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Sleep Reinforces Learning: Children’s Brains Transform Subconsciously Learned Material Into Active Knowledge

Sleep Reinforces Learning: Children’s Brains Transform Subconsciously Learned Material Into Active Knowledge

During sleep, our brains store what we have learned during the day  a process even more effective in children than in adults. (Credit: © Monkey Business / Fotolia)

In this article scientists discuss how important it is for children to be getting enough sleep per night as what information they retain subconsciously during school into active knowledge as they sleep. This article relates back to the week we discussed bodies and biopolotics. Americans are obsessed with our bodies, what is good for us, what is bad for us. We are ever striving to find the perfect diet, the healthiest food, the ultimate exercises that will make us turn into the ideal body. What we perceive as perfection. Such as olympians, models and other people in the limelight. We are obsessed with being healthy, young and beautiful indefinitely.
Scientists will study a collective of americans to develop statistics on whether this is an individual matter or important to the entire community. One of our authors also focused on sleep. In Matthew Wolf-Meyer’s article Natural Hegemonies: Sleep and the Rhythms of American Capitalism we learn of different diagnosis of sleep. How those are able to adapt to their own bodies demands and well as the demands of their society. Substituting pharmaceuticals and large quantities of caffeinated substances to accommodate to our nation’s ideal of the 9-5 work schedule.
What Wolf-Meyer is doing is studying what we usually overlook and studying how we use sleep as americans. This relates back to the famous Nacirema study which its intentions were to make the familiar strange. Studying what we view as a necessity and nothing more. In this article they are studying how sleep helps our cognitive memory. How we are better able to retain important information through the practice of good sleeping habits.

_Jessa Ripley

notes

1. Sleep reinforces learning: Children’s brains transform subconsciously learned material into active knowledge. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 18, 2013,

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by | March 18, 2013 · 11:56 PM

The American Dream?

The American Dream?

Zoe Strauss, Daddy Tattoo (2004 image); Philadelphia

This image by Zoe Strauss depicts one of the locals of her hometown of West Philadelphia. What Zoe aimed to capture was “to create an epic narrative that reflects the beauty and struggle of everyday life.” This Image caught my eye because it reminded me so much of what Kathleen Stewart is trying to portray in her book, Ordinary Affects. Here we see a middle aged woman most likely coming home from the grocery store. She has a teeny tiny top on that is clearly dirty, her hair is disheveled, very heavily drawn make-up, and her eyes are red. The most striking part of the image however is the two tattoos that are inked onto her arm. Obviously the photographer was interested in those tattoos as she names the image after it, Daddy Tattoo. So what are we supposed to get out of this image?

Kathleen Stewart’s book focuses on the everyday aspect of things.What we do in our everyday lives that makes us American and who we are as an individual. In this picture we see a heavily caked on face of make-up and the overly drawn lips. It gives us an idea of what she sees as beauty as well as maybe her community does. As juxtaposed to what the rest of America deems beautiful. Her face does not show pride in her appearance but more of embarrassment and shame. I remember one of Kathleen’s stories titled ‘PMS Powered'(where she describes walking down a nice neighborhood and noticing a “snazzy car with an in your face attitude” (23). At first there is the first brief impression, however once she looks more closely at the car she notices something different, more complicated. The nice looking car has been stripped of its wheels. This works the same in this image. At first we see just a women unkempt and doesn’t seem to care. Yet when we look closer we find more complexity. The women’s eyes are red. From exhaustion? from crying? Perhaps something is troubling her at home? We slowly become sucked into a story that we begin to feed and develop, but have no way of determining the actuality of her story. Kathleen also talks about this in ‘Scenes of Impact'(68). We as americans are drawn to what catches our senses. This woman seems troubled, but with what we don’t know. We are drawn to it as we are to the Mona Lisa and her mysterious smile. This picture gives us the same feel of melancholy and helplessness as did October Sky. In the film we watch as the family slowly cycles into the same patterns of abuse and depression. Both live in the poor parts of town where things are worn down. Style and clothes tell us she is from the urban ghetto. As with the Moher family we can only sit by and watch this brief moment of what looks like a tough and troubled life. From there we develop our own theories to her story. We are drawn to the mess we see before us until the next ‘Impact’ draws our attention.

I tracked down where this picture originated from and who was the subject. Her name was Monica. On the official blog website of Zoe Strauss she has a blog posting about Monica’s mother reaching out to Zoe and telling her that Monica had died. Yet while she was alive and had heard about her picture being put into Elle magazine she was bursting with excitement. I believe this relates to the Idea of the American Dream is a Private Dream as described in Habits of the Heart as what Andy Warhol explained “in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes”(285). The American Dream is about the individual, how far we can succeed against the public rather than as a collective. In this sense Monica achieved the American Dream. Her photo is in magazines such as Elle and Art in America. Her image is on websites. In this future there is no such thing as 15 minute fame, because her image is on the internet where it will be preserved for generations to come.

-Jessa Ripley

notes

1. A New Kind of Neighborhood, uk.phaidon.com, January 17th, 2012

2. Kathleen Weston, Ordinary Affects (Duke University Press, Durham & London, 2007)

3. October Country. Dir. Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher. Wishbone Films, 2009. DVD.

4. If You Break the Skin, You Must Come In, zoestrauss.blogspot.com, Sunday March 27th, 2007

5. Bellah, Robert, and Neelly. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley: University of California, 1985. Print.

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by | March 18, 2013 · 11:53 PM

A “Dream” within a Dream?: The Inception of the Self-Driving Machine

I encourage you to take a look at this image. It is obviously a significant crowd of people gathered in front of our country’s capital Washington D.C. These people marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in support of racial equality, and desegregation. All are present in anticipation of hearing him speak, but they are also standing to show solidarity. What the image doesn’t show you are races of people in the crowd. If you did not already know, the crowd was filled with men, women and children of all ages and all ethnicities. I chose this image because it blends them all together, separate but United as one. By not focusing on the details, the photograph shows the bigger picture: the sheer power of a group, while places less importance on individual differences. On Wednesday, August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke the memorable words “I have a dream…that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The statement, “I have a dream” represents more than the words themselves; moreover, “I have a dream” represents the climactic moment of the entire racial Civil Rights Movement. Most importantly, it represents change.

Change is something we as humans naturally resist. While change may be good or bad it is inherently part of the human condition to create stability, order, and linear systems of life. We rely on this sort of thinking as our fundamental mechanism for understanding the world around us. We explain, categorize, and differentiate between good and bad, clean and unclean, right and wrong. We often times unconsciously engage in a group-mentality type of thinking, and may naturally assimilate and imitate those around us. We predominantly learn about the world around us from our families and peers. I will not attempt to define this kind of thought process as necessarily “good” or “bad”, however it is through this behavior that cultures have emerged. “Culture” is a fluid and abstract concept; it both defines and controls behavior of individuals. When we think of culture, we typically think of characteristics that are inherently unique to a certain group of people. This, however, brings a difficult challenge when attempting to analyze the concept of “American Culture”. The United States of America is unique in that it was founded in a foreign land, established on progressive principles, but comprised of borrowed cultures. It is an example of a marriage between stability and change. America is a country that was founded from a Revolution, and established as a land of freedom, however Americans themselves attempt to cling to “traditional” ways of life.

The main concepts I consider uniquely American are “American Individualism”—the idea that you are your own person and can choose who you want to be, and the concept of “The American Dream”—the idea that despite what circumstances you were born with, you can achieve success and happiness through your own actions and hard work and create your own destiny.  Realistically speaking, this is not entirely true for every person that lives in America, but the hope and empowerment it creates is unprecedented. It is through this [American] Individualism and the American Dream that change occurs. The belief in entitlement to equal opportunity, the pursuit of happiness, and the drive for success—all of these feelings fuel progressive change. Ironically, while we have borrowed from so many other cultures, they too have borrowed from us. The Revolutionary War inspired the French Revolution; we established the separation of church and state and improved on the idea of a democracy. We sparked the Industrial movement, ended slavery, created the assembly line, established women’s rights, created new technology and the internet, visited space…the list goes on and on. We are now in a new age of globalization and post-modernity where thoughts and ideas are being shared so quickly that it is difficult to categorize what belongs to whom. Some of us would consider these changes to be beneficial, however no significant change ever occurs without conflict.

While it is generally accepted nowadays that all citizens are equal regardless of skin color, it once began as a simple idea. Dr. King was not the only person who believed in the idea, however he chose to pursue the American Dream and established himself as a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor in the Southern United States, but that didn’t stop him from breaking cultural norms in pursuit of change, and promoting non-violence. Although he died prematurely through an assassination and never lived to see his dream come true, he perpetuated the American dream to all citizens, regardless of skin color, gender, social “class” (in a socio-economic terms) or sexuality. He was a monumental figure—especially to the African American community—because he was living proof that African Americans could be as educated, articulate, and peaceful as any other citizen of the United States. He defied the stereotype of the “typical” black man and in the process, humanized a race that had been dehumanized and categorized as “inferior” since before the founding of the country. He united people for a common cause, and sparked change. Hortense Powdermaker additionally discussed this concept in his work After Freedom: A Cultural Study in the Deep SouthPowdermaker noted, “To establish and maintain relations with the Negroes was not difficult. They were quick in sensing a person’s attitude, and appreciated a point of view which regarded them as fundamentally no different from other human beings…They wanted the outside world to know how they lived. Moreover, as one upper-class Negro put it, I studied the best of them as well as the worst” (Powdermaker, 203).

While we are equal under the law regardless of skin color, prejudice and discrimination groups still exist today in our country. Klu Klux Klans still exist all over America, as do groups of Neo-Nazis.  In many places in the Southern United States, schools teach that the Civil War was about States Rights, [not slavery]. Some believe that women are inferior to men, and some think that being gay is a choice. While citizens can no longer legally be discriminated against because of gender or race, that doesn’t mean everyone is equal under the law, nor does it guarantee that all citizens will have the same beliefs. Women are not guaranteed the same pay as men, and many LGBT individuals are denied the right to marry the person they love. Many people who oppose changes like these are coming from a perspective of “traditional” values that they have learned from their peers and families. The contrast between old vs. new, young vs. old, or “traditional” vs. progressive is nicely demonstrated by Powdermaker in his description of youth in the 1930’s in the deep south; “To the younger generation, the church offers no such focus of activity and belief. Many of those between eighteen and thirty go to services but very few attend as regularly as do their parents. And those who go do so either in mechanical response to a habit of long standing or to please some older members of the family. Religion and the church seem to have no organic place in their interests…Like the youth of many rural communities, they have responded to outside influences more than to the example and precepts of their parents, so that the difference defined by age groups is less a matter of age as such than of current history, and of increasing contact with the outside world” (Powdermaker, 215).

Even after decades of social change, many people are born into poverty and don’t have access to equal quality education; due to limited resources they may not be able to overcome their socioeconomic conditions, and may not achieve the American Dream. As the economy changes, the American Dream seems to be harder to reach. While the “Dream” may not be as easily attainable, the drive it inspires has ceased to diminish. As times get tougher on all Americans, people are holding to their beliefs even harder. As long as this country is “the land of the free,” Americans will fight for what they believe is their freedom. The conflict between change and stability inevitably causes tension, which leads to more conflict. More conflict will eventually lead to more change. Our history [which is comparably young compared to most cultures] is comprised of periods of stability, marked by periods of rapid change. Our peers, parents and our respective subcultures shape our beliefs and ideas, but we are also influenced by the array of cultures and ideas around us. While we may try to differentiate ourselves from others, whether it may be gender, race, socioeconomic status, or sexual identity, we as Americans should take a step back and try to remember that we are all “others”.

While immigrants or minorities may experience “otherness,” perhaps Americans as a whole also experience this feeling due to the lack of a generalized culture. Perhaps change poses such high levels of conflict in the United States because our own culture is based loosely on a collection of things borrowed. We are a united group of different states, with different laws, populations, and subcultures. We have very few things to call ours, yet many of us take great pride in being an “American” without really understanding what that means. We, as a culture, are a Hybrid, which many refer to as “The Melting Pot”. America is a machine, thriving and producing, globalizing and powering through global and internal change. But what makes us inherently “American” is that we are comprised of two opposites—we thrive on change but rely on stability… and it is the marriage of these two factors that keep this machine running.

March on Washington in solidarity of Martin Luther King Junior, and the Civil Rights Movement

March on Washington for Martin Luther King Junior and the Civil Rights Movement

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by | March 18, 2013 · 12:43 AM

America’s Imperial Nostalgia

America's Imperial Nostalgia

Author: Jennine Grasso
Source for Image: landolakesinc.com

This image is representative to me of American society, as it shows the unique—and not altogether upstanding—history of the interactions between American government and society with indigenous American tribes. The first quality that stands out for me is the idyllic scene of the lakes and forests associated with a stereotypically portrayed indigenous American woman. Besides the blatant stereotypical depiction of the woman, the scene and the name of the brand are associated with Renato Rosaldo’s concept of “imperialist nostalgia”. In this case the Land o’ Lakes Company wants you to associate the “unspoiled” beauty of the scene with their product, to sell it from an all-natural angle. This is further emphasized by the letter “O” in the product name forming a halo around the woman’s head, associating the scene with the garden of Eden—innocent and temporary. It is implicit that this unspoiled beauty cannot exist with the modernity of today and that the settlement of the United States by non-native people have marred its beauty. Like both Renya Ramirez in Native Hubs and Renato Rosaldo in Imperialist Nostalgia, I argue that this, too, is a form of marginalization as it plays into the “vanishing cultures” mentality of classical anthropology. In essence, it is a phenomenon of people mourning what they themselves are destroying by their exploitation of certain attributes tied to an ethnic or tribal group.

The image of the woman is problematic as well as her positioning and association with the product feeds into the negative stereotypes of indigenous American women. The fact that she is kneeling, looking above her, and offering out the butter associates her with a subordinate role, as she does not have to be on equal footing with whomever she is offering the product to. This stereotype is contradicted by the reality of politically active indigenous women, such as Rosemary Cambra and her mother and grandmother. By challenging views of male politicians and fighting for the legal sanction of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe as an indigenous tribe, she defies the stereotype of indigenous American women being limited to the private sphere. Elizabeth Grannell was also involved in political struggles, but on a more regional level when she met with other parents to change the Freemont High School’s mascot, which was—much like the above image—a caricature of an indigenous American.

The issue Grannell fought for is similar to the one brought up by this advertisement; it is of representation from an outside body. Ramirez referred to the mascot as a “caricature” and detailed a few of its exaggerated features, such as its “goofy grin”. I would argue that most of these representations of indigenous Americans from outside sources are caricatures of indigenous people, because of the lack of understanding of both true tribal characteristics and the racially charged relations between the United States government and indigenous Americans.

Another issue the image brings up is the complex topic of ownership of the land, but I believe this is more the conceptuality of ownership, rather than the physical realities of deeds and private property. The idea is similar to a “virtual hub” in Ramirez’s book, only in this case it is from a more nationalistic sense, as the ownership of America as a whole is being disputed. The fact that a non-native company can associate itself with the purity of the image of “original America” before settler-colonialism really set in shows the appropriation of certain attributes normally tied with indigenous groups. The fact that the brand wants to be associated with people who used things directly from the land shows the trend of being tied to native culture. As one man told Jessica Sanchez, one of Ramirez’s informants, in Native Hubs “Almost everyone wants to be Native American now” (Ramirez 131). This “fad” of being indigenous American or being associated with a tribe goes hand in hand with the fears surrounding the discourse of authenticity. Much like the scorn Jessica Sanchez faced through this phrase, many people of mixed ethnicities who are also indigenous American feel like they must struggle to prove themselves and be accepted by their respective communities. Beth Begaye, another one of Ramirez’s informants, encourages her grandchildren to have ties both to their Hispanic and Navajo roots by teaching them both Spanish and Navajo. The matter of authenticity ties into the idea of national ownership, because the possession is purely for cultural reasons—to have a homeland associated with the “virtual hub” detailed in the stories about one’s people. This advertisement ties into the virtual hub-making process of imposing an American identity, which encompasses natives and non-natives, on diverse groups of indigenous Americans who have pre-existing cultural traditions from which to draw from in terms of their identity.

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by | March 17, 2013 · 9:20 PM

What it means to be an American

What it means to be an American

The photograph above is taken from Coco Fusco’s performance collection: The Postponed Event, Norte Sur. I chose this photograph to portray the theme of cultural citizenship. In this picture, Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez display extreme cultural identifications of what it means to be an immigrant in the Unites States and conforming to cultural ideologies as they interpret the role of two natives. On the left, Guillermo Gomes is displayed as an Aztec to represent the native inhabitants of central Mexico. On the right, Coco Fusco takes the role of an Afro Cuban priestess. Just as Horace Minor does with his article, Body Rituals among the Nacirema, this image as well portrays an interesting twist of the idea of being “Americanized” and encountering this culture.
Cultural citizenship is defined as “the right to be different with respect to the norms of the dominant national community, without compromising one’s right to belong, in the sense of participating in the nation-state’s democratic processes” (Rosaldo, 57). I believe this photograph does an excellent example of showing us what it means to keep one’s identity of self in a mobile society that asks for adaptation towards the American culture. We see Guillermo holding a burger on one hand representing the fast food nation of America while wearing sunglasses and an Americanized style moustache. Coco holds one of America’s icons of popular culture, Mickey Mouse, which is a symbol of the American dream. These two visuals in a sense are icons representing some value of the American culture whether it be an ideal or a value. This ideal vision is what people yearn for coming to the United States and gaining citizenship. America: we are going places. This is what attracts a majority of people moving into the U.S. hoping for a new start, hoping to make it big, or hoping to achieve the American dream. In order to achieve the American dream, most immigrants become “Americanized”, hiding their true culture and background from the rest afraid of being labeled, rejected, or simply, afraid of not belonging. One’s authenticity may even become questioned. Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures. Moving to the United States may put one’s authenticity into trial. How true can you be to yourself when having to conform to social pressures?
Rosaldo states that “cultural citizenship is a process that involves claiming membership in, and remaking, America” (p58). By claiming membership, and gaining citizenship, one feels closer to home and gains a sense of belonging in a country that was once foreign. However, some may argue that one is making the self a part of the United States in fear of cultural genocide and disenfranchisement (Ramirez, 15). Aihwa Ong believes cultural citizenship is achieved through a dual process; where “becoming a citizen depends on how one is constituted as a subject who exercises or submits to power relations” (p.542) with a modern attitude of self-making. It is a process of subject-fixation where the immigrant begins to take up the practices of surveillance, discipline, control, and administration. As Guillermo and Coco become objects of embodiment through their dress ware, both may participate in self-surveillance by accommodating to the ideologies of what it means to be “Americanized” and may even lose a part of their culture by conforming to citizenship, but yet, may gain status in the social ladder. When two strangers come from different backgrounds and different cultures, citizenship seems like the ideal as it will mean they would share “symbolic adaption into the same fraternal society” (Mead, p.36), and hence, feel they belong.
In this photograph though, both seem to have a smile on their face. They embrace the American culture while still maintaining their cultural identity. I believe that by incorporating the native head dress, it shows the ideal of fitting in but yet maintaining a sense of where you come from. In part, they are still holding on to their past while accommodating to the American culture. The ideal of every immigrant coming to the United States may be as Margaret Mead states: “a world in which we don’t fully belong, but which we feel, if we work at it, we some time may achieve” (p 53).
-Aurora Rodriguez

Aihwa Ong, “Cultural Citizenship as Subject-Making” (1996).
Margaret Mead, “And Keep your Powder Dry” (1943).
Ramirez, Reyna, “Native Hubs” (2007).
Renato Rosaldo, “Identity, Conflict, and Evolving Latino Communities: Cultural Citizenship in San Jose, California”

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by | March 17, 2013 · 5:04 PM