You like Death Metal Music….Really???

For some time now, my husband has been playing death metal music and exposing and explaining the nuances of the genre to me; I would say from the very beginning of our dating days, circa 1999.

Back then, I was in high school and mostly still listening to grunge, punk, and new wave bands, having been exposed to Metallica’s black album as my only form of understanding anything metal. I didn’t know it at the time but my husband was slowly bringing me over to the dark side.

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Objects – Things – Stuff

Over at NYU’s Material World blog, I couldn’t help falling in love with a recent post that excerpts a letter from Sigmund Freud to his fiancee about objects, meaning, and emotion. He writes:

“Tables and chairs, beds, mirrors, a clock to remind the happy couple of the passage of time, an armchair for an hour’s pleasant daydreaming, carpets to help the housewife keep the floors clean, linen tied with pretty ribbons in the cupboard and dresses of the latest fashion and hats with artificial flowers, pictures on the wall, glasses for everyday and others for wine and festive occasions, plates and dishes, a small larder in case we are suddenly attacked by hunger or a guest, and an enormous bunch of keys–which must make a rattling noise. And there will be so much to enjoy, the books and the sewing table and the cosy lamp, and everything must be kept in good order or else the housewife, who has divided her heart into little bits, one for each piece of furniture, will begin to fret. And this object must bear witness to the serious work that holds the household together, that object to a feeling for beauty, to dear friends one likes to remember, to cities one has visited, to hours one wants to recall. And all this, a small world of happiness, of silent friends and proofs of lofty human values, is as yet only in the future; not even the foundation of the house has been laid, there is nothing but two poor human creatures who love one another to distraction. Are we to hang our hearts on such little things? Yes, and without hesitation.”

It was enlightening for me to see how much material culture fits into our daily lives and how we attribute meaning in a variety of ways to objects. I won’t lie and say that I read this letter and thought of it in completely anthropological terms;  Freud’s letter to his fiancee struck a romanticized chord with me. I think in our daily lives it’s far too easy to forget how objects can embody meaning. In an age where love letters (the old handwritten ones) have been converted to an email here and there, it’s easy to lose the expression of emotions through technology, as much as we use technology to enhance such emotions.
I suppose if I learned anything from this little insightful post, it was that “things, objects, and stuff” can and will evoke memories and ideas that so often one glosses over.

Space Madness and the Anthropology of Aliens?

Over at the Mindhacks  blog, the authors have a great post on the Rise and Fall of Space Madness. The post discusses how during the 1950’s the popular belief regarding space travel was that it would have a negative affect on the mental health of astronauts. It was thought that long stretches of time, along with space stress and loneliness would inevitably traumatize the mind. What NASA scientists found was the opposite and what seems to be even more interesting (at least to me) is how Hollywood was able to profit on a culturally created “space madness disease”  that in actuality-never happened. What’s even more clear is that this perceived madness is still popular today.

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Study habit(us)

In both my anthropology classes, I’ve been getting a great introduction to classic and modern anthropological theory. Just recently we had a couple of readings that had to do with embodiment. In many of these readings, the anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu and his concept of ‘habitus‘ were referenced. Habitus as defined by Bourdieu (1990) is a principle that consists of objects of knowledge,  a system of structured and structuring dispositions; it is a system of interacting elements or as Smith (2003) calls it, an attribute of individuals.

It’s this idea of habitus that Bourdieu places great importance on the body and action. Central to his concept is that habitus occurs through embodiment. When I read  Mindhack’s article on Study Habits that discussed inherent studying habits that have been occurring since education and teaching have existed,  I was intrigued with the possible notion of how we embody learning habits and how we can embody better study habits that move us (as students) from a passive role to active role. So instead of simply ingesting a lecture, we are now creating a dialogue with it; transforming the objective into subjective (from spectator to participant). It’s interesting to see that by thinking ‘deeply’, we can purposely affect our memory and what our minds are correlating.