constant internal battle against my Reason and my Appetite that could not be ignored. By attending the Ethic Center lectures throughout the semester was a good distraction since many of the lectures helped brooding my understanding of issues discussed in my courses. By keeping busy I refrained from my inclination to do many non-educational and recreational activities.

There were many times in the semester I was unreasonably relaxed despite having tests to study for and papers due. The hardest thing was not driving to school, but getting out of my car and walking to class. I was busy working, studying, writing, but mostly deliberating over my actions. It was when I was consciously thinking about the right from the wrong actions that I usually made or attempted to make the right decision, because I remembered my goal: graduate school. Although, my weakness of will overruled my reasoning to go to class or spend more time writing I was and am continuing growing conscious of the necessary steps that leads to attaining a bigger goal.

Unlike the middle class families who centralize their schedules around their children sporting events, education, volunteering, other activities, and optimizing their time to spent as a family and technological devices is quite different from the scheduling in lower class families.

Being raised by a single mother, there was no ‘free time’ to spend on volunteering and other activities. My sister and I both struggled in school despite hiring tutors and occasionally helping us with homework my mother trusted the after school programs to help us. Eventually, I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia in my early teens and was medicated for it which helped me in school and helped my mother out from worrying about my academia. My mother worked two jobs and relied on family and friends for assistance if my sister or I were sick at school, needed to get an appointment, dropped off at dance practice or make us dinner if she was working late. Most of the scheduling evolved around the time and place to meet my father to get the child support and where to drop us off and pick us up when it was my father’s weekend. It was a constant flow of chaos and miscommunication. In retrospect, they both agreed they could have been better organized to reduce the amount of stress, miscommunication, and overall busyness.

The material infrastructure helped my mother and we communicate easier with text messaging and navigation, but ironically it drifted us away from family dinners and from conversations. As social networking became popular, my sister and I spent much of our time at home on social media and created a closer bond between us. My mother was rarely home because of work or going out with friends so she would send a text message to inform us one of us needed to cook dinner. When we were all home, someone was busy on the computer or watching a T.V. show or busy text messaging that family dinners were practically nonexistent. The advantage was keeping close with geographically distant family through social networks. In addition, my mother was not awake at night from worrying about our whereabouts because we would quickly inform her if we were going to be out late or spend the night at a friend’s.

With the holidays near, this is the time where I find busyness to be utterly pointless. Do you know how important it is for some people to write holiday cards to everyone? They waste an obscene amount of time writing to people who they do not talk to except during the holidays via holiday cards. Some people feel compelled to purchase gifts for family members they do not even like nor care to get to know yet they will leave Thanksgiving dinner early to wait in line at stores for Black Friday to buy gifts for people they do not like. I understand we live in a capitalist society and consumerism is our specialty but it extracts the meaning away from what is essentially the reason people celebrate the holidays.

Being stressed out over giving gifts or receiving them could be avoided if people took some time to think what the fuck is the meaning of it all. There is no meaning if all that matters is making sure everyone gets a card or a gift. Personally, I do not believe in celebrating Christmas but the meaning in celebrating Christmas with family is something admirable. The intimacy of seeing family you went all year without seeing is something worthy to value but the emphasis on gift-giving is absurd. Suddenly, people feel obligated to make sure the Christmas tree is filled with plethora of gifts.

Fortunately, these families were trying to do the right things and sought to remain harmonious. They do not express the same moral and ethical afflictions I have experienced hearing from other people express. Most families and individuals I know are below the middle class families. Primarily, the working class families who do not utilize their time nor focus on the same activities and other things.

by Chelsee Jacinto

Dance My Way There

My parents were always busy working. Most of my childhood was spent with my siblings at our grandparents which lived next door. My parents’ busyness drove themselves far away from us, but they still nature us to their fullest. My mother was always rushing every weekdays. She would wake us up for school and drops us off, goes back home babysit the little one and do chores, picks us up from school, drop us off at our grandparents, leave to work immediately, comes homes at midnight, showers, and then sleep. While my dad, wakes up early in the morning to got to work, comes home late at noon, makes us dinner, and puts us to sleep.

The busyness kept my parents from spending family time with us. When they were home on the weekends, they were just too tired to do anything so they would stay home, otherwise, they help out the relatives like the usual with the religious parties. I always wonder why my parents had to work so long everyday. As a young child at that time, I came up with two thoughts. First one was they were worked hard everyday so that they would buy candies and toys just for us, and secondly, was so we can move into a nice new house with lots of room for our family. Obviously those were just part of the reasons, the real reason was to keep they family healthy and live through this new economy. Being immigrants was hard on the family because my parents lack writing and speaking English so finding jobs was hard. Us, the children, we were expected to do good in school so we could get a good job for ourselves and help them out. They never ask us how we were doing in school, especially when we needed help most because being immigrants they had little knowledge of the new world. Never really gave us the chance to understand one another. I wouldn’t blame my parents for not being able to spend time with us because being immigrants working your way up in the America was difficult. A new language, economy, government, stereotype, and discrimination were some of the many things they face as immigrants.

In the book Busier Than Ever of chapter two about the the Trans, it states, “Binh and Sheila knew from experience how hard life could be, and they tried to shield their children from suffering as they had. They did this by utilizing adult-sponsored activities for their children in the fervent hope that this would hide the economic straits this family fallen into. More important, they expected their guidelines to lead their children along a path of educational and economic success at the same time as they reinforced strong family bonds.” (39). The example of this biological family enforces that family was most important. the parents chooses what is important and they will work around it if they have to. Of course this will create many buffers for both the parents and children because of work, childcare, and economic issues they face everyday and the children have education, activities inside and outside of school. The family will have hardships but overcoming it is just on the individuals’ will to change for the better.

It was the fact that my parents busyness was driven by the main structure of being immigrants. The structure led to many things they had to cope with such as the economy but it soon became a buffer as well. Also driven by the structure of the “American Dream,” they push us to be successful and didn’t want us to suffer as much as they did before coming to the United States of America. My parents didn’t have strong enforcement on family bonding due to that but these are possible reasons why my parents too busy to spend time the family.

by Thai Vang

We Must Learn How to be Hmong American

The older generations of the Hmong people often say that the younger ones are forgetting their culture. They often criticize that we are not preserving it and because of that, we will forget about our culture and background. However, I disagree with this and I believe we, the younger generation of Hmong, are still doing our part in preserving our culture. We are just doing it differently.

I think the biggest reason why the younger Hmong generation is so much different is because we live in a much different environment. In their native country, the Hmong were agrarian. Much of their economy was based on agriculture and it usually required the help of the entire household to manage one field. In western society, we are forced to find a way to make a living differently. The standard of living is different and independently managing a private land for agriculture is difficult due to competition in the market. There are simply better and easier ways to make a source of income rather than focusing on agriculture. Today, we do not have to rely on the entire household to contribute in providing income.

This brings me to the idea of the difference in Hmong families today and back then. Having children was an important part in marriage. It was a necessity. Children demonstrated a household’s status and provided a future source of income. Sons would grow up to help in the fields which would provide food and finances and daughters when married allowed the family to receive money from the bride price. Sons would carry their family’s name and reputation as the culture is based on a patrilineal descent system. Basically having children meant that families had more wealth and power in their society. Today, it seems to be much different. The costs of managing a family are expensive. The Hmong are one of the poorest ethnic groups in America. As a result, the family structures of Hmong families today are much different. The need of having a large family is not as valued as it was back then.

Marriage in America in the Hmong culture is different than it was back in their native land. Traditionally in a Hmong marriage, the bride is usually married to someone the family approves of and in most cases, it is an arranged marriage. Often the bride is only about 15 years old and is married to an older man. However, it is different today as most marriages between couples occur when they are in their 20s. According to a census report by Hmong National Development in 2013, married couple-households were on a decline since 2000. This shows evidence that many Hmong today are getting married less or at am older age.

Another noticeable difference in the Hmong community is the religion. Religion plays a large part in the Hmong culture. It acts a way to connect to the ancestors and in some cases it acts as a remedy to fix problems such as sickness. Religious leaders are called shamans are responsible for leading the house when rituals occur. Many Hmong today still follow Shamanism but with the influence of western culture, many Hmong in America have converted to Christianity. There exists criticism from the traditional Hmong that many Hmong who have converted have given up on their culture. This creates a gap between the younger and older generation as the older generation often sees this as a threat to the continuation of the Hmong culture.

As a Hmong American, my honest say is that the younger Hmong generations are not losing our culture but we are simply preserving it differently. We are more modernized and have adapted better to the western world. We have seen the struggles of our parents and have learned to do what it takes to avoid the issues they faced in adapting to their new home. Maybe we are not living up to the same expectations of how they grew up but that is because we live in a much different environment. The biggest difference between our view and their view is that we have accepted that the society we live in now is constantly changing and whether it is good or bad, we must learn to adapt so our children can learn what it is to be Hmong American. We are not losing our culture but we are simply preserving in a different way.

by Kao Lee


What exactly is time? The technical definition is “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole” but what does that mean? And why is it such a huge deal in our lives? We see time as an object of burden and something that has to be dealt with on a daily basis in order to have a problem free day. Time is the law. If we do not do something by this time on this day our entire schedule is off. Time is not the problem here, however.

In America we see time as how long we have to fit in as much as possible before we die. We count hours spent, hours to go, hours left until the end or beginning of another task. We are constantly on the go as to not waste too much time. Wasted time. That term comes from all the people who cannot have or just do not have any leisure time. Leisure time. I guess that’s a word that is defined when there needs to be a name for the time that we take when we are not working on moving our lives up the social ladder. If you asked America if there was a difference between leisure time and wasted time, the majority would probably say no because we as Americans see leisure time as the excess, the time off that we happen to have away from the busyness of our schedules. If we are not using all the time we are given to pursue what will improve our chances and our family’s chance in success then it is considered wasted.

The statistics do not lie either. In studies of the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are a total of 5 leisure hours and sports play in a day of people ages 15 and up. Sports are a full time job for most kids and adults, however, so that leisure time is essentially gone along with the rest of their day. The statistics show that watching TV is the most common thing to do in our leisure time which takes up 2.8 hours of our day. Next comes socializing and communicating with 39 minutes (which is probably a lot higher when social media comes into play) and in third is playing games: using a computer for leisure with 26 minutes. Now this is all average form the data collected in 2013 and all days of the week. These statistics prove that even in our leisure time, Americans are still doing something. We still feel the need to be constantly doing something to get ahead. There were only 18 minutes in a day to which we dedicated ourselves to sit and think about whatever our little hearts desire. Only 18 minutes in the 24 hours of our day. And that is an average which means there are a whole lot of people who just did not use their leisure time to just do nothing. They used up every single second possible in their day to get ahead and to just get things done around the house or projects from work or school. Humans need wiggle room. We need space to relax and think.

Culture has also dictated how many hours we spend working and giving up our leisure time. Studies have shown that people are working a lot more than they used to and that is what is expected of us. We come in earlier and leave later because that is what the boss wants then that is what they are going to get. In a lot of offices the worker bees need to get to the office before the Queen bee does and leave when or after they do just to keep afloat and keep their job. It is expected of us to live the “American Dream” and work our tails off while we are doing it. With that comes less, if any, leisure time.

It seems as if we are a people in constant need of acceptance from everyone: our peers, families and coworkers alike. If we do not receive their acceptance then we have failed. People say they do not care what others think of them but it seems as if trying to please others is in our DNA. If the social norm is that leisure time is wasted time then we automatically stay away from any sort of leisure time as acceptable and work constantly. We add things to our lives to make it seem as if we must. There is no downtime for ourselves. We have to cut back on what we do and what we think we have to do in order to make everyone else happy when in all reality we are the only ones we need to keep happy.

by Ambriel Whitaker

Is Technology Too Distracting?

Have you ever just stopped and observed the people around you while at work, at school, or even at home? I have and all I see most of the time is people using some form of technology. Some people are on their smartphones, others on their tablets, and there are those that are using a laptop and a phone at the same time. Sure, they may be doing some sort of work such as school work but who’s to say that they are not doing that, but rather, they are surfing the web, looking at videos or on Facebook? Heck, I have even seen a group of friends sitting together just on their phones minding their own business, lost in another world forgetting they are even with other people. This kind of makes me wonder, why do people use technology so much? Does all of this technology make people distracted from reality, that is, our priorities?

It is amazing when one realizes how far we have come in terms of technology. The first black and white television set was released in the middle of the 20th century, but was only those that could afford it had one in their household. Then the first cellular phone was released at the end of that century and was really expensive and heavy to carry as well. Now look where we are – just about everyone in the country has a flat screen TV in at least one room in the house and everyone in the family has a smart phone or some communication device. Not only that, computers and video game consoles are just about in every house as well, and they are always being used. When one is at home, the TV is usually on regardless if it is actually being watched. Now a lot of work, whether it is school related or bringing in work home from the office, the computer is used to type of documents or surf the web to get it done. When a gamer is done doing their work and finally have free time, they turn on their video game console and enjoy their rest of the day. When one is away from all those things and is bored, they hop onto their smartphone and get on Facebook or take a selfie to past the time. It is hard to imagine this not happen to any individual who has at least one of these things.

Speaking from personal experience, I have taken part in these activities so many times it is basically a daily ritual of mine. I am a college student and have my own smartphone that I barely got a year ago, a laptop, a TV, and more than one gaming console (seven to be exact including my laptop and phone). Here is my daily routine: wake up and usually the first thing I do in the morning is go on my phone and check Facebook, then I get ready and head for school on the bus and while I am on the bus I go on my phone again to repeat what I just did maybe an hour ago. Then, while at school when not in class, I do homework, but on breaks I am usually on Facebook (again), Youtube, and Netflix, or even playing a game. Once I get home, I go on Facebook again and watch something on Netflix while eating. Once I am done, I play a game into the night before going to bed. I repeat the entire the next day and the day after, and the after that and so. So most of my day is spent using some form of technology to the point where it has taken over my life. One could say I have an addiction problem.

To look at it from another perspective, I think people use technology so much because it either makes managing work much easier, offers a good way to relax, or perhaps a combination of the two. If you think about it, a modern-day computer with a keyboard and all the software that goes into typing a paper such as what I’m using now is a lot more efficient compared to what was once used – a type writer. Those devices are a thing of the past but were once used to get the job done. Although it could have been a tedious experience having to type up an entire paper, having to shift a certain part of the machine back to the left after typing a sentence, and if one made a mistake, they had to retype the entire page over again. With modern software, it allows the user to make any corrections needed before printing. Another example would be the telephone. Before all we had was a corded house phone which allowed the user only a limited space in to which to use it. Now we have smartphones that have no cords and can be used virtually anywhere and have internet access which allows the user to use commands similar to that of a computer which can come in handy for those on the go.

So how much is too much? Have we gotten to the point that we need some form of technology to fulfill some craving and that it is too addicting? Some would argue in favor of that because it is distracting. It makes us perform other activities other than what needs to be done. Some could say that, when it comes to children and video games, for example, it takes time away from the family and school-work. Charles Darrah, author of “Busier Than Ever”, reflects how busy people in society can be for various reason and notes how when it comes to children and education, they can be very distracted. He mentions one family tried to be responsible parents, “What would make us more effective parents would be to get rid of what makes us ineffective: television and video games… it’s when they become an obsession, they [children] don’t pay attention” (182). As extreme as this scenario appears, I think this is most common in children who are not really into school-work, but rather, play games and with their toys.

I remember as a kid my parents put forth this rule of “Do your homework first and then you can play but only for an hour”. Admittedly, I know I broke this rule more than once but I can honestly say that it instilled this “value” of putting my work first, a majority of the time anyway. As far as I can remember, I always did my work and got A’s in practically all of my classes from elementary to high school. Obviously, I would always play video games at home either before and/or after I did my homework. The point is, I did my work on time.

So how distracting is technology? Well, I think it depends on who you ask. You have many different kinds of people walking around with various personalities. If one examines a straight A college student, chances are they are spending more time on getting their work done so there really is not a lot of free time for them. If someone is not into video games at all, they might spend more time doing other things like working or replace that with more emphasis on TV (I know a few people who do this). I think technology becomes a distraction only because certain devices offer features that offer that temporary feeling of satisfaction or an escape from daily problems. For example, the smartphone I have has an app where I can access my college student account and access class materials online without needing a laptop so I can just read an article a professor posted while riding the Fax bus and not have to wait to get home to use my laptop. Although I have other apps such as Facebook, Youtube, and various games so like with any other person, I tend to get tired of reading and want to do something more “fulfilling” and automatically resort to Facebook even I just checked it a few minutes prior to reading that same article even though I know maybe one or no new piece of news has come up. So yes technology can be useful in making life easier but it comes with setbacks of its own which distracts users. It all comes down to the individual in trying to manage their time wisely.

by Dominique Zamora

Busier Than Ever

With the Holiday season in full swing families are pushed to their bounds as parents struggle to finely orchestrate plans and juggle responsibilities. I am the youngest out of my siblings and I enjoy observing their lives unfold into chaos as life throws them responsibilities that I know I will one day face myself. My own family is currently breaking into a new generation as my oldest Brother has two children of his own, five year-old son Jake and a four year-old daughter Natalie. He has so stressed and stretched to limit with his time and finances that I’m surprised that he isn’t shooting steam out of his ears. I’ve been recently reading a copy the incredibly applicable novel Busier than Ever: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down and every time I’m flipping through the pages I always come to think about my eldest brother’s hectic lifestyle. He and his wife are both intelligent hard working professionals, but they are strapped for time as they are simultaneously raising two children. This is especially evident during the holiday seasons as they rush to buy gifts, take kids to activities, accommodate family gatherings on either side, as well as maintain their own professional careers. They both work professional full time careers that require a certain level of skill and clear mindsets.

My older brother Josh is a Fresno City Firefighter and his wife Zara is a Paramedic for American Ambulance. The first thing that screamed to me from the novel was the hugely increasing number of duel income families that were mentioned and that my own brother fit the profile, in fact so do my Mother and Father on that note. This is a major component if not the key component of the increase of busyness in American families. Having to send both parents to work full time jobs in order to live a middle-class lifestyle has major implications. It means there no longer is a parent that is free to stay at home and tend to wars on the domestic front. Those domestic responsibilities then have to be juggled around work and split between the parents in their time off. It is without a doubt hectic and parents often look to family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles to watch their children in an attempt to lessen the burden of expensive day car. With two incomes the obvious outcome is that you’ll be making twice as much money. Though in reality with both parents working that means that the children would have to put into a daycare which cost a small fortune over time. Then you may also have to pay for a gardener and other maintenance professionals to do jobs that you could have done on your own if you just had the time.

With careers that can be quite intensive and sometimes graphic, it is important to keep some of their work separate from their family life. Although as the novel repeatedly emphasized such as with the Jackson family is that it is nearly impossible to fully separate all aspects of work from your family life. In which Vic Jackson who works such a hectic schedule as an engineer that his family activities end up being rushed and held at odd hours. This is a similar schedule to my Brother’s wife Zara’s work life as a Paramedic. She’s always being asked to work random shifts with odd hours where she may be coming and going in the middle of the night. While on the other hand, my brother’s schedule as a fire fighter is very different, he’ll work four forty-eight hour shifts and then have four days off in a row. In the novel Humberto Mendoza works as a firefighter and manages a similar routine. Although as the book mentioned about Humberto, Firefighters are allowed to request off days in anticipation of an upcoming event and are quite reliably given off the days asked for. In my Brother’s circumstance, he is also usually given off the days asked for which works great for him since his wife is not as fortunate on that front. In her case she is given a rough schedule often with odd hours and then also expected to accommodate occasional requests to pick up shifts. This means that Josh usually ends up working his more flexible schedule around his wife’s more rigid schedule to fill in holes. Although because of the nature of their two completely different forms of scheduling there will often be nights where Zara will have to work and Josh is pulling a forty-eight hour shift. So the two little rascals will get pawned off on Family members who usually graciously accept the children for the night. Differences in scheduling and flexibility often lead to as well.

As American Society becomes more in depth and interconnected our lives increase in complexity and intensity. We as humans follow the ever changing social structure not only helps define who we are, but how we perform our actions and interact with one another. Busier than Ever gives a glimpse into the lives of American families and gives a sense of how we have changed the way we manage our time. Although it’s more than just time management its fundamental similarities in how we balance work, family and an ever changing technological society. For better or for worse American Families have changed greatly in how parents provide the necessary amenities for their families. Societies are constantly dynamically morphing to best suit the times, and families are direct reflections of the societies in which they live in. Our modern fast paced families mirror and are directly influenced by our fast-paced American society.

by Kevin Wichman

Everyday life

Stress, stress, and more stress, when does it stop? The today stress has become a big part of our everyday life. Well, people try to find ways to escape, many people are can feel overwhelmed with different emotions, that make it hard to concentrate. People find many ways to relieve tension, before it leads to stress. Some might use traveling, reading, walking, even painting and or watch a movie just to relieve that pressure that builds up.

Stress builds up in different ways it comes from family life and school, it filled with the pressures of a sick parent and the lack of quality time with the family. Even the busyness of college and having to finish all assignments by the deadline can be stressful, at times I feel like I’m working a second job with no pay. My job which seems to be more structured, seems to be the only part of my life we’re, “I am in control.” All of these types of factors just add to my already hectic life, whether good or bad its life and in the end, I’ll tell myself it was all worth it.

In the book Busier then ever, by Charles N. Darrah, James M. Freeman, and J.A. English-Lueck, revolved around family involvement and explores fieldwork within these families and how they deal with stress and busyness. One example of stress within the book was, “The Jackson family,” who were working on buying their first new home and found themselves stress and overwhelmed with all that concerns that are involved in buying a home.  In todays world we find ourselves competing for a better grade or even a promotion at work, and in some cases the attention of someone else. For many people this emotion is nothing new just another part of our life, for others its hell to live with. People seem to be willing to take on more responsibility and allow for more stress, they tend to reach for more opportunities to build a better life. Some people even believe that the busier you are the more important you look. Even parents seem to be reaching for the stars, or at less after school activities that can give their children a better chance at a better life. Many parents tend to sign their children up for extracurricular activities never once thinking this might be enough or does the child want to play? Regardless parents just continue to think whats best for the child is more, more, more without realizing enough is enough. Parents tend to believe that if their child is not part of the group, or team he or she might miss out on an opportunity or even a chance to be involved and meet more children who might give them that competition to push them to go further in life. Many of the extracurricular activities go into the weekends, well parents act as a chauffeur and manager trying to keep their kids busy and focused well keeping their family life intact. In the book, “Busier than ever” talks about how families focus and find a way to create the good life. Many parents stress out or get over excited, believing they are not doing enough for their children, and that they seek to find others ways to add on other activities and keep their children busy and well balanced. Parents remind themselves that the reason their children play sports is to learn self-discipline, learn conflict resolution and teach sportsmanship. At the same time whispering in their child’s ear win, win, win.

For the children this becomes overwhelming and stressful, and just more pressure to make the parents happy, well trying to balance school work and all the extracurricular actives that make this a stressful time. I think many parents forget how it was to be a kid, or how the weekends were before. The weekends were all about riding our bikes, hangout with friends or just lounging around, totally stress free. As a parent I can relate to this, and I also remember signing my kids up for everything and at times thinking, if I was doing enough for them, not realizing, I might just be adding more stress on their busy lives. As a parent, I always had a purpose for all the extracurricular activities, and that was to make sure my kids stayed busy, found their passion and focused on their life, not to mention it looks good on a college application.

by Veronica Tovar

Culture Shift: The “Perfect” American Family

What do you think of when you picture the “ideal” American family? Personally, Norman Rockwell’s iconic oil painting Freedom from Want comes to mind ( ). It’s an image that most Americans have encountered. In it, a white family is seated around a table as the patriarch and matriarch of the family present the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving feast. The family, as it’s depicted, perfectly follows the “biogenetic” model, a view of kinship that emphasizes the “blood ties” between family members. This model is upheld as the ideal throughout American culture and many people pursue it as they form their own families. Only one third actually achieve this model, however. Despite the ideal, there are numerous variants of the American family: families divided by divorce and rebuilt with the addition of step parents; a single mother raising a child; or a homosexual couple adopting a child across transracial lines.

In her book, Broken Links, Enduring Ties, Linda Seligmann examines transracial and transnational adoption as a method of forming families. Many adopting parents that she interviewed were concerned with the obstacles and discrimination that their children would face in the world, by schoolmates, family members, and strangers. However, depending on the racial group that the parents were adopting from, their approaches to making peace with their contradiction to the ideal differed. For example, those adopting from Russia often did so because they wished to “pass” as a biologically-linked family, expressing the desire to protect their family’s privacy from prying eyes. They best way to do this, they determined, was to simply fit in. Thus, their actions served to conform to this structure present in American society. For families adopting from a visibly different racial group, like Asian or African, the approach was much different. They chose instead to field the invasive inquisition day to day and adapt to life as a mixed-race family formed through adoption. They were palpably uncomfortable as they learned ethnic hair care, sought out new acquaintances who had the same racial background as their child, and tried to instill a cultural appreciation in their children of their native land. These families act with agency by ignoring the ideal image, which seemed to occur more frequently than those hoping to “pass”.

In most cases, except for those attempting to “pass”, families were open about what made them different from the perceived norm. This is why I believe that the biogenetic form of family isn’t far away from becoming outdated. The Rockwell painting I mentioned in the beginning is a relic of the 1930s, where the nuclear family with a heterosexual, procreative couple lived in one household with their children. Many cultural shifts have occurred over the past 80 years that have seriously affected the family structure. For example, women are extremely active in the work force now and no longer dependent on a male partner to support her and any children she may have. Thus, she has the option to remain unmarried if she becomes pregnant, or she can form a family on her own through adoption or artificial insemination. Similarly, homosexual couples are rapidly gaining acceptance before the law and in their communities and forming their own families, often through adoption.

To highlight this shifting view of family with an example from pop culture, I would cite the TV show “Modern Family”. This show features three family units: the traditional nuclear, heterosexual family; the homosexual couple building a family through adoption; and a new family formed through remarriage. This is much more representative of the variety in family types that are now found in American society. Furthermore, its presence in the media and its popularity in American households demonstrate that people identify with it. To me, this is a sign that this show serves as a mirror of society as it exists in reality, instead of prolonging the outdated biogenetic model of family.

To sum up, there is a large culture shift currently occurring in America that is altering the way that people view family formation. The biogenetic model of family is rapidly becoming outdated, due to factors such as increased independence for women and acceptance of non-traditional, homosexual couples. Perhaps some may view this change as a “breakdown” in family values that our country was built upon. I, however, see it very differently. The acceptance of non-traditional families as mainstream is progress for our society. To hold onto a relic of the past in an increasingly globalized world would be to deny the change that is happening all around us. Today, we have more options than ever to build fulfilling family lives, and to deny that would simply rob us of a multitude of opportunities to achieve satisfaction with our endeavors.

by Brionna Mendoza

Kinship and Relation to Modern Times

The concept of Kinship as defined by anthropologist is a web of social relationships that are very important for most human societies. In the book by Linda Stone, Kinship and Gender: An Introduction the topic of kinship in differing societies is on display, allowing the reader the opportunity to evaluate different forms of kinship as well as gender treatment other than the “social norm“ we are used too . There are several examples that through the course of this class have stood out due to being prime learning examples of the structure of various kinship relationships throughout history as well as across the current world.

A very important issue that was addressed is the fact that our own culture within American society is massively different depending on varying factors such as family marital status, size of family (such as being raised by a single parent as an only child versus being raised by both parents in a large household) , area where raised, etc. When you take a look at just how our own society works it’s easy to get a better understanding of our own neighbors by comparing and contrasting our differing situations.

Various cases are compared and contrasted throughout all of Stone’s book. By looking at case studies so different from our own society it’s clear to see just how many radical changes from our treatment of Kin to other societies’ treatment of their own. A clear example of this is found in the case of the Nuer and the Nepalese Brahman tribes. Both of these groups had very radically different treatment of women as well as the amount of sexual autonomy they received. Also the amount of power matriarchal and patriarchal figures received was immense and demonstrated a lot about how both cultures respected their elders. After reading about both of these cases it’s easy to begin to compare their society to our own, such as how the head of the family gets a large sum of respect like in American culture.

Another very important historical kinship that stood out was the various relationships of Julius Caesar and how the helped him grow to be one of the most powerful men in history. By having so many different marriages as well as becoming close with allies and enemies through family marriages show how easily one can manipulate the power of kinship and relations to gain something desired. The specific case was an excessively large one allowing for an extreme amount of power gain. In Caesar’s case, he not only used himself and his own kinship ties to gain power but he also used his children to gain alliances, by forcing them to marry and sometimes soon there after divorce a rival family simply for political gain when necessary. This also shows an example of often times the little worth of children in Ancient Rome. Although to many this may seem terribly manipulative on the parents part, it’s not too wildly different from modern day “arranged” marriages between wealthy families in the United States to help make sure their children marry someone else from a well off family.

It is shown throughout all of Stone’s book that throughout the history of the world, as well as around the globe today there have been hundreds if not thousands of varying examples of kinship. Some examples are variations on kinship we are currently familiar with while others are so completely different and radical compared to our own they may even be hard to comprehend. Although they may all seem so different if we simply all came together to get a better understanding of each other than maybe things would be a change in a positive way for our society.

by Quinn Slatic


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