Honors World Regional Blog Post #7 Posted on February 26, 2016 by saorsa2014 Usual rules… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
8 thoughts on “Honors World Regional Blog Post #7”
Native Culture in the Marshall Islands
The US did 67 nuclear tests on and around the Marshall Islands from 1946-58. Because of the terrible levels of radiation, America has given $1 billion in relief and compensation to the Marshall Islands. Many of the Marshallese come to America on a discounted rate for better health care and education.
I am from Springdale AR which has the largest population of Marshallese outside of the pacific. Because of this close connection I am choosing to discuss the native rituals of native Marshallese. Tyson Inc. offered jobs to Marshall immigrants, and due to their close family ties, thousands moved to the area.
Tattooing in the Marshall Islands was an ancient practice used for beautifying and sexual selection. Also, the markings established ranks among the upper class. They believed that the longer one spent perfecting their body art, the more spiritual power they had. The cost of tattooing was very high so it was only available to the elite. Most tattooing took place during religious ceremonies. It often took a common man years to work off the cost of a simple tattoo. In some villages, the right to be tattooed had to be earned. So even though it was popular, not everyone could enjoy the luxury of tattoos.
Historically, the highest ranking male of a poor clan could compete to receive tattoos. He had to prove himself worthy by completing a task or obstacle course set up by the chief of the clan. Then if he completed it, the priest had to accept him before the ceremony could take place.
Family is very important to Marshallese. Heritage is traced through the maternal line. Sisters and their families often lived together on the family’s land. Sisters are considered one and their children are considered siblings not cousins. (This causes a lot of confusion in the Springdale School System) On the Islands, land is a sign of wealth. These close knit but large families are very friendly and welcoming. There is deep respect for elders in their communities.
When the islands were still isolated, the clan based and land based communities lived by subsistence farming and hunting. Often villages were made up of one or two families so sharing and working together is a big part of their culture.
I have never met a Marshallese who could not sing. Most can play the ukulele and piano by ear as well. Springdale’s choir is award winning because of their cultural value on singing. Music has been a part of their heritage for a long time and it is my favorite thing they bring to Springdale. (Their food isn’t very good.)
Good…all kinds of things I din’t know about the Marshallese…
It blows my mind to think about the indigenous traditions that we will never encounter as a result of external forces like globalization. I like globalization. Other than obvious economic benefits, I love that I have friends from all over the world who have values, customs, and cultures that differ from mine. I love that we have conversations about the history behind each other’s beliefs and values without disrespecting our own. Those are conversations that would have been near impossible to have before globalization; that being said, the loss of distinctive customs and cultures, especially in Asia & the Pacific, due to globalization is honestly heartbreaking.
When I think about the death of cultures that is occurring, I begin to wonder about cultural preservation (which, of course, has some problematic undertones). When I was in India this past summer, we studied the Tibetan culture quite a bit (that is what happens, after all, when your guide is a Tibetan Geshe). Understanding the pressure that the Chinese culture would place on Tibetans remaining in Tibet, the Dalai Lama has helped cultivate a culture of preservation. Despite his relative dislike for cultural festivals and dances, he requests that Tibetan children learn the dances in order to keep them relevant. He has the same policy for Tibetan songs, mythology, and traditional medicine. Do Tibetan children learn English and Hindi? Yes. But they also learn Tibetan. Are they encouraged to learn Western medicine? Sometimes, but they are also taught medicinal qualities of traditional herbs and plants. It’s been quite a successful campaign to teach the Tibetan culture and religious values to future generations. Would such an attempt work for other culture? Maybe. Maybe not. But I think it is important that attempts for minorities to continue teaching their traditions is imperative in an increasingly globalized world.
There’s a fine line between accommodating cultural traditions and appropriating them, but as far as including those traditions into everyday practice think what we’ve seen with the Tā moko is an important example of what should occur more often. If we want distinct cultural traditions to continue, we must not discriminate against those who practice those customs and attempt to continue their cultural traditions and remain relevant in an interconnected world. As the world grows more connected, the fight for Indigenous Rights and the ability for indigenous peoples to value their own traditions without infringing on their ability to interact with other cultures is increasingly important.
When I look at these images, each of distinct, minority cultures, I contemplate a lot. My mind wanders to two things: grand scale cultural cross over and assimilation.
My most immediate thought is to look around me; I try to see how much impact a small minority can have on the world today, given its globalization. The effects may not necessarily be large ones, such as alteration of societies’ values or interests. Often times, they are small. For example, Ta Moko. True, various forms of body art have been practiced across the world for thousands of years. Ta Moko, ostensibly, should be considered one of many and be equally represented as such. And yet, Ta Moko reminiscent tattoos are common in America, particularly on males. Go to any gym or pool, and you’re more than likely to find at least one or two adaptations (in America, usually on the arms or chest and not the face). Even famous celebrities sport these tattoos (think of Mike Tyson and the Rock). Without globalization, this phenomenon would never occur. It makes me wonder though, even with globalization, how are such small communities’ values, traditions, or customs assimilated and adapted on a grander scale, to a larger society?
I don’t have the answers. Perhaps it’s a fluke, an exception to the norm. Or perhaps even a small society’s culture can have parallels a larger society relates to, even if it adapts them slightly. After all, virtually no society has ever lived in isolation. Even thousands of years ago, society’s had contact with one another. Whether it was by physically bordering each other, becoming trade partners, fighting wars, traveling along the Silk Road, or some other means of human contact, people have always exchanged ideas about their civilizations. Today it happens more quickly, but, it has always happened. The world has always been globally connected, just a much slower, more halting rate.
This brings me to my next point— cultural assimilation on a grand scale. Culture is difficult to describe. What is culture? What defines it, affects it, shapes and reshapes it? How many factors play a part in culture? The variables at play are, in a word, countless. And yet, we understand that culture is affected by contact with other culture. With the example of Ta Moko, it may not be some grand change that occurs. Rather, Ta Moko has affected a distinct area of American culture— tattoo wearing individuals, usually male— in a small way. Not everyone with a tattoo is influenced by this, yet everyone can think of someone they know or a famous celebrity who has such a tattoo invoking similarities with Ta Moko. One culture has assimilated another’s values, and ultimately changed as such.
I say this is a grand scale idea because culture, being a mixture of so many variables, is ultimately a product time and thousands of small changes. These changes might follow a trend, might accelerate or decelerate in frequency of alteration, might occasionally be massive as opposed to minor, but ultimately they make up the future culture. So when I look at these images, it makes me wonder, how much are these small, minority cultures are influencing and altering my culture? Global culture? I look for their effects today, and wonder, where will traced to tomorrow?
Very nice discussion…I like the way you address the different questions arising from the images.
Cultural heritage and traditions are facing difficult times as the world becomes more and more globalized. With globalization comes many benefits such as information and technology sharing, mass flows of capital, sharing of medical technology, etc. With these benefits though comes a fight for minority people groups to hold on to their traditions that do not easily fit within the cultural norms of this global society that is engulfing the world.
As this occurs, these groups must work harder to protect their way of life and find the means to fit it into the world today without losing themselves to it. Language is a huge example of this fight. As movement and transportation become easier for the world so does the pressure to be able to communicate with the massive surrounding populations. As learning the official languages becomes more of a necessity, the easier it becomes to lose your native tongue. Then after only a couple of generations the art of your cultures way of communicates becomes lost and can never be found again. This is why there has been a movement to record as much of this “endangered languages” as possible. So whether it be tattooing, dress, or language, if these groups want to maintain their way of life against globalization’s all-consuming force it will be no easy task.
Good but brief.