cfhowland’s Blog

Blog Marks?
June 10, 2009, 3:26 am
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Does anyone know how/when we will receive our blog marks? Mary?

PS. For all those confused about getting the marks from the test, you can pick yours up at the office on the ninth floor!


Snowpeas and Celebrities: The Final Countdown
June 4, 2009, 8:00 pm
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Seeing as I’ve dragged myself out of bed at this ungodly hour for the test, I thought I’d fire off one last post.  The two wedding clips, and Irene Stengs’ ‘Death and Disposal of a People’s Singer’ provide quite interesting insights into the relationship the ‘general public’ have with public figures, or celebrity. What I find particularly intriuging is the degree of intimacy people believe they have with such figures. In one of the clips of Diana’s wedding (part three I think), one of the florists(?) has made a flower arrangement for Diana out of snowpeas, as her great-grandmother was part of a team that introduced them to England around 1910. He said he had done it as a ‘surprise’ for her, and hoped she’d appreciate it. Of course, as Stengs notes, the media is the primary medium through which this intimacy is created – because it essentially makes their private lives public. This is particularly bizarre in the context of the contemporary obsession with becoming an instant celebrity – these individuals assume the intimate details of their private lives are worthy of being made public. Yet it is often those stories not told which are the most interesting. It’s a funny world we live in!

‘Traditional’ Rituals in Modern Contexts
May 24, 2009, 7:29 am
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Alice Dewey’s article, ‘Ritual as a Mechanism for Urban Adaption’, raises a number of interesting questions about the use of so-called traditional or indigenous rituals in modern contexts. She illustrates how the Javanese slametan has been translated to the context of Noumea, and dually functions to cement social ties among cliques groups, and is a ritual response to an individual life crisis. I wonder if it can also be analysed in the context of what Arjun Appadurai terms ethnoscapes – flows of connected, yet mobile people and ideas translocally and transnationally. Clearly, the migrant Javanese retain connections to their homeand through the practice of the slametan. Yet Appadurai also talks about the importance of imagination, and specifically of constructing imagined homelands amongst migrant communities – perhaps the slametan serves this function also?

Also, it would be interesting to compare between different societies and cultures what types of rites “surive” this transition froms supposedly traditional/rural to modern/urban contexts – and how these rites are structurally enabled or disabled under modern capitalist conditions. In fact, potentially many could, provided they did not seek to directly contradict or subvert the processes and goals of capitalism and the state. Indeed, often those that do are altered in such a way so as to conform to these structures. A somewhat benign New Zealand example of this is the hangi – it is now predominantly a weekend ritual, yet this was never historically the case. However, with the introduction of wage labour, rites such as the hangi and the slametan have become compartmentalized into the leisure (i.e. non-working) time of participants. Thus, I believe these traditional and transitional rituals would be a really interesting site for the study of the structures of modernity. What do you think?

Koriam’s Law and Ritual Participation
May 1, 2009, 3:53 am
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I’d like to pick up a few ideas from the lecture and film today (which I thought was a fantastic follow-up to the classic ‘Trobriand Cricket’):

Brigitta mentioned that appropriation from colonial/Western to indigenous contexts, such as in ‘Koriam’s Law’, and the invention of traditions could be a form of empowerment. Aniwha Ong briefly mentions an inverse example of this (where indigenous cultural responses are appropriated to post-modern contexts) in her article ‘The Gender and Labour Politics of Post-Modernity’ (see – in response to wage labour restrictions, Malay women will occasionally engage in a form of ritualized spirit possession in their workplaces as a form of resistance to capitalistic domination. It would also be interesting to contrast these with other cases where traditions are imposed or enforced by dominant powers – can anyone think of any examples?

I also wonder what this would mean for, or could illuminate about the nature of ritual participation – obviously people would be reluctant to engage fully with the ritual or tradition and would attempt to subvert it – yet it is quite possible to maintain an outward appearance of participation (due to their obligation to participate). Similarly with Anzac Day, one can attend and take part even if they do not agree with its aims and goals (provided that they remain tight-lipped about their views). It is obvious then that some rituals, especially in the post-modern context, require a very low threshold for participation (I think Catherine Bell terms this “tacit consent”). Your thoughts?

Observation and Essay Musings: Hold on to your Identities!
April 30, 2009, 10:14 am
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Due to various personal commitments, I ended up attending Anzac Day in Waipukurau – and was rather surprised by the sheer numbers that turned up to the Dawn Service. For a town of only 4000 people, around 300 is indeed quite impressive. Because of this, I felt that Anzac Day was a focal event for the real lived Waipukurau community, perhaps even more so than for its creation of an imagined national community – any thoughts?

Also interesting was the jocularity that surrounded the whole proceedings – I overheard two veterans joking about which way round to put the Australian and New Zealand flags (even though they clearly were aware of the correct protocol, as one had been organizing and attending services for fourty years!), and even some members of the public joking about the veterans and their ‘less-than-perfect’ hearing while testing the microphone before the service. Obviously too much solemnity and formality doesn’t sit well with New Zealanders – from these observations it appeared there was a pervasive need to not take things too seriously, and to be seen not to. The veteran who oversaw the ceremony was also quite intimate in his manner. Rather than being pompous and ceremonious, he simply gave instructions and thanked people throughout the service (and sang out of time and out of tune during the national anthem). 

Overall this observation yielded quite interesting results – I’m still focusing on identity, yet have dropped the anti-war identity side in favour of analysing which identities, along with national identity, were embodied and articulated in the service – and perhaps more interestingly which were not. Clearly national identity was not the only one expressed – another very obvious other identity is membership (or previous membership) of the armed forces – yet some were consciously not articulated at all e.g. homosexuality. I think this will be an interesting line to follow…

Biscuits and Brigadiers
April 10, 2009, 7:13 am
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In case anyone particularly feels like baking (I’m sure it’s worth extra credit), here is a recipe for Anzac Biscuits:

Apparently they were made to send in food parcels to the soliders during the war – sounds about right, as they almost always come out rock hard and keep for months. As for the assignment, I’m going to be attending a rural ceremony as I’m going to a wedding somewhere in New Zealand’s deep dark countryside – should be quite interesting, and provide quite a different perspective from the larger celebrations in Wellington. I’m particularly interested in Anzac Day’s role in the construction of a ‘New Zealand’ identity and how this is manifested in the individuals attending. I’d also like to explore how both historical and recent protests have contributed to this identity formation, in terms of binary distinctions ie. respectful : disrespectful, war hero : contientious objector etc. What do you think of this?

National Bodies
April 5, 2009, 4:43 am
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“ The body is a canvas on which major cultural, social and political changes are projected [and is also] the major focus and objective of these changes“ (Van Wolputte 2004: 264).

The article on the Nazi Olympics  and the clip of the Korean Mass games got me thinking about the role of embodiment in political ritual. Nazi values and ideals in the Olympic context were embodied and articulated through an individual or group’s physicality eg. fair-haired ‘Aryan’ athletes, or the Greek virgins at the beginning of the torch relay as an embodiment of purity (of the race, nation etc), and also sacrifice (to the race, nation etc). Similarly, in the Korean Mass Games, the people involved in the choreographed dance and gymnastics routines were the embodiment of national unity through their synchronised movements. The way I see it, participants in these political rituals occupy a dual role – they become the ‘lived embodiment’ in an individual sense through their own bodily experience of, and participation in the ritual, and also become collectively symbolic of key values and ideals of nationhood. It would be really interesting to do a comparative study of embodiment in different national/political rituals, or just different uses of the body itself in political rituals generally, as a site for the inscription of social values etc. This is most obvious in rituals concerned with sport or mass demonstrations, but could probably be found in all political rituals to some extent – perhaps even in Anzac Day?