Intro to Anthro #4 – Saris, Whales and everything in between.

More fab extracts in the “Introductory Readings in Anthropology” book I bought just before coming to Australia.

Within the “Being Human: Unity and Diversity” section today we have “Organising Social Relations: Kinship and Gender, Engaging with Nature and The Humanity of Things.

While I liked “The Semantics of Biology” by Kirsten Hastrup, I was thinking that if I were teaching this stuff to undergrads, I’d start with the Garfunkel and Oates song “The Loophole.”

The next one on “‘Ladies’ behind Bars: A Liminal Gender as Cultural Mirror” had me thinking of James Clavell’s King Rat and also the workmanlike Tom Selleck vehicle from the 1980s “An Innocent Man.”

The Nature/Culture stuff was kinda old hat to me because I was a Teaching Assistant on a great undergrad/masters course at University of Manchester.

Still, will add Environmentalism: The View from Anthropology by Kay Milton to my someday-read list.

Good stuff on whales from Adrian Peace. Just yesterday or the day before there was lots of stuff on the radio about sightings of a whale and her calf down south of Adelaide (or even closer. Good stuff on how the Japanese catch it in the neck, and where they are coming from

“A more frequent claim is that in the early twentieth century, a period of exceptional rural hardship, the northward spread of whaling provided inhabitants with protein. Then canned whale meat became part of the military diet, and after 1945 food shortages were avoided by the expansion of whaling on the advice of the American military occupiers…. Continuity was then maintained as whale meat became a regular item in the carefully prepared obentos, or lunch boxes, which children take to school.”

And then later

“A complementary argument has it that the Japanese do not attach the same significance to the whale as Westerners do because of the way it is culturally categorised. The whale falls into the category of fish rather than mammal: the character for ‘whale’ (kujira) has two parts, the first being the sign for a fish (uo-hen)… When reduced to just another species of fish, whales possess none of the aura which nowadays surrounds mammals in the West.”

Good stuff too on ducks (ruddy and otherwise) and who kills what to maintain what purity, and on (female) ships. Then Daniel Miller closes out with stuff about clothing and its uses in Trinidad, Pakistan and London.

A reference to chase down – Ibsen’s Peer Gynt on onions and the endless peeling back in search of an essence. (I love Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, Ghosts, The Doll House. Not sure why I haven’t read Peer Gynt…)

Good stuff on what saris are (lots of things in one, basically).

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