E.P Thompson & Unnatural Time

According to Alan Sears and James Cairns from one of our current textbooks, A Good Book, In Theory, following clocks is something relevantly something new among people and we has humans have relied on the natural cycles to organize our daily lives (2010, p. 137). Reading this today, we might find this odd because most of us may have been born around unnatural cycles and dealt with it our whole lives.

Though we might think, it is not so bad because with this unnatural cycle, clocks, we can trace back memories, moments, to any particular time we want. When you get married, when you have your first child, first home, first job, or first anything, there is a clock for you to look at and remember when it happened. On the other hand, there is a clock too for the bad times such as deaths, break ups, losing a job, and much more. Therefore, clocks can be a double edge sword.

Besides the emotional attachments that clocks can give us, E.P Thompson argues that clocks are “related to new forms of discipline associated with capitalist work relations…”(Sears and James, p. 139). Which is true if you think about your current job that you have right now. It is probably hourly based isn’t it? Managers, CEOs, the government want to know how much time you are taking to do to your work. By going by this clock, it tells you how much time you have spent doing a job and because of that, your job can determine how much you deserve to be paid.

I can relate this to my own personal job on campus that was a stipend paid job and not by the hour. It was so you can say, clock base, in the form that by the end of the semester I need to complete certain tasks. By completing those tasks, I get my paid amount. However, recently, during our winter break, University of Wisconsin system has changed their way about stipend paid jobs in the universities in Wisconsin. Stipend jobs must now be hourly jobs and must be converted into ways employees can be paid based on the hour.

Reasons to this change is due to health insurance issues that the University of Wisconsin system has stated, but I do not know much about that side of it.

Looking at this though, one can see that this can be a form of the capitalist work relations that Thompson spoke about. Instead of having my own clock to complete tasks, I must now follow these new University of Wisconsin System rules in order to determine my pay. It has its ups and downs, but by having this new policy all employees who were stipend are now watched and regulated by the system.

— Maikou Lor

General Theory

Human Nature and Parenting

Alan Sears’ A Good Book, In Theory shows the stark contrast two authors have when it comes to how they view human behavior.  A British man named William Golding wrote the well-known novel Lord of the Flies in 1954, which is about young boys who find themselves in a situation with no parental units. With no authoritative figure to keep them in line, things end up going south quickly. This book ultimately functions under the assumption that human nature is inherently bad and that we need to “tame” ourselves in order to correct and control these human desires. This theory on the human condition portrays people as in need of some form of structure (such as society or authority figures) to control these urges we all have inside – such as greed and violence – and without that structure we would run rampant and destroy ourselves (Sears: 101). This theory is pretty much shown in the movie Purge directed by James DeManaco in 2013 which I found to be completely unbelievable, but in this movie, the government allows for one day a year when there are no laws in place to keep people in check, thereby anything is legal and everyone runs around crazy, slaughtering each other. The movie is definitely on the extreme spectrum of this view.

The completely opposite side of this spectrum is the theory on human nature that states that people can self-govern, and in fact controlling too much can be a negative thing since people – and children especially – need to be given freedom because it allows for creativity and personal growth. Nearly 20 years after Lord of the Flies was written, Marge Piercy, an American woman, published her novel Woman on the Edge of Time, which displays this exact theory where the children weren’t seen as some savages that in anyway needed taming. Instead, the children interacted without restraint amongst the adults and didn’t receive the same level of restrictions because according to this theory human nature is “in essence” creative, not violent or savage. (Sears: 102)

This section of the text resonated with me because growing up, I loved the 2005 romcom titled Yours, Mine & Ours directed by Raja Gosnell. Well, to be honest, it might have just been that my mom played it too frequently, but the movie is about a dad with eight kids from previous marriages who parents his children in a style that is very structured and in every way a military style and a mom who bring her ten children into the marriage and is an artist or designer of some sort and is very hands off and allows the children freedom for their creative growth. This ends up being the source of conflict, which ultimately gets resolved through compromise, of course, but this movie shows exactly the two theories Sears was talking about since the dad’s style is very similar to the belief shown in Lord of the Flies and the mom is similar to Woman on the Edge of Time. I also thought it was an interesting coincidence that the genders of the authors for the novels coincide with the genders of the parents that enforce it in the movie, because in American society there is often the idea that the dad is the firm hammer and enforcer while the mom is more nurturing, allowing the children to grow, or whatever. I’ll have to watch these movies again with these theories in mind for fun soon and read the books Sears mentions for the first time as well.

-Jessi Hebert



Marxist Theory and Worker Cooperatives

Since discussing Marx and Marxist theory in class, I began to think about the means of production and worker cooperatives. Some worker cooperatives may operate different than the definition I will give here, but for those that are new to the concept of a worker cooperative, it is a business that is equally owned by all employees of that business, with each employee having one vote in deciding how the business operates. In short: democracy in the workplace.

Concerning Marxist theory, assuming that a worker cooperative might operate at the definition I gave, the issue of who owns and controls the means of production within the business is no longer an issue, because the workers as a whole own the means of production, assuming that there is a means of production. During Marx’s time, working conditions were terrible for the working-class, so the issue of who was benefiting from these working conditions was great: who is benefiting and who is being exploited in that system. Even within the modern capitalist economic system, there are still concerns over the ownership of the means of production. Worker cooperatives themselves may not have this issue, at least in theory.

Even if all businesses transitioned to democratic worker cooperatives, I think the ownership of the overall means of production might still be an issue to some. Some would like an overall democratic economy, where local communities decide as a whole how production is operated, fulfilled, and distributed, (which I will refer to here as a democratic economy). The idea of a worker cooperative in an industrial state is a revolutionary idea that might exist in both capitalist and democratic economies.

As a person who has by no means read all of Marx’s works, I wonder what he would have thought about modern worker cooperatives. Would that be the ideal outcome for him regarding the control of the means of production? Or would it not go far enough for him?



Questioning Reality in Fight Club


As anthropologists in training, it is our job to learn how to question our surroundings and the surroundings of others not known to us. It is important to question what makes something within a society `real’. People make assumptions about reality and determine what they think is `real’ through sensory receptors and presume that their ideas of the world can be molded into those of other groups of people. However, in order to really decipher someone’s reality it is necessary to study the perceptions people have that make things meaningful to them, or in other words, phenomenology. In the popular book and film Fight Club, the main character reveals what his reality is and shares the content of his consciousness – or so he believes.

The main character of the story remains nameless, or unknown to the reader or watcher until it is later revealed in a fiasco he experiences with his own consciousness. He is described as a young businessman who owned a well furnished condo and had a stable career. He had everything necessary for the perfect American adult life according to the socially acceptable norms that his consciousness recognized. The only issue was that he was experiencing insomnia and complained to the doctor that he was in pain. The doctor refused to give him the sleeping pills he so desperately wanted and recommended that he go and visit a support group for men with testicular cancer to witness what real pain is like. So he did just that, and for the first time in a while was able to sleep like a baby. By doing what the doctor recommended he was bracketing ideas of his conscious to discover he had taken for granted what it really meant for him to be in pain. Going to support groups then became addictive to him, he was attending groups for ailments that he never had, writing a different name on his name tag everywhere he went.  In these places he could be whoever he wanted to be or be no one at all, while during most days he had a certain role to fulfil in society. It was not until one day that upon arrival home from a business trip that his world was truly turned upside down by a man named Tyler Durden. He went back to his condo building only to find out that his unit had been blown up, to which he proceeded to call the only phone number on a business card in his pocket from Tyler Durden, who he had just met on the plane hours before. The two men met up at a bar where they proceeded to get intoxicated and persuaded one another to start punching each other. This was the end of his need for going to support groups, and the beginning of their Fight Club.

Tyler Durden was the antithesis of the societal norm. The main character began living in an old house with him, spending time with him, and attending their growing Fight Club. Fight Club was making him rough, turning him into the opposite of what he was. The influence of Tyler was substantial on his life. Tyler rejected material things, and the need to live life according to the constraints of society. Tyler began another group called Project Mayhem in which they carried out a series of crimes for what they considered to be the greater benefit to the people. For example, in the film they show a scene where the two approach a young worker at a convenience store and hold him at gun point until the victim states what he has always wanted to do with his life. He then states that if he is not on the path to doing what he dreamed of within the next two weeks, he will come back and kill him. Tyler called these “human sacrifices”, without actually killing anyone, he ensured that the next day of their life will be the best, because they are alive and going to set out to what they really wanted to do instead of dying working at a convenience store. These were like breeching experiments, that disrupted people’s assumptions about life. The main character experienced several breeching experiments throughout the story by breaking the barriers of the constraints of being a ‘white businessman’, but those old ideals still remained within his consciousness, only now his reality was different.

When he came to the realization that things with Project Mayhem and Fight Club were getting out of control, he started putting puzzle pieces together to find Tyler, who was suddenly MIA. All things started pointing in a direction that only led to himself. It was after an epiphany that he realized HE was Tyler Durden all along. This Tyler was everything he could not be, so therefore he existed as another person to him, and not the same. During this time all the people around him operated with the notion that he was Tyler Durden and the only person not aware of this was himself. His imaginary friend was very much real to him, he was responsible for everything life changing and damaging that occurred. Margaret Atwood argued that “the real world and the world of the imagination are not separate and opposed but are deeply interconnected”, and Fight Club is a demonstration of that. All realities vary from person to person and from group to group. Our consciousness structures our reality, therefore we need to question what is real for different people and not assume that all realities are the same.


Brianna Hayden


Fight Club. 20th Century Fox, 1999.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.

Sears, Alan, and James Irvine Cairns. A Good Book, in Theory: Making Sense through Inquiry. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.



All Nurture, No Nature. Written by Helena Biehn


The Nature verse Nurture debate has been around for years but can we really pit these two things against each other for much longer? I mean if we are to look at society or even ourselves and say “I look like this because of nature” or “I act like this because of nurture” then we are setting ourselves up for certain categories. The categories that we seem to create all have too high of standards and result in people not feeling good about themselves.  It’s almost as if the standards at which we set for ourselves become the stereotypes by which we live our life’s.  By placing others into stereotypes of how we want to see them, we are giving the nature of our actions the hold of what we see.   So can we say that it is just the nature of how people look at others too categorize and stereotype them to make ourselves well better? No, I don’t believe this to be true my theory is that every experience, action, event, feeling and attitude a person maybe have is based on nurture. The way that we stereotype others is based off of what we have experienced in our lives and we just make the assumption that the categories are the correct ones.  People are nurtured by their certain experiences they have had or experiences that have been perceived on by others.

My first example is that if a child is raised with all the right in settings and conditions of a loving and caring home with a parent or parents or even another family member the child is mostly likely to grow up also being a loving and caring person. Although if the child experiences something in their life that changes the family situation then the child’s experience can change the way they grow up and view certain situations. Now if a child were to be raised in a not so steady home environment then they might have a different experience that enables them to grow up and relive or repeat the same experiences that they had as a child. Unless there again is another experience that changes the child’s life for the better.

Our experiences in life shape and create who we become later on in life. It’s from my understanding that people are made, not born who they may become in life. A person is not born a leader but they can have experiences in their life that shape them into a leader.

My second example is that a person can be placed in certain circumstances in which that have to adapt to the new environment. Take Disney’s Tarzan, Tarzan was born with parents who were going to raise him in a society of other people just as they had been raised, but certain events and circumstances arose that hindered Tarzan from being raised with his parents. As Tarzan’s environment changed he became part of a family of gorillas who raised him as his own. Instead of going to school and learning about science and math, Tarzan learned how to climb trees and swing from vines. Tarzan’s experiences in his life shaped him to not only be “part” gorilla but also have the understanding of human actions.  Tarzan’s way of life was changed but he still was a human living in a different setting that allowed him to learn and be nurtured to adapt to the new environment.

An experience a person has provides the foundation for who they become in life. Those actions and events that shape a person can change based on different situations that they have.

Culture and Personality, General Theory, Perception

Down the rabbit hole with no spoon by Rick Tufnell

In the 1999 action blockbuster The Matrix, Morpheus asks these seemingly simple questions “What is real? How do you define real?” As students of anthropology these questions intrigue because it is our job to observe and analyze people and their culture. Yet, in order to do this we as observers have to answer those very questions.
Morpheus continues by offering an explanation of sorts saying “If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” For now let us center on the experiences that we observe in the people we watch. If a young man must pass a test of manhood to be earn his place as adult, and the young man invites us to observe him as he slays the beast. Did we experience the rite of passage as our subject did, or was our experience different? Was it a lesser experience, was it less real?
Later in the film Neo, meets spoon boy; a bald headed young man that appears to be bending a spoon with nothing more than the sheer force of his will. He offers the spoon to Neo and this conversation ensues.
“Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
So I guess it does not matter what is real or how we define real, all that matters is that we find the truth. The truth is something that can only be understood by going through our journeys both as people and as observers of people. It is in these times that we can really free ourselves from that which holds us back.
Remember these parting words from Morpheus as you decide whether to seek the truth or not. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

All quotes taken from The Matrix and provided by


21 with Durkheim; Birthdays and Rites: by Nicholas Angelici

For this blog entry, I decided I was going to explore the possibility that one’s 21st birthday, often filled with excessive amounts of alcohol consumption, could be considered a right of passage. A right of passage can be described as “A form of ritual intended to a company or accomplish a change of status”(ELLER, 2013). Using this definition, I will create my own theory as to how such an important event in a persons life can be considered a right of passage. Afterwords I will use participant observation to either confirm or disprove my hypothesis. I will also be comparing it to Nuer practices of rights of passage as well as explaining these similarities using anthropological theory.

Based on my initial understanding, I presume that the social excursion would consist of a period of separation. During this time the person who has just reached their 21st birthday will be segregated from the rest of his family by a handful of specially selected friends. This group of friends will be his comrades and will have had a long history with him. During this period of separation, they will consume copious amounts of alcohol. During the phase of liminality, one would be separated from society. In my view this will probably be during the portion known as the hangover. This is the side effects of drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Although I do not fully understand the symptoms I will explain them in further detail in the second half of this article. The following phase is reincorporation. During this phase, one is joined by his compatriots once again, this time without the alcohol consumption. This will be the theory I frame my research around. During the event, I will take notes to either confirm or deny my hypothesis.

After the experience, and the recovery from it, one of the best comparison so I can find for this right passage would be the Nuer. One of their practices involve the ritual laceration of the forehead (The Nuer, 1940:249). Both of these rituals involve intense pain to the person receiving them. While I did not receive any lasting scars from my participant observation, I did receive more than a mild headache the day after. This would have been during my hypothesized liminality. I can certainly confirm that during this time, I was cut off from society.

But how does this relate to theory? Durkheim has a marvelous explanation for this event. As he theorizes, conformity is the main driving force behind society (Moberg, 2013:89). Although drunken behavior is considered an unfavorable experience, During ones 21st birthday it would be considered rude and unusual for one not to engage fully in alcohol. While I have had alcohol before, (I was in Australia after I turned 18, the national drinking age of that country) it was the social interaction between myself and my friends theat demonstrated I was a part of the group.