Symbolizing America / Edition 1

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Anthropologists since Franz Boas and Margaret Mead have traditionally gone off to study “primitive” cultures. This collection of original essays breaks new ground in showing how anthropological theories and techniques can be applied to the culture of contemporary middle-class Americans.

In Symbolizing America, ten well-known anthropologists pursue self and identity as cultural rather than psychological matters. Looking homeward, they ask “What Is American about America?” “How do we know?” and “What difference does it make?” They analyze such aspects of American culture as advertising, mass-audience movies, patriotic and ethnic parades, church minutes, college parties, greetings, and the dilemmas of adolescent sexuality. Concerned with familiar interactions, they arrive at new insight into the experience of daily life in America.

In their symbolic and semiotic approaches, the authors express the variety yet surprising unity of a dynamic American culture. Chapters include “Creating America,” “Doing the Anthropology of America,” and “’Drop in Anytime’: Community and Authenticity in American Everyday Life” by the editor, Hervé Varenne, Teachers College, Columbia University; “Freedom to Choose: Symbols and Values in American Advertising” by William O. Beeman, Brown University; “The story of [James] Bond” by Lee Drummond, McGill University; “The Melting Pot: Symbolic Ritual or Total Social Fact?” by Milton Singer, University of Chicago; “The Los Angeles Jews ‘Walk for Solidarity’: Parade, Festival, Pilgrimage” by Barbara Myerhoff and Stephen Mongulla, University of Southern California; “History, Faith, and Avoidance” by Carol Greenhouse, Cornell University; “The Discourse of the Dorm: Race, Friendship, and ‘Culture’ among College Youth” by Michael Moffatt, Rutgers University; “Why a ‘Slut’ is a ‘Slut’: Cautionary Tales of American Middle-Class Teenage Girls’ Morality” by Joyce Canaan, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies; and an epilogue, “on the Anthropology of America,” by John Caughey, University of Maryland.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Traditionally anthropology has focused on the study of non-Western peoples. Here, ten anthropologists look at life in the United States. Varenne believes that those who have previously studied ``exotic'' cultures are uniquely qualified to examine the mainstream culture of their own country. By analyzing such things as advertising, James Bond movies, parades, church minutes, and teenage sexuality, the authors of these essays begin to develop a long overdue anthropology of middle-class America. The attempt to define what makes us ``American'' is not wholly satisfactory, but it is an interesting beginning. Recommended for research collections. Robin B. Devin, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Kingston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803296039
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1986
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 290
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Preface xiii
Introduction 1
Part I Telling America
Editor's Introduction 13
1 Creating America 15
2 Doing the Anthropology of America 34
Part II Crafting America
Editor's Introduction 49
3 Freedom to Choose: Symbols and Values in American Advertising 52
4 The Story of Bond 66
Part III Improvising America
Editor's Introduction 93
5 The Melting Pot: Symbolic Ritual or Total Social Fact? 97
6 The Los Angeles Jews' "Walk for Solidarity": Parade, Festival, Pilgrimage 119
Part IV Resolving America
Editor's Introduction 139
7 History, Faith, and Avoidance 142
8 The Discourse of the Dorm: Race, Friendship, and "Culture" among College Youth 159
Part V Doing America
Editor's Introduction 181
9 Why a "Slut" Is a "Slut": Cautionary Tales of Middle-Class Teenage Girls' Morality 184
10 "Drop in Anytime": Community and Authenticity in American Everyday Life 209
Epilogue: On the Anthropology of America, by John Caughey 229
Notes 251
References 263
The Contributors 277
Subject Index 279
Author Index 287
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