Culture 1981

Anger, D.C. The Micmacs of Newfoundland: A Resurgent Culture. Culture, 1981. 1(1): 79-81.

Within this article, Dorothy Angers discusses the Micmacs of Newfoundland and the two Micmac communities of Conne River and Cape Breton. She focuses on the Micmacs of Conne River and their struggle to maintain their heritage due to the cultural assimilation into the majority white society of Newfoundland. A direct assimilation of the Micmac identity was the British control of the Micmacs political, economic and cultural means.

The British attempted to remove the Micmacs from Newfoundland, but were unsuccessful. When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, there were no special provisions for natives. It was not until 1973, that the Micmacs were finally designated as an Indian community. Cultural assimilation occurred through the clergy who suppressed the use of their language and undermined their traditional systems of government, their chief system. In addition, the encroachment of white settlements and industrial development in the early twentieth century restricted hunting and trapping areas to the British, which had dire consequences for wildlife. This directly affected the Micmac because this was apart of their father-son heritage as well as their main economic resource. The false belief that the Micmacs were only brought over as mercenaries by the French to kill the Beothuck people had an effect on the Micmacs culture and pride. This changed in 1972, when the Newfoundland Micmacs joined the Native Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1974, the Conne River Newfoundland government organization was reconstituted. This was the return to a traditional form of Indian self-government and a rejection of the white political hegemony.

The question Anger asks within this article is why, after fifty years, is there this resurgence and importance of identity? Given the ethnic and minority group identity and native rights issues happening across North America, it has provided the Micmacs with a support system, or role model, to fight for their own rights. Although the Micmac identity may be unacknowledged by the whites, with the pan-Indian movement, it is a source of personal and group pride. Anger demonstrates that beyond these acts of assimilation, the Micmac cultural heritage has survived. This demonstrates the power of one group’s faith in their preservation of their own heritage.


LORRAINE SIT York University (Maggie MacDonald)

Brown, D.F. Halfway to Cancun: The Economic Collocation of a Peasant Community in Yucatan. Culture, 1981. 1(2): 15-19.

In his introduction, Brown defines the word `peasant’ inferior of a reinforcement of a relationship within a larger political, economic and cultural whole. The Mayan community of the Yucatan Peninsula is part of the Mexican nation state. Brown alludes to the changes in the economic and political autonomy of the Yucatan region through an example of a Mayan dinner. Beans and corn are either self produced or purchased at local shops. The farm’s chickens hatch eggs for in-take. Soft drinks – Coca-Cola or Pepsi – remain as the products associated with multi-national profit making corporations. The Mayan Chemaxerio (peoples studied) depends on local resources for daily diet. If local sources of beans or corn are low, demand moves to the regional level – the peninsula. Mexico imports other goods such as pots, pans, meat grinders, and dishes to the region.

Brown then continues to explain how the needs of local residents mediate the administration. The distribution of goods involves infrastructure developed by the administrative superstructure, which is outside of the indigenous population. This mediation is not cultural. It is a market exchange economy of goods and values founded on the market principle based on cash. Goods do not travel freely between neighbouring villages and regions. Packaging, bulking, processing, distributing substitute the indigenous methods of trade, tribute, barter, and exchange. The Mayan Chemaxerio relies heavily on the solutions and activities defined by the community. Brown concludes by stating the reluctance of the Mayan to participate in the greater political and economical administrative structures.


MARTA MICHALOWSKA York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Darnell, R. Taciturnity in Native American Etiquette: A Cree Case. Culture, 1981. 1(2):55-60.

Darnell explains that past ethnographers have placed too much emphasis on what is said in human communication systems and describes the importance of paying attention to what is not said. Darnell looks specifically at the communicative events of the Cree of Northern Alberta.

Cree along with many native peoples place a great deal of emphasis on the use of pause and silence between turns at talk. Taciturnity, the act of saying very little, is often attributed to the Native American but this distinction is culturally biased. Western ethnographers, because of their voluble culture, talking very much, label Native Americans as being a taciturn people. Darnell explains the stereotype of the strong silent native and how it is constructed not by Native Americans themselves but by the ethnographers that study their modes of communication. Darnell reveals that North American ethnographers assume that “talk” is essentially what is said in human interaction and therefore the speaker becomes the center of communication. Darnell describes the contrasts of this assumption when related to the Native American.

The paper also explores the realization that it is co-presence rather than talk that is important. The role of silence in Native American speech is explained as well as the dual meaning of silence confirming the complexity of human communication. The listener in turn becomes more important in Native American communication because his/her understanding of the message is necessary to the effectiveness of communication. This means that speech and communication style along with silence are important components of human communication across cultures.


DEVON NATION-WILLIAMS York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Graburn, Nelson H.H. 1, 2, 3, 4…Anthropology and the Fourth World. Culture, 1981. 1(1): 66-70.

This paper explores some of the ramifications of the term, the Fourth World. The author, Nelson H.H. Graburn, identifies several problems in using the fourth world term. First, people who lack a general understanding of the term, sees fourth world’s people as primitive rather than oppressed. Secondly, the word, originally a French concept, is interpreted differently in French and, thus, many well educated Quebecqois are unfamiliar with the term. Finally, anthropological critics argue that the west’s academic classification system, which is primarily dualistic or triadic, will unlikely accept a quadripartite organization of the worlds. Graburn also looks at the concept’s different meanings, as provided by various sources; the relation it has to the third world concept and the political reality of the Fourth world.

Firstly, there are multiple meanings associated with the Fourth World including features of group oppression, internal colonialism, minority status and relative powerlessness. In Graburn’s definition, “the Fourth World” refers to those native peoples whose lands and cultures have been taken over by the nations of the First, Second and Third worlds. Logically, non-nations native people, who are subjected to internal colonialism, form this politico-structural Fourth World category. Secondly, according to Graburn, the fourth world category is related to the third world concept because their meanings are based on external political alignment, internal cultural and political policies and colonial histories. The two concepts are also related because of their ambiguous meanings: like the fourth world definition, which sometimes include only indigenous aboriginal groups and, at other times, any internal minority groups, the term ‘third world’, also tends to associate itself, at different times, with various countries. Finally, the political reality of the fourth world describes a consciousness of non-nations native people and, besides for a few organizations, anthropologists and missionaries, the term the “Fourth World” and its inhabitants are generally not recognized by others. Groups, such as the Dene, identifies themselves as Fourth world people and declares the right to be recognized as a nation by governments and peoples of the world.

Although there are a handful of people who are familiar with the term, the Fourth World, unlike its precursor, the Third world, it has not yet reached a level of public understanding in either North America or Europe. Therefore, Graburn examines, in this paper, the concept’s various meanings: third world relations, political reality and usage problems.


ANNIE CHAU York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Holzberg, Carol S. Cultural Gerontology: Toward an Understanding of Ethnicity and Aging. Culture, 1981. 1(1): 110-122.

This article examines cultural factors in American society which negatively affect the process of aging and how this leads to the segregation of elderly citizens. Several case studies of “ethnic” populations in American society and their differing aging experiences are then looked at. In the first part of the paper, Holzberg discusses the “contradictions and discontinuities in American culture” that place the aged in a disadvantaged position in society. One of the reasons the elderly are thought to have become a social problem is that in the past few years there has been a sudden rise in the number of those who survive over 65. With a larger proportion of older people, there is much competition in the labor market for jobs, and consequently forces many of them into retirement. Also with technology changing so rapidly, skills and knowledge that older people once mastered are quickly becoming obsolete.

In American culture, one’s social status is largely determined by their level of income, self-reliance and independence. Unemployment can lead many to feelings of worthlessness and lower self-esteem. Many elderly are also segregated from the rest of society through their placement in age-homogeneous communities and homes separating them physically from their family and other familiar support systems. Holzberg then examines Mead’s study of American values that she suggests further isolates the aged. Firstly, American culture values the two-generational nuclear family consisting of parents and dependent children. This leaves grandparents without any significant positions in the family, and essentially renders them useless. Secondly, American culture sees the function of husband and wife as primarily one of raising children. Thus, when a couple’s children are grown, they may experience the “empty nest syndrome” and suffer from depression as a result of the role loss. Lastly, American culture values youth, their vigor and their energy, and as a result puts them in a more dominant role than that of the aged.

The second part of the article looks at different case studies which show how identification with social and cultural communities may be helpful for the aging in dealing with the problems stated above. In these cases, recognizing of one’s ethnicity helped create feelings of belonging through their membership in an exclusive group. In each of the case studies, the older members of various social ethnic groups taught, in various ways, younger generations about their culture and traditions. Holzberg points out, however, that being a member of an ethnic group may not always improve the problems of aging. He looks at the case study of Chicano Americans who, in the past, viewed their older relatives as playing important roles in their rural environment to assist in productivity on the land. However, in recent times as more and more families move into urban settings, older members are more likely to feel less important as those roles are lost. Holzberg concludes by stating that there is a greater need for more extensive research of “cultural gerontology.” He believes that further examination of the cultural impact of aging will help lead to a better understanding of how one can seek solutions to the problems of aging.


CHRISTINA ZARAGOZA York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Little, Kenneth. Clown Performance in the European One-Ring Circus. Culture, 1981. 2(1):61-72.

This article by Kenneth Little examines how the roles of clowns are particular to the culture they perform in. He frames the article in the larger social function of clown’s performance in terms, which recognizes they create a space set outside every-day life. The success of a clown’s performance in engaging the audience response plays on the mundane or normal aspects of the audiences shared daily life. The performance allows for the possibility of the audience to reflect on issues of their every-day life. The audience is given a space to examine what is generally considered and accepted as normal (or mundane) social issues in a non-confrontational way. The clown exaggerates playing with the audiences shared assumptions of social “normality” to create and generate a humor. The author uses a specific textual example to explore his theory: the famous and successful European one-ring act from the 1920′s. In this example there are three clowns. The two clowns, Francois and Paul, represent the role of the middle to upper class. Both appear to be refined in manner and dress and to take their civilized position seriously.

The third clown, Albert, represents the lower working class. He appears in shabby costume coupled with bumbling physicality. In relation to the performance of Francios and Paul, Albert’s behavior comes across as uncontrolled and uncivilized. Francois and Paul are embarrassed by the sight of Albert. This shame generates physical slapstick humor between all the performers with Albert continually being punished for his lack of refinement. Humor is generated by the juxtaposition of the class systems that the clowns portray. This example mirrors the European class politics of the 1920′s. As this article points out, going to the circus is a leisure activity, this setting produces a suspended sense of normalcy that acts as a backdrop for the audience to examine issues of accepted values. The setting of the circus – the space of the clowns’ absurd act – fosters a safe non-threatening environment creating a safe space for the audience to become self-reflexive.


EMILY SIMMONDS York University (Maggie McDonald).

Marshall, Ingeborg. Disease as a Factor in the Demise of the Beothuck Indians. Culture, 1981. 1(1): 71-78.

In this article, the author, Ingeborg Marshall, explores the possibilities of how the Beothuck Indians, who inhabited Newfoundland, could have become extinct in 1829. The possibilities are social factors that surround the events of European colonialism and the diseases Europeans introduced to the Beothuck Indians, which include the bubonic plague, smallpox, measles and tuberculosis. A brief history of the contact between the Europeans and the Beothuck Indians is provided in order to convey how European contact had affected the Beothuck population decrease. Prior to 1730, the Beothuck Indians of Newfoundland were isolated, independent and barely had contact with Europeans. However, by 1730, this relationship turned into a hostile one because the Europeans established fishing settlements all over the western and southern shores of Newfoundland, which prevented the Beothuck Indians to have access to marine foods. This loss of territory affected the Beothuck demography because of the diminished food resources, frequent population movements, and changes in the Beothuck social structure.

One of the diseases discussed, the bubonic plague, was widespread in Europe at the time of European settlement, so this rodent disease, that is transmitted by a vector flea to man, is considered to be a possible factor of the population decrease. However, the chances of death through bubonic plague are minimal because the climate condition of Newfoundland would have made it impossible for the vector flea to survive.

Smallpox is contagious and can be transmitted through the respiratory system and clothing that has made contact with skin that suffers from the smallpox scabs and sores. However, smallpox only had a minor effect on the Beothuck demography because the type of European contact of the time was trade, and the items that were traded were tools rather than clothing and blankets. Also, only a small portion of the Indians were associated with trade. Therefore, smallpox is discarded as the major factor of the population decline.

The measles is also a contagious viral infection like smallpox, but the measles could not have been a major factor because the measles epidemic was not recorded in Newfoundland until the early 19th century, which is a period that is too close to the time of the extinction of the Beothucks.

Tuberculosis was highly contagious in Britain during the 18th century, so it is likely that the European settlers of Newfoundland introduced this disease to the Beothuck Indians. The confinement of the Beothuck Indians in a small but overpopulated area facilitated the spread of tuberculosis. Furthermore, this disease hampered efficient food quest because of the lack of healthy and living individuals. Thus, the major factors of the extinction of the Beothuck Indians were sickness, malnutrition and starvation.

The author successfully conveys that not only does European colonialism disrupt an indigenous culture, but it can cause the ultimate disaster for a population: extinction.


LELE MAC York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Peacock, A.G. Recuerdo de Huantla: An Odyssey of Inner Space. Culture, 1981. I(2): 20-24.

This article deals with the idea that Latin America is starting to develop. However, this development is not based on larger, broader institutions; the development is based on smaller communities and individuals. The issue that Peacock brings up is the fact that trying to develop a country that for so long relied on basic staples like coffee for economic gain, cannot be done at the individual level. This development must be a shared idea all the way up to the government.

Peacock sets out to demonstrate how Latin America, more specifically the Sierra Mazateca in Mexico, is trying to change socially and economically, but they are going about it the wrong way. Instead of making sure the individuals in the society are happy, the government just assumes they all share a certain view and thus implement certain changes based on this view. The political powers in the Sierra, while stating they want to change for the better, are not adopting the necessary system of thinking to do so.

Evidence in the article shows how many individuals who were interviewed have already changed to fit a mold that is shared by the majority of Mexicans. However, they cannot shape their lives around an economic system that has not been adapted by a larger political body. The population must adopt a similar system across the board. Change cannot be had if only a few individuals think the same. The mayordomia system (the Sierras political system) has been the biggest resistance to new forms of thinking, preventing societal innovations from becoming a widespread method of behaviour.

Peacock gives a lot of first hand information in the article. He uses a true ethnographic method to divulge the information necessary to illustrate his point that in Mexico, the society and government must work together to initiate change. He speaks of many examples in which he lived in the Sierra to which a lot of information for this article came from. Overall, the information was organized quite well, although the lack of an explicit thesis and headings made the article a little hard to follow.


JONATHAN GRNAK York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Robertson, P.R. Bellavista: Political Incorporation in a Columbian Urban Barrio.

Culture, 1981. 1(2): 25-30.

Robertson begins his article by stating that most studies conducted on lower-class communities usually focus on the issues pertaining to the historical aspects that encapsulate them within a capitalist society. Due to capitalist’s modernization of the agricultural business, much of the lower working class are migrating from the country to the city to find work.

He argues that this may not always be true and that lower-class neighbourhoods situated in an area of large production, like the one investigated in his article in Caldas, Columbia, holds a significant amount of power. Robertson states that, “(lower class neighbourhoods) must be viewed as a complex process of alliance and competition for hegemony over scarce resources, both material and socio-political”. Robertson reveals some of the problems that underlie the radical and often corrupt political infrastructure of the barrio as being centred around the issue of modernizing the barrio because of a stagnant level of exporting.

The article discusses the economic structure of Columbia with regard to the importance of building alliances, the fight for control, and bloodshed that breaks out because of the relationship between the two issues. Often the foundations of alliances are built on bribery and the dependency of the working class, and their plight for institutionalized equality. Robertson gets more specific and begins to focus on the political dynamics of a small community made up of fifty-two families, called Bellavista and also referred to as the barrio. The community was established in the 1960’s and encompasses a wide range of social classes, from bourgeoisie business owners to unskilled beggars. Robertson examines the complexity of all the social classes, along with their level of access of material resources and the issues and interests each encompass, which then in turn leads to the formation of interdependent alliances within the barrio. The article investigates the Classic type intervention of a capitalist society and identifies the three main political parties who are active in the barrio.

Robertson goes on further to explore the dynamics of the Movimiento Civico Liberal, The Junta de Accion Comunal and the APAPO, and expose the corruption that embodies the liberal and conservative parties, both run by presidents who have their own self serving agenda and who are considered upper class in the barrio. Robertson concludes with the idea that anthropology can overlook smaller community studies such as the case in the small barrio in Columbia, and often place such a community in the larger scheme of the nation. In closing, Robertson states, “In the present I found the focus on contrasting effects of vertical versus horizontal networks to be a particularly useful framework to reveal the emerging dynamics of power”.

I found this article to be a little tedious at time, but the overall flow of arguments was comprehendible.


AMY SAUNDERS York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Teal, Greg and David Bai. Class Dismissed: A Critique of Weberian Perspective on Class and Ethnicity. Culture, 1981. 1(1): 96-102.

In this article Teal critiques the Weberian view of ethnicity and class as naVve. He argues that neither class nor ethnicity are useful categories to explain the social organization of the world. Teal begins by deconstructing the simplistic view that ethnicity and class are categories that have always existed in the world, and there is no questioning their meanings. The traditional connotations that are attached to the words `class’ and `ethnicity’ prevent the words to be used in a context that will clash with their ideological affixed meanings.

Teal outlines two major weaknesses of the Weberian perspective on class and ethnicity. The first weakness is that the Weberian perspective ignores class and ethnicity’s relationship with imperialism. The second weakness is that the Weberian perspective tends to view class or ethnicity as the predominant organizational factors of society, which is reductionist and disregarding of other important aspects of social organization.

The author engages the works of two authors: Hechter and Bonacich. Both authors claim to have dismissed Weberian perspectives and have their own views regarding class and ethnicity. Teal reveals that both authors fail to adequately argue their points, and repeatedly revert back to traditional Weberian ideas. He emphasizes that the authors’ assumption that there is no conflict or fragmentation within ethnic communities.

A case study of Korean immigration to Edmonton is used to illustrate how imperialism and capitalism affect class relations within ethnic communities. Teal contends that imperialism is the reason why Koreans wanted to immigrate, and that the capitalist division of labour was a key factor in the development of the Korean community, but also the disintegration of the community. Conflicts between `skilled’ and `unskilled’ Korean workers caused division. The segregation from the Canadian workers in factories prevented relationships with non-Koreans. Teal discusses in great detail how Koreans were in fact divided within their own ethnic community. He proves that there is actually conflict within ethnic communities, and not everything is homogeneous and peaceful just because everyone has the same ethnic background. He asserts that ethnicity is not a single form of social organization, and emphasizes that other factors must be taken into account.


AMY HUYNH York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Tschanz, Linda. The Language of Mediums and Healers in the Spiritualist Church. Culture, 1981.1(2): 88 –92.

This article examines the language of mediums and healers in the Sprirtualist church. The article also examines some terms which convey the theology and values of Spiritualism. Spiritualism focuses on two different levels of life: the life on earth and the life in the spirit world. These two worlds are contacted mediums through their psychic abilities. A medium is the person who communicates with the spirit world during a religious service. The theology of Spiritualism is centered around the belief that there is life after death and that the communication with the spirit would is possible through mediums. This article also examines how certain words found in messages from the spirit world are related to the history of Spiritualism and to the present concerns of Spirtualists: ideas such as “progress,” “work,” and “communication.” The context in which these words are used through the medium and the healer is important. The word “progress” is concerns spiritual advancement, which is possible in both the material and spiritual worlds. Humans progress as they become more familiar with the spiritual world, (through healing or psychic abilities as a medium), or just by living with a greater spiritual awareness. The Spirits progress by advancing through the hidden realms of the spirit world. “Work” concentrates on the ideas of personal effort and self-reliance while allowing the medium to create scenarios in which the spirits and/or the individual that receive the message. They are portrayed in work-related situations that demonstrate a particular concept. The “work” of the medium is “communication which brings the Two Worlds together, (world of life on earth and world of spirits). This communication is the most important factor of Spiritualism. The author states the importance that symbolic (expression of) communication has between the medium and the congregation. Spirits also “work” in the spirit world: a loved one who has died is working to improve conditions around someone living on earth. Healers, like mediums, also consider their healing as work, although every healer the author interviewed refused to accept payment for their healing under any circumstances.

The language of mediums and healers are centrally related to the social experiences of Spiritualists and conveys an important dimension of Western culture. The author states that it is through key symbols represented in the messages that mediums make observations on everyday life.


MARIA ARASARATNAM York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Vanek, Anthony.L. What is Context-Sensitive Grammar Sensitive to? Culture, 1981. 1(2): 49-54.

Vanek’s article on context-sensitive grammar addresses the problems that exist within the domain of linguistics. He explains that the mainstream of linguistics has narrowed their focus of communication to that of discourse, excluding the context in which the communicative event occurred. Vanek stresses the need for linguists to move away from focussing solely on the verbal utterance, and to adopt a theory that is inclusive of the verbal and the interactional. He states that the only way to understand a communicative event is for one to focus on the speaker and the listener, the dynamics of the discourse, and the context of the communication. Vanek refers to this model of linguistics as being `Context-Sensitive’.

The author makes the argument that it is impossible for language to be context-free because communication cannot exist in isolation from the environment. He challenges speech act theories on their stubbornness to move towards a more realistic theory encompassing the many modalities (ie. situational, physical, social, and linguistic) responsible for successful communication. Vanek disputes the relevance of speech act theories based on their ignorance towards the importance of the roles that both the speaker and the listener play, and the fact that these roles may not be as interchangeable as they would have one believe.

For Vanek, context is what determines the successfulness of the communicative event. It is the context that determines how to interpret the utterances. The exact same utterance said in a different context can have a totally different meaning. Linguistics for Vanek then, should be context-sensitive. It should start with the recognition of the context before considering the verbal output that has taken place. It is this authors opinion, ” the goal of linguistics must be to represent the complex reality of human communication.”


SARAH-LYNN DOWER York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Wright, Guy. Why Do Sealers Seal? Cultural and Economic Reasons for Participatiing in the Newfoundland Seal Hunt. Culture, 1981. 1(1): 61-65.

Wright focuses his article on the men that participate in the annual seal hunt in Northern Newfoundland. Using these hunters as examples, he argues that certain people’s activities cannot be interpreted in only economic terms but that there are also important socio-cultural terms as well.

The author believes that the strong cultural tradition driving these men to hunt for seals, valuable fur, and fat is often overlooked and instead only the economic aspect of the activity is emphasized by those opposed to the hunt from an animal cruelty and environmental point of view. Indeed, all the men that get on those vessels and travel to the ice in northern Newfoundland do get paid for their work, but Wright argues that this is a secondary benefit when compared to the sense of accomplishment the hunters feel and the communal prestige the hunters receive when they return home. While doing his fieldwork in 1979, Wright went on the Newfoundland seal hunt and spent time learning about this traditional event and developing relationships with the hunters so that he could truly understand their motivations for taking part in the hunt. He discovered that the annual seal hunt has been ingrained in Newfoundland culture for generations, is supported by the local governments and churches deem it culturally valuable. Many of the hunters are sons and grandsons of former seal hunters and see the event almost as a rite of passage because upon completion they are bestowed with a higher status and reputation in their communities. In a sense, the seal hunt has become a way of preserving rural Newfoundland life and culture from external modernity and interference. The seal hunters give a simple economic explanation for their participation to outsiders who ask them about it. However, when speaking with insiders, people who have been on seal hunts themselves like Wright, it is obvious that the men have much more than just monetary motivations for their involvement.

Wright implemented mostly a participant-observer style to collect all of his data and collection. He realized that this was the best way for the sealers to open up to him and share their true feelings. By doing this, he was able to conclude that indeed the reason why seal hunters participate is because of the social and cultural traditions that go along with it and not primarily for economic reasons.


RAFFI PIRJANIAN York University (Maggie MacDonald).