Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Culture does not stand alone; it is not a set of rules, guidelines or restrictions but a set of themes traditions and regularities. One of the things Achebe pointed out in Things Fall Apart was the contrast between members of a single community that are said to comprise a society whose relationships and lives flow, mesh, and grow in their culture. Reading Ashcrofts piece on the designation of both he terms and ideas associated with post-colonialism I was concerned that too often while trying to understand the anthropological trends and ideals associated with a certain culture nation or group of people it becomes too easy to disassociate the value of the culture from the individual.

Ashcroft's piece undoubtedly serves to collect and present multiple thoughts, viewpoints, and understanding of how person's today are to understand the post-colonial era but it does not present the times themselves. What was jarring about Achebe's account of Igbo culture was not the society, or the colonization in alone. Those ideas are easily understood through a mode such as Ashcroft or others have written to present a historical, generalized idea of these 'chinks' of culture. Okonkwo's dead body swinging from the tree branch is about him, it is about his life. Yes we understand the ideals of the man, yes we compare their culture to ours today, and yes we believe that somehow in a history book that we can gain some understanding from two or three chapters meant to encapsulate generations of Igbo society. Peoples lives reflect their culture, and literature, in the sense that Achebe has presented us with a personalized account of a man's life in Igbo society and so thorough his eyes and his hands we can experience.

The home is so essential to culture because peoples identify with their homes; under the general umbrellas of culture and society the home shapes who one is and how they will function within society and in reaction or accordance to culture. In American 'culture' we have the unique mixture of backgrounds and histories as well as geographical anomalies and traditions that add to the variety of types and the amount of actual 'norms' that exist.

I am a New Yorker and I think I love and hate Baltimore more and more every day but as much as a strong sense of confusion I have about it I'm not sure it draws enough of a comparison culturally to make my point so I'll leave that alone for now. i spent the summer, or part of it rather, in a tiny town in The Apennine Mountains in Italy, and I think I had the reverse sort of experience. When one goes abroad they are dumped into the culture and society of another place. You are expected to follow their norms, their traditions, their regularities but your home has taught you otherwise. I feel as though world travelers have to be professional chameleons, yet I do not feel as though it is impossible for culture's to bend, or shift while still remaining within their norms. Culture's change every day as people's lives change in front of them. In Italy I saw things that I thought were odd beautiful and interesting, and the people there saw some of those same things in me. People adapt, traditions will adapt and change yet at the same time some things stop us dead in our tracks. Think of how the world shuts down for Christmas, or how america is frozen for the Super Bowl.

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