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Cultural Practices That Sustain Family and Community Life
Whether related by biology, marriage, circumstance, or choice, aunts embody a uniquely flexible familial role. The aunt-niece/nephew relationship—though often overlooked—is critical and complex, one that appears at the core of a resilient, healthy family life.
In this engaging book, Laura Ellingson and Patricia Sotirin construct a consideration of “aunts” that moves from noun to verb. “Aunts” is more than a group of people or a role; instead, “to aunt” is a practice, something people “do.” Some women “aunt” as second mothers, friends, or mentors, while others play more peripheral roles. In either case, aunts nonetheless significantly impact their nieces and nephews’ life choices.
Drawing on personal narratives that represent a rich cross section of society, Ellingson and Sotirin construct a cohesive story of the diversity of aunting experiences in the contemporary United States. Skillfully written, Aunting recovers the enormous potential of this dynamic kinship relationship and offers a model for understanding and supporting the variety of families in society today.
"Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes provides a pregnant opportunity to integrate specific Mesoamerican materials into the wider discussions of major theoretical issues in the general and comparative history of religions."—History of Religions
A result of four years of cooperative research between the University of Colorado and the Templo Mayor Project of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes (formerly available as To Change Place) offers new interpretive models from the fields of archaeoastronomy, history of religion, anthropology, art history, and archaeology.
Festivals of Reconquest in Mexico and Spain
In villages and towns across Spain and its former New World colonies, local performers stage mock battles between Spanish Christians and Moors or Aztecs that range from brief sword dances to massive street theatre lasting several days. The performances officially celebrate the triumph of Spanish Catholicism over its enemies. Such an explanation does not, however, account for the tradition’s persistence for more than five hundred years nor for its widespread diffusion. In this perceptive book, Max Harris seeks to understand the "puzzling and enduring passion" of both Mexicans and Spaniards for festivals of moros y cristianos. He begins by tracing the performances’ roots in medieval Spain and showing how they came to be superimposed on the mock battles that had been part of pre-contact Aztec calendar rituals. Then, using James Scott’s distinction between "public" and "hidden transcripts," he reveals how, in the hands of folk and indigenous performers, these spectacles of conquest became prophecies of the eventual reconquest of Mexico by the defeated Aztec peoples. Finally, he documents the early arrival of native American performance practices in Europe and the shift of moros y cristianos from court to folk tradition in Spain. Even today, as lively descriptions of current festivals make plain, mock battles between Aztecs, Moors, and Christians remain a remarkably sophisticated vehicle for the communal expression of dissent.
Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition
One of the first women’s organizations to mask and perform during Mardi Gras, the Million Dollar Baby Dolls redefined the New Orleans carnival tradition. Tracing their origins from Storyville-era brothels and dance halls to their re-emergence in post-Katrina New Orleans, author Kim Marie Vaz uncovers the fascinating history of the “raddy-walking, shake-dancing, cigar-smoking, money-flinging” ladies who strutted their way into a predominantly male establishment. The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization of African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s red-light district to compete with other Black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Part of this event involved the tradition of masking, in which carnival groups create a collective identity through costuming. Their baby doll costumes—short satin dresses, stockings with garters, and bonnets—set against a bold and provocative public behavior not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic. Over time, different neighborhoods adopted the Baby Doll tradition, stirring the creative imagination of Black women and men across New Orleans, from the downtown Tremé area to the uptown community of Mahalia Jackson. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through one hundred years with photos, articles, and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups, emphasizing these organizations’ crucial contribution to Louisiana’s cultural history.
Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity
Statistics show that black males are disproportionately getting in trouble and being suspended from the nation's school systems. Based on three years of participant observation research at an elementary school, Bad Boys offers a richly textured account of daily interactions between teachers and students to understand this serious problem. Ann Arnett Ferguson demonstrates how a group of eleven- and twelve-year-old males are identified by school personnel as "bound for jail" and how the youth construct a sense of self under such adverse circumstances. The author focuses on the perspective and voices of pre-adolescent African American boys. How does it feel to be labeled "unsalvageable" by your teacher? How does one endure school when the educators predict one's future as "a jail cell with your name on it?" Through interviews and participation with these youth in classrooms, playgrounds, movie theaters, and video arcades, the author explores what "getting into trouble" means for the boys themselves. She argues that rather than simply internalizing these labels, the boys look critically at schooling as they dispute and evaluate the meaning and motivation behind the labels that have been attached to them. Supplementing the perspectives of the boys with interviews with teachers, principals, truant officers, and relatives of the students, the author constructs a disturbing picture of how educators' beliefs in a "natural difference" of black children and the "criminal inclination" of black males shapes decisions that disproportionately single out black males as being "at risk" for failure and punishment. Bad Boys is a powerful challenge to prevailing views on the problem of black males in our schools today. It will be of interest to educators, parents, and youth, and to all professionals and students in the fields of African-American studies, childhood studies, gender studies, juvenile studies, social work, and sociology, as well as anyone who is concerned about the way our schools are shaping the next generation of African American boys. Anne Arnett Ferguson is Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies and Women's Studies, Smith College.
Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States
Bananas, the most frequently consumed fresh fruit in the United States, have been linked to Miss Chiquita and Carmen Miranda, “banana republics,” and Banana Republic clothing stores—everything from exotic kitsch, to Third World dictatorships, to middle-class fashion. But how did the rise in banana consumption in the United States affect the banana-growing regions of Central America? In this lively, interdisciplinary study, John Soluri integrates agroecology, anthropology, political economy, and history to trace the symbiotic growth of the export banana industry in Honduras and the consumer mass market in the United States. Beginning in the 1870s when bananas first appeared in the U.S. marketplace, Soluri examines the tensions between the small-scale growers, who dominated the trade in the early years, and the shippers. He then shows how rising demand led to changes in production that resulted in the formation of major agribusinesses, spawned international migrations, and transformed great swaths of the Honduran environment into monocultures susceptible to plant disease epidemics that in turn changed Central American livelihoods. Soluri also looks at labor practices and workers' lives, changing gender roles on the banana plantations, the effects of pesticides on the Honduran environment and people, and the mass marketing of bananas to consumers in the United States. His multifaceted account of a century of banana production and consumption adds an important chapter to the history of Honduras, as well as to the larger history of globalization and its effects on rural peoples, local economies, and biodiversity.
Life and Death in Guatemala, Second Revised Edition
Though a 1996 peace accord brought a formal end to a conflict that had lasted for thirty-six years, Guatemala’s violent past continues to scar its troubled present and seems destined to haunt its uncertain future. George Lovell brings to this revised and expanded edition of A Beauty That Hurts decades of fieldwork throughout Guatemala, as well as archival research. He locates the roots of conflict in geographies of inequality that arose during colonial times and were exacerbated by the drive to develop Guatemala’s resources in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The lines of confrontation were entrenched after a decade of socioeconomic reform between 1944 and 1954 saw modernizing initiatives undone by a military coup backed by U.S. interests and the CIA. A United Nations Truth Commission has established that civil war in Guatemala claimed the lives of more that 200,000 people, the vast majority of them indigenous Mayas. Lovell weaves documentation about what happened to Mayas in particular during the war years with accounts of their difficult personal situations. Meanwhile, an intransigent elite and a powerful military continue to benefit from the inequalities that triggered armed insurrection in the first place. Weak and corrupt civilian governments fail to impose the rule of law, thus ensuring that Guatemala remains an embattled country where postwar violence and drug-related crime undermine any semblance of orderly, peaceful life.
The Isthmus Zapotec Way of Death
A striking look at the death rituals of an indigenous community in North America. Powerful and beautifully written, this is the story of the Isthmus Zapotecs of southern Mexico and their unbroken chain of ancestors and collective memory over the generations. Mortuary beliefs and actions are collective and pervasive in ways not seen in the United States, a resonant deep structure across many domains of Zapotec culture. Anthropologist Anya Peterson Royce draws upon forty years of participant research in the city of Juchitán to offer a finely textured portrait of the vibrant and enduring power of death in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of Mexico. Focusing especially on the lives of Zapotec women, Becoming an Ancestor highlights the aesthetic sensibility and durability of mortuary traditions in the past and present. An intricate blending of Roman Catholicism and indigenous spiritual tradition, death through beliefs and practices expresses a collective solidarity that connects families, binds the living and dead, and blurs the past and present. A model of ethnographic research and presentation, Becoming an Ancestor not only reveals the luminescent heart of Zapotec culture but also provides important clues about the cultural power and potential of mortuary traditions for all societies.
How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism
When non-Orthodox Jews become frum (religious), they encounter much more than dietary laws and Sabbath prohibitions. They find themselves in the midst of a whole new culture, involving matchmakers, homemade gefilte fish, and Yiddish-influenced grammar. Becoming Frum explains how these newcomers learn Orthodox language and culture through their interactions with community veterans and other newcomers. Some take on as much as they can as quickly as they can, going beyond the norms of those raised in the community. Others maintain aspects of their pre-Orthodox selves, yielding unique combinations, like Matisyahu’s reggae music or Hebrew words and sing-song intonation used with American slang, as in “mamish (really) keepin’ it real.”Sarah Bunin Benor brings insight into the phenomenon of adopting a new identity based on ethnographic and sociolinguistic research among men and women in an American Orthodox community. Her analysis is applicable to other situations of adult language socialization, such as students learning medical jargon or Canadians moving to Australia. Becoming Frum offers a scholarly and accessible look at the linguistic and cultural process of “becoming.”
Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile
Magnus Course blends convincing historical analysis with sophisticated contemporary theory in this superb ethnography of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork, Becoming Mapuche takes readers to the indigenous reserves where many Mapuche have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. In addition to accounts of the intimacies of everyday kinship and friendship, Course also offers the first complete ethnographic analyses of the major social events of contemporary rural Mapuche life--eluwÃ¼n funerals, the ritual sport of palin, and the great ngillatun fertility ritual. The volume includes a glossary of terms in Mapudungun.