Many families across the US will gather together tomorrow to feast and give thanks. But how many have ever questioned the true origins of the Thanksgiving holiday tradition? Indian Country Today Media asked the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Ramona Peters, to share the Wampanoag side.
As a child, what were you told about the history behind Thanksgiving? What do you tell your own children? Do you celebrate this holiday? If so, how? If not, why not? Please leave your comments below.
Last month, I attended the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, and I had the privilege of presenting on a panel with two students from my cohort in the MACS program, as well as our academic director, Amy Skillman. The theme of this year’s conference was cultural sustainability, so it was a great opportunity for us to dialogue with folklorists and scholars in related disciplines, to share some of our own thoughts and research and to hear what the term “cultural sustainability” brings to mind for those who may not have discussed it or contemplated it as much as we have in our courses. Although I was only able to attend a few panel sessions out of many with fascinating topics, I learned a lot just from conversations with other scholars between sessions. Overall, I came away from the conference encouraged about the possibilities that we can discover and create in this field.
One of the most interesting things I learned came from Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, who talked about the idea of “smellscapes” in her paper on the “Santeria’s Sexualities” panel. I am fascinated by the role of the senses in ritual as well as the arts, and I will be thinking more about the olfactory aspect of cultural experience from now on. However, my greatest benefit from this AFS meeting, by far, was the time I spent with Jeff Todd Titon, whose work in ethnomusicology has been very influential on my thinking over the last year. We were paired with each other for the mentoring program, which I highly recommend to graduate students who attend future AFS meetings. We were able to get acquainted at one of many fun, casual receptions, where we also had a great chat with Bill Ivey, former National Endowment for the Arts chairman. Later, we attended a panel of Jeff’s former dissertation advisees, one of whom spoke about something very similar to my research interests: musicians’ perceptions of themselves and their bodies. I got to meet with these ethnomusicologists after the session, and hearing more about their research and career paths was very helpful for me as I am thinking about my own future in academia.
As a MACS student, I was thrilled to hear Rory Turner’s plenary address on the opening night of the conference. His thoughtful consideration of this “collision of keywords” – cultural sustainability – brought to mind some of the valuable concepts I have learned from him and other Goucher professors: lessons from folklore, anthropology, environmental studies, and the intersections of so many disciplines and interests. With due regard for the problems in defining this term, Rory’s talk provided ample motivation for the growth of our field as a response to very real societal and environmental threats against people and their cultural traditions. “Let us invite people to love what they love,” he challenged us, offering a sense of purpose to all of the academic discussions that took place throughout the meeting. I am grateful to have met several folklorists who are already answering this call: not only do they love what they do, but they constantly seek out ways to sustain opportunities for loving the cultural worlds in which people live and work.
|Benjamin Bean, MA in Cultural Sustainability 2015
Ben has spent much of his life writing and performing music, and he has been actively involved in the Philadelphia reggae scene for several years. His interests in culture, religion, and Afro-Caribbean music have led him to an academic inquiry into the relationships between artistic expression and social identity, with a particular focus on the music and ideology of Rastafari. After graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Letters, Arts, and Sciences, and a minor in Environmental Inquiry, Ben discovered that the MACS program would be a great way to maintain his interdisciplinary course of study while pursuing a career as a professor of anthropology and ethnomusicology.
A fellow MACS graduate posted a link to Jimmy Nelson’s photography project “Before They Pass Away,” and invited thoughts from MACSers and friends. Certainly, the title alone is enough to spark discussion; the indigenous people that Jimmy photographed are living people with living cultures. His choice of words suggests that they have no choice, that their path has been decided and he is the “hero,” a self-proclaimed “last visual witness” to capture the images.
An interesting discussion ensued and questions of intention (the trade book he produced sells for $150.00; the collector’s edition for $8,750.00); respect - of community and culture – particularly when you are the uninvited guest; the possibility of these photos to serve as documentation, in spite of the photographer’s egotistical approach; and authenticity (he directed the photo shoots and on more than one occasion, chose unnatural poses, required traditional dress – even for those that do not typically wear their traditional dress, and asked the people he was photographing to pose in dangerous places where they would not traditionally go, all for the sake of his photos. The video on his website actually boasts, ”Getting them exactly where Jimmy wanted them to be took patience on both sides. Sometimes it took as much as three hours to take just one picture…As always, Jimmy will not accept anything less than perfection. Once he has an image in his mind, it’s best not to stand in his way. He’s on a photographic mission.”)
What do you think of this project? Is there any value in it? Please leave your comments below.
One of the most common questions I get asked from prospective MACS students and a question that some current students and grads may be asking is this: What kind of careers might a MACS graduate pursue?
I believe the job possibilities are as diverse as the MACS faculty, students, and network. Just a glimpse into the faculty’s areas of interest and expertise and a quick scan of the research recent grads conducted for their Capstone projects should give you some small indication of the variety of interests, experiences, skills, and knowledge that converge in the MACS program, and some hope for equally diverse career possibilities.
If you are looking for a career related to Cultural Sustainability, here are some places to start:
If you have other job search resources for fellow MACSers, please share them in the comments section below.
Is anyone familiar with Bill Pfeiffer? Attended his Wild Earth Intensives? I came across this article and would love to hear any thoughts you MACSers might have.
I was surprised to see the self-proclaimed “Warrior Princess,” Mindy Budgor, appear on a popular morning show. And I was beyond disturbed to hear the hosts of the show shower her with praise. Her self-righteousness and blatant disrespect of Maasai traditions is an embarrassment to all women and a threat to Maasai culture and the women who are fighting their own battles there. People like her perpetuate suspicion of American intentions abroad and encourage similar disrespectful and damaging behavior. People in the public eye – such as the hosts of the show – have an opportunity to expose people like her; instead they praised her as an “inspiration.”
I wandered to her website – perhaps in search of some shred of decency, a public apology for her ignorance and exploitation, or some indication that this was all a sick joke – only to find this self-important and ironic (she claims to be fighting governmental policies that threaten Maasai culture…yet she is responsible for disrupting it herself) description of her book and letters she wrote to her brother – in which she mentions her Chanel bags and Discover card – and a rep at Under Armour (apparently in an attempt to get sponsorship from the athletic wear company?!).
I was thankful to find that The Guardian article, “Mindy’s Masai Mara adventure is an insult to us all,” gave a much more thoughtful assessment of Mindy than the morning show did. I have written to the show and will be writing to Mindy. Feel free to share your own thoughts with her: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is always encouraging to see positive, creative collaboration across disciplines, particularly when the conversation involves sustainability. On August 13, 2014, the Summer 2013 Mississippi Project III brought together professors, scholars, and others interested in integrating sustainability in the classroom. The workshop was led by Dr. Connie Frey Spurlock, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) sustainability faculty fellow; and Kevin Adkins, SIUE sustainability officer. It was attended by a diverse group that included professors from English, anthology, and sociology departments as well as others, like Dr. Susan Murray, assistant professor in the Department of Accounting in the SIUE School of Business accounting departments, that have a shared passion for a more comprehensive approach. “Today, it’s not just enough to ask the question of whether or not we made money,” she said. “We have to consider – people, the planet and profits – that is the Triple Bottom Line.”
Perhaps some MACSers can join the conversation next year, and grow our network of sustainability-minded scholars and practitioners. To read more about the Mississippi Project, check out this Edwardsville Intelligencer article.
On August 4, 2013, the second group of MACS graduates received their MA in Cultural Sustainability. The diversity of our interests – and applicability and reach of the work we do – is evident in the various Capstone projects produced. Here are a few words about these projects, from some of the graduates themselves: Continue reading »
This short documentary featuring the Culture Scholars program at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine was created by Jamie Andrew (2013). The Culture Scholars program was the topic of her Capstone project.
While searching for information on travel in Costa Rica, I came across this brief list of tips for traveling sustainably in Costa Rica. What does “traveling sustainably” mean to you? Is “traveling sustainably” a real possibility or is the phrase an oxymoron? What resources do you use when planning your travels, with regard to cultural and environmental sustainability? Please share your thoughts and resources below in the comments section.