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Level Up: Master’s Degree

This year, I finished my 144-page, 40,000-words master’s thesis. I have never written anything so long in my life. It was 6 years of off- and on-work. I left graduate school for a long time after being broken down by an abusive relationship, and I had to request special exception to continue in the program. Since then, I have been working full-time and trying to launch my own theatre company, plus training in the circus and trying to get my life overall on track. I spent countless evenings reading 20-page academic papers just to write 1-3 sentences in my thesis (isn’t academia fun?). I stared at Excel spreadsheets far longer than normal. I spent hours transcribing interviews with awesome people. And finally, on September 7 of this year, I successfully defended my thesis and was approved to graduate with my Master’s in Cultural Anthropology, with a concentration in Film Studies.

I’m very proud of the research, which included a unique combination of media effects research with ethnography. This was, as far as I know, the first paper to approach bullying from this combined perspective and to bring respondents’ narcissistic attributes into conversation with their attitudes toward bullying. My findings were that people with such attributes were more likely to pay attention to the effects of bullying behavior, and that people who were exposed to media portraying bullying were more likely to identify it as such.

I produced one short documentary on bullying as part of this research, and I hope to continue my visual anthropological work post-degree, albeit independently. While I do not plan to seek a job in academia, I do plan to use what I have learned to hopefully effect real social change in the movement to stop bullying. This is the power of anthropology when applied to real-world issues: to inform people why they do what they do and empower them with knowledge to change it.

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Publication of Bullying News Media Analysis [ABIBS Research Update]

Exciting news: My semantic analysis of news articles on bullying, that I presented at the IASESP conference in April, was accepted for publication in the Journal of Contemporary Anthropology Vol. 4! The title of the article, “The Social Construction of Bullying in U.S. News Media,” describes my contextualizing research for my upcoming documentary. I am thrilled to have this validation and exposure for an anthropological approach to bullying, and the boost it will give to the future stages of my research.

Some highlights from the reviews:

The author has provided a thought-provoking and well-written paper on the topic of bullying and the application of folklore and media studies methodologies in the study and prevention of the phenomenon. I think that the paper adds much to the discipline with respect to its multidisciplinary scope. The author does an excellent job of backing up the use of the folklore/media studies approach. The paper is also an important addition to applied anthropology and can serve as a catalyst for further studies related to  bullying and other social phenomena.

This article discusses an interesting topic relevant to our contemporary society, cleverly set
against the backdrop of folklore studies and media culture. Overall the article has a strong potential and
displays a good understanding of related theoretical and contextual framework.

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Documentary to Shoot this Fall (ABIBS Research Update)

Great news!

I have navigated the maze that is IRB paperwork, and got approved! I will begin my documentary project (stage 2 of ABIBS—Anthropologically Based Investigation of Bullying in Schools), in which I interview public school educators in Alachua County about bullying, this fall as supervised, UF affiliated research (#2013-U-486; sounds like a submarine, doesn’t it?). I have also elected the thesis option for my Masters, and the documentary serves as both preliminary research for my dissertation research, and part of my thesis research. My substantial academic reading, combined with my content analysis of news articles, will inform the documentary. What’s different about this project from similar projects (namely, the documentary Bully, which I found to be excessively melodramatic and uninformative) is its grounding in anthropology, specifically the tenets of labeling and game theories, and its attention to the educators, who are often villainized or simply ignored in news media coverage of school bullying, as I confirmed in my media research. The documentary will be short (15-30 minutes, depending on the amount of footage I get), and interview-based, although I may provide helpful graphics, Davis Guggenheim-style.

So here’s where I am:

Project Statement

This project intends to examine bullying as a sociocultural phenomenon and contextualize its occurrence and treatment in an anthropological framework. As outlined below, I will examine the mediated definition of and response to bullying, the bullying culture in relation to the social negotiations of children, and the ramifications and effectiveness of anti-bullying legislation, media, and programs. Through such examination, I hope to develop a sociopsychological explanation, within an anthropological framework, of the structural and ideological characteristics of the United States that allow for bullying and harassment, and assess whether bullying has responded to anti-bullying programs.

from the proposal:

The best tool of anthropological research is the interview that is grounded in a comprehensive portrait of the institution or community. Thus, at this early stage of research, I would like to gather data from school administrators, teachers, and parents via informal interviews, and contextualize this data in Alachua County’s policies and history. Information gathered in this stage will appear in the documentary film, but not in any paper to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. The informal interviews will help me do three things:

  • Develop my research questions for a formal paper.

  • Locate additional persons interested in further participation in the research in later stages.

  • Guide discussion prompts and points of argument to be used in the documentary film and educational materials for use in anti-bullying workshops and awareness events.

Progress:

  1. Understand the mediated social construction of school bullying, to inform future research on how it influences school policy and educators’ responses. Check!
  2. Interview educators to gain their valuable perspective and understand the intersections among policy, law, anti-bullying awareness, and educational philosophy and ethos. This fall!
  3. Develop an anthropological model of violence, aggression, and social negotiations that is applicable to (a) children and (b) a school institution. Currently: see below.
  4. Conduct formal surveys to assess bullying and its sociopsychological factors.
  5. Interview children to gain their perspectives on bullying behavior and factors, and anti-bullying policy and workshops.
  6. Develop workshops, seminars, and films to effectively tackle the bullying problem.

Up next:

The time has  come to assemble my thesis proposal, which requires a specifically anthropological examination of human violence. This past semester, I conducted a literature review of bioanth and primatology articles on aggression and violence, but literature on non-pathological violence among children is limited to the psychology journals. Currently, I am building the lit review/theoretical orientation of my proposal using the research I did for class and the work of some “pop” anthropologists, including Steven Pinker.

The time has also come to develop the “operative” parts of a funding proposal. One might expect interdisciplinary projects to be eligible for even more types of funding, but in fact the opposite is true. Because this project can influence and inform more pragmatic efforts, such as anti-bullying workshops—and I hope it does!—that is an important aspect of its social and economic worth, according to funding agencies. Its unusual fusion of filmmaking and anthropology as applied to education policy and without, as of now, a pragmatic outlet, excludes it from several fruitful sources. I welcome suggestions/links.

 

Special thanks to Drs. Ieva Jusionyte, Scott Nygren, and Rick Stepp of UF for all their support and assistance!

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Bullying Paper Presented at Conference (ABIBS Research Update)

Today I presented my semiotic content analysis of news articles on bullying for my Media Anthropology class last fall, at the 9th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Environment, Space, and Place, conveniently right here at the University of Florida. The paper is pending acceptance to was declined for the journal Shift, but I received this comment: “Everybody on the Editorial Committee felt that your paper was timely and well-written. The reason why we have decided not to publish, then, has less to do with the merit of the paper and more to do with the issue of applicability; the scope of the journal cannot accommodate this specific topic.” A sampling of the paper:

In my analysis, 42.6 percent of the articles established the frequency of bullying on a national and/or regional basis. Of these articles, 37.5 percent contained a semantic element associated with the vilification of bullies, compared to 40 percent of all articles. Furthermore, a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health expert was quoted in 33 percent of all articles that discussed bullies as “cruel,” “mean,” violent, or abnormal, although such statements were not always attributed to the experts. The rate of coincidence of these two elements establishes bullying as both normative in occurrence but deviant in definition. For example, Jonathan Turley (2008), in a feature for ABC News, writes, “Being a bully remains a popular choice for students, particularly in middle schools, where bullying often peaks. A 2004 survey by KidsHealth found that 40% of children from 9- to 13-years-old admitted to bullying.” […] After discussing a few incidents of bullying, Turley concludes, “Bullies are not adverse object lessons for an educational system; they are the very antithesis of education” (ibid.). He makes specific rhetorical choices (rhetoric being the deliberate application of lexical symbols within a specific sociolinguistic context) such as referring to “our schools” (implicating the reader as part of the public) and describing bullies as being “in pursuit of their prey” (a word in a cultural index describing animal relationships).

Of all articles, 41.3 percent contained a semantic element that established blame, ignorance, or disregard for school administrators and teachers. Stories about suicides and/or lawsuits comprised 54.8 percent of these articles, usually because administrators and teachers were named as defendants in the lawsuits, or blamed by the parents in quotes about the victim’s troubles at school. Newswriters’ preference for the personal perspective on an event, especially that of family and friends in the case of a death, explains much of this concurrence. Forty-five percent of the articles expressing a negative view of school faculty and staff also established the frequency of bullying, heightening the former by invoking the reader’s expectations of the modern school in contrast to prevailing assumptions about the truth of statistics. For example, Susan Donaldson James (2009), in an article for ABC News on the Mohats’ lawsuit against Mentor High School in Ohio, cites the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center’s finding that 30 percent of American children are bullied or a bully. She notes, “The family said school officials had been resistant to cooperate in the investigation and had insisted bullying was not a problem; the bullies never showed remorse,” and “[they] took the attitude that ‘they are just being kids, boys are just being boys.’” A quote from a representative of the school district reads, “We don’t believe it’s a problem. . . .We have [the Olweus] program of anti-bullying education to raise awareness for students about what constitutes bullying and differences among students.” According to James, the Mohats complain that Olweus is not effective for high school students, and James corroborates the grieving parents, noting that “[a] 2007 review of the Olweus program in the Journal of Adolescent Health concludes that it ‘had some mixed positive effects varying by gender, ethnicity/race and grade but no overall effect.’”

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Public and Visual Anthropology (Research Update)

Snapshots of upcoming guest lecture for a section of the Sex Roles in Cross-Cultural Comparison course at the University of Florida:

The problems with women and Hollywood include massive underrepresentation (TV, however is ahead of the curve, and certainly the better for the likes of Fey and Rhimes), a body-image obsession that pigeonholes actresses and largely limits positive roles to “sexy” roles, the assumption that movies need to be drafted for and marketed to each sex, and poorer odds for women to move into executive positions, financially or creatively.

Some films count on a female vote and aren’t ashamed to show it. Consider the fuzzy yellow trailer for “The Help” featuring witticisms by the black leads and a plucky score (a far cry from the actual tone of the film), or the sexy, glittery trailers for “Magic Mike” and “Sex and the City 2”; others are projected to attract men but include images of shirtless men in their trailers, presumably to encourage the wives and girlfriends to come along. Obviously, the equation of female moviegoers’ interest with their desires for friendship  with women and sex with men is as problematic as the equation of female actors’ and filmmakers’ success according to their perpetuation of female stereotypes of personality and social worth. Either way, there are significant economic and psychological impacts on those women who love film. They are neither as uniform in their approach nor singular in their interests nor small in number as andocentric Hollywood would suggest.

Edit: See the final presentation.

See also my essay on institutional sexism and feminism over at Confluey, and my prezi on violent female characters.

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A Year of New Beginnings…

Whoa, 2012 is over! Here’s a look back on my year, which I think I might call a point of no return.

UF Graduate School in Anthropology: Semester One
Anthropology of the Media (Dr. Ieva Jusionyte): I began my anthropological investigation of bullying with a media studies project, in which I analyzed the lexical and semantic content of 75 news articles on the topic. The process was tedious, but enlightening: my initial reading of the articles, which dated back to 2005, revealed trends in the pragmatic focus and rhetorical tone of the articles. Although I had to work with a small sample and without an independent coder, I found that my initial observations were supported by the analysis of semantic elements, which I analyzed both by time and against each other. I found that bullying has been reified in the news media, and increasingly portrayed as a disease. The paper will hopefully be presented in the graduate colloquia by next summer.

Other work from the class is partly represented on our class blog.

Film Analysis (Dr. Robert Ray): My other class, not including my requisite proseminar, was a film analysis class which spurred some of the thoughts you’ll find on my new blog, Confluey. Although our discussions were lighter on the history and heavier on the formal analysis, the exposure to classic film and my newfound understanding of their social undercurrents are essential to my study.

Community Theatre

Acrosstown Repertory Theatre: As discussed here, after Galileo of Gainesville, I immediately jumped on board ART’s double feature production of a one-act Hamlet and a one-act parody, The Prince Formerly Known As Hamlet, by Bruce Kane. As usual, I began as stage manager and did what I call the “magnet sweep, “which causes the various vacant production roles to stick to me. Thus, I was Stage Manager, Properties Designer, Props Master, and Zombie Makeup Consultant (the parody went interesting places). The show was a hit.

After a summer hiatus filled with dreary retail work, I reprised the sickening household set (although the level of filth accomplished in Prima Donna was not possible in a stage production) for Come Back, Little Sheba. Through some careful thrifting on a shoestring budget, I managed to approximate the period (sadly, not perfectly, due to budgetary restrictions) and establish the neurotic personality of the lady of the house.

The theatre has also developed new committees: I sit on the Facilities Committee as Design Manager—meaning I facilitate the production teams by getting the resources and people to the theatre, keeping the theatre organized and safe, and maintaining our props and costume closet.

Next spring I will be stage managing Outburst, written by Gainesville playwright Leroy Clark. It is a drama about a gay teacher’s job and relationship troubles after he accidentally outs himself in his classroom.

Professional Theatre

Yes, I went pro! For the Hippodrome’s production of A Tuna Christmas, by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. The show has been done several seasons alongside the Hipp’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, and requires two actors to play 22 characters. The Hipp performs a slightly edited version, with only 15 characters—but still. Because of my stage management experience, I was hired to manage the wardrobe and the dressing team for the run. The comic pacing of the show + only two actors = a lot of quick changes. I was essentially an ASM/run crew head specifically for wardrobe. The entire process was delightful…well, maybe not the laundry. I was very excited to add this adorable satire to my resumé. In addition, while one has less a sense of “building” theatre when working pro, the available resources and possible efficiency lend an incredible sense of camaraderie and family. However, whether the theatre is educational, community, street, or pro, the sense of making magic is both integral and inextricable.

4x4x4

Although I am sitting on a few plays waiting for the best opportunity to submit for production, I kept my playwriting muscles in shape with a 7-hour writing binge as part of the 24-hour play festival called 4x4x4 (the number of playwrights, directors, and actors per play, respectively). My 20-minute play, Empower Play, was produced the following evening for the festival, hosted by the Civic Media Center on August 11. Because of time constraints, the play could not be accurately memorized or produced with any allowance of specificity or fanciness. However, as a writer, it allowed me to gauge the flow, naturalness, and efficiency of the script by how easily it was produced. I was pleased to see that the director and actors were able to stay true to it.

4x4x4 was repeated at the CMC on October 13, on which I was one of the directors. While for writing, I can easily get into flow, and for a short work can usually ride the wave to fruition, so to speak, having one day to direct a play was unusual and problematic. Doing all of the prep work, teaching the actors blocking, and helping them memorize lines and refine their characterizations within 12 hours seemed an impossible task. To make it worse, my playwright had given me an absurdist post-apocalyptic dark comedy, the most difficult style, setting, and genre (although some of my favorites as well), all in one! Amazingly, we pulled it off to the delight of our audiences.

Collages
Updated:More about PopConcoction
I decided to embark on a different sort of pop culture investigation. Rather like Claude Levi-Strauss deconstructing myths, I decided to deconstruct American cultural icons. Rather than making extensive charts, I used images from advertisements, surrounding the icon’s face with a collage of associated and representational images. The first sets of the two series, TV Icons and Divas, showed at the Civic Media Center in the July Artwalk and on the UF campus in October as part of a student art exhibition sponsored by the Inter-Residence Hall Association. The next sets in both series will be shown at the January Artwalk at the Civic Media Center.

Certain projects, such as my music, the revisions of my screenplay, and my fandom study were necessarily reduced to allow for these other projects. However…I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Next year I look forward to Death of a Salesman at High Springs Community Theatre, the aforementioned Outburst, my foray into the documentary portion of the anti-bullying project, research presentations, and who knows what else.

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Retail Hell: Blame Privatization

Cross-posted on class blog, Misanthropologist.

The study of customer service seems primarily reserved to business-oriented, sociological research, or so my database searches would suggest. However, it is certainly a problem for anthropology. Bullying behavior does occur among adults, and notably in the customer-server sphere of interaction.

Jürgen Habermas notes in chapter V of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere that as the market has become privatized, businesses became distinct and protectionist; meanwhile, the public sphere experienced “stateification” to the point that the line between public and private became permanently blurred. I believe this blurring accounts for the problems of interaction in the world of customer service: vestigial conflict between public and private, business and consumer, is played out through servers and customers.

According to Habermas, the public service sector was developed to alleviate the imbalance created by increasing social costs upon economic growth (p. 147). This “intervention” also increases tension between oligarchic reality and public consumption. Furthermore, service representatives become the face of an organization to a consumer; their privacy is temporarily suspended, their identity conflated with that of the company or government, for the sake of mediation between disparate levels of production and consumption.

Put simply and applied to contemporary America, state/public agencies and private businesses are often self-contained and run by private individuals, even if the company is publicly owned. Their interests may be at odds with their economic and social costs. They also require the public’s attention. Through public service announcements, advertisements, press releases, and other types of marketing and promotion, they negotiate their relationship to the public. This means that an employee of any type of service establishment is representative of the organization (see p. 153), yet a private person; they interact with the public, which is also comprised of private persons. See the potential for conflict?

Examples: A customer attempts to return an item but is outside the return period set at the executive level. The cashier declines to give the customer money back for fear of losing his job, or having the money taken from his pay. The customer takes the denial personally and insults or bullies the cashier. The cashier defends himself by citing the business’ policy. The customer requests a manager, by whose higher authority is more representative of business interests. The manager is actually more concerned by the business’ interests and fears losing respect, privileges, or even her job if she drives away a customer. She makes an exception to the policy; the customer believes the cashier to be wrong, bullheaded, or just discriminatory by denying the return, but is the only one to walk away feeling resolved.

In addition, the public sphere has devolved from a distinctie sphere of public intereaction into an artifically connected web of private spheres (see pp. 162-64). The extraordinarily wide gap between the producers and consumers contributes to this tension. The closer one gets to the top, the easier to alleviate (hence why customers have learned to call for managers or otherwise escalate the issue). You will see less of the “customer is always right” attitude, although this too has changed from its original conception and has a distinctive American iteration, in smaller or independent businesses.

Although childhood bullying is a more pressing topic in the news, I am fascinated by these tensions and resulting behavior in the public sphere, if only to answer my own questions about how I’ve been treated on the job I worked to support myself through undergraduate to the present. Examples:

  1. A pleasant customer, attempting to make conversation, asked me leading questions about whether I still lived at home, when I graduated high school, and what I liked to do when I wasn’t working. I made the mistake of answering honestly, that I had moved to Gainesville as an adult and had just begun to pursue a Master’s. He suddenly changed in demeanor and said, “Oh, yeah, in what, fish-catching?” [I work in a pet store.] and laughed derisively. I said, “No, anthropology.” He said he didn’t know what that was, glared at me, and was unpleasant for the rest of the encounter.
  2. I get told I “must like working here” several times a week. Yes, told, not asked. Usually this is combined with an overuse of my name (or, if you’re like one customer we have, addressing all employees by the name of our company) and slower-than-normal speech when addressing me.
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Bullying in the Media

My primary research interest, and my intended career, is to work in and study film and theatre as means of social change. Obviously this is a broad area with many applications. One particular focus, and one that encompasses and requires the study of mass media as well, is on the phenomenon of and sociocultural response to bullying in schools.

Bullying has garnered much national attention in the past few years, in part due to the controversial anti-bullying laws passed in states such as Massachusetts and the increased reportage of suicide among young people who have been bullied, such as Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi. The media has even adopted a phrase for this horror: “bullycide.”

As many have noted, bullying was given new wings by the advent of social networks and an increased percentage of user-generated content. Current opinion in the field of child social psychology holds that bullies are not “kids being kids,” nor products of broken or lower-income homes, nor inspired by violent video games. Bullies bully because they can and want to. (See the writings of Barbara Coloroso and Jessie Klein for more information.)

Even the entertainment media reflects this change in attitude: no longer limited to childhood adventures in which the school or town bully (singular) is an obstacle or challenge to the protagonists, films like Mean Girls and Bacheloretteand TV shows like “Glee” and “30 Rock” address cruel behavior among teens and adults, in school, work, and social venues.

Thankfully, the same technology that empowered bullies can now be used to stop them, and, we hope, to dispel information and ideologies to cut bullying at the roots.

The media has a pivotal role in the campaign against bullying: by portraying the victims of bullying in a sensitive, if sometimes oversympathetic light, and reporting in full detail the nature of the incidents, they change what would have been a sad but pointless story into a piece of a larger story that is depressing enough to motivate action. Their real challenge, though, is not to demonize the bullies for the sake of a dramatic story, but to report them as people who made costly mistakes that, to an unbiased observer, are able to see how to prevent those mistakes from happening again:

The first step, however, is to dispense with the image of bullies as mere Scut Farkases waiting to be challenged and conquered. Bullies are not adverse object lessons for an educational system; they are the very antithesis of education. They are no more a natural part of learning than is parental abuse a natural part of growing up. (source)

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Anthropology: the Professional, the Philosophical, and the Practical

When I tell people I am studying anthropology, I quite frequently get one of these responses:

  • “So you dig up pots?”
  • “So you study dead people?”
  • “So you look for dinosaur bones?” (yes, really)

It is probably most indicative of a highly professionalized culture, in which disciplinary alignment rarely intersects with job title, that the term “anthropologist” means little to people, but smacks of something archaic enough that people assume its subject is necessarily archaic as well. It’s also partly due to the paucity of anthropologist characters in popular films and TV shows who vaguely resemble real anthropologists (i.e. not many of the hapless characters in scifi flicks on whom the writers have slapped a random scientist label—hello, Prometheus). And the few that exist, of course, engage in wildly unusual quests and work in exotic or hyper-nerdy locations: Temperance Brennan, Indiana Jones, Robert Langdon (symbologist…?).

An anthropology major is number 15 on a list of the majors with the highest unemployment (link).* It doesn’t sound too bad until you review a list of majors at major universities. (here’s my school’s). I wonder if the increasing gap between academia and job placement for the social sciences is at least partly due to a misunderstanding of anthropology. How many jobs have I been turned down for because someone thought I looked at things in the ground? (Hence my necessary return to school.)

Anthropology has a long and, sadly, somewhat sketchy history. It wasn’t until the late 19th century and the likes of Lewis Henry Morgan and John Wesley Powell that anthropology began to be a matter of ethnology, not armchair anthropology of the exotic, nor evolutionist comparative biological anthropology. Later, the blooming generations of Boasian anthropologists began to work for various government agencies, such as the Bureau for Indian Affairs. This was a good moment to be an anthropologist, if only because their insights into other cultures proved useful in native negotiations and in war time (e.g., The Chrysanthemum and the Sword).

In the postmodernist 1980s in America, a new hyper-relativist, activist trend emerged in anthropology that marked the final phase of anthropology in the job market. We had gone from the self-assured, racist, positivist ethnographer, to the state-sanctioned, exoticist, empirical ethnologist, to the doubtful, self-reflective, cultural detectives. Bolstered by people like George Marcus and Michael Fischer, anthropology in the postmodernist flavor, like the literature and philosophy of the time, questioned everything in order to answer a few things, and managed to insult American sensibilities (both anthropologists and non-anthropologists) in the meantime. It’s my guess that this trend greatly affected attitudes towards anthropology in laypeople, such as my religious, conservative aunt, who once railed against political correctness and expected acceptance of “sinful” lifestyles thanks to anthropologists (without having asked me what I was studying in school). It probably also contributed to a characterization of anthropologists as weird or even non-cultured (like Bones, who has little psychocultural connection to the society in which she lives).

Fact is, in an increasingly globalized yet politicized world, in which most people have anywhere from an occasional to a constant connection to global markets of information and products, it’s more important than ever to understand modern anthropology’s fundamental question: why we do the things we do. The same question permeates all fields of anthropology and gives us a scientific yet practical approach to all pursuits. It may not be reflected in the resumés that land on the hiring manager’s desk, or in curricular requirements in universities, or in popular culture, but the ability to reflect on one’s own behavior and their society, to imagine oneself in another’s shoes, to communicate efficiently with someone of a different walk, and to understand the purpose of one’s own and others’ actions, can benefit people in those top-hired areas—business, medical, education—as well as people in the supposedly unhireable majors of art, architecture, liberal arts, humanities, and history.

After all, anthropology is the study of humanity, and last time I checked, every aspect of your  life involves just that.

* Doesn’t look too good in this breakdown either.

Resources:

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Bookblog: Teenage Mystique + Entitlement = ??

I’d propose the answer is bullying, although the equation is of course not that simple. My private research has suffered a little recently as I’ve been preoccupied with rehearsals for “Hamlet” at the ART and with the neverending funding search for my upcoming study at UF. However, I’ve been able to keep up with a sprawling, if a little dry, overview of the cultural construction of the adolescent, The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager, by Thomas Hine.

With a core thesis that teenagers are not an inherent division of the human life cycle (not that there are any), Hine, primarily a historian and greatly influenced by Erik Erikson, takes us on a journey through America from the Puritans to the Millenials, tracing the development and alteration of the teenage persona in accordance with the sociocultural, psychosocial, and political factors of the times. As discussed by Jean Twenge, the children of the baby boomers were taught an attitude of entitlement. But boomers themselves never would have imparted that ethos were they not themselves the product of a blossoming teenage “character” seeded by the post-Industrial Revolution and spurred by 1920s pop culture. Moreover, this new age group had little to do with the creation of the high school, although that institution became not only the venue but the instrument of the eventually exclusive youth culture.

I do not have time at the moment to discuss Hine’s illuminating stories and incisive historical analysis, but even before my thoughts have finished coalescing, it seems apparent that the necessary separation of a heterogeneous high school from working society, combined with entitlement, has not only enabled the spoiling of Americans who are excluded from the labor force, but the cementing of a youth culture that is so long divided from the real world that it never truly leaves the real world.

Wow, lotta long sentences tonight. I guess I’m in a flow mood.

This bookblog to be continued. Then I begin reading the work of foremost bullying expert Barbara Coloroso.