One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

Wordless Wednesday – Mexican Witchcraft



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A New Semester

I leave tomorrow for Pensacola for another semester of graduate school. I am sad for leaving North Carolina and Virginia for another year of school, but my goal is to achieve my Masters degree in Anthropology and the only way of achieving that is to just go get it. This past summer has been an adventurous one from being at home with my parents helping them to Brian getting his orders to deploy and having to move our wedding up four months. Although it was stressful and having to move our wedding, I am glad we did it. I am so happy to the wife I a great Marine officer and I am very proud.

At the wedding we had a family friend who is a Colonel in the Marine Corps say to Brian “Don’t whistle while you pack and be excited to see your wife when you get home.” Meaning – being deployed is a great opportunity for any Marine and as excited as one is to go, he or she leaves behind love ones and spouses, and when one comes home they should be happy to back home with their family and loves ones. Even though the Colonel was speaking to Brian (and it applies every much to him), it also applies to me and many of us who want to achieve a goal in life. This time last year I was leaving Virginia to live out a goal and I am doing it again this year, to gain my Master’s degree. We have to leave our love ones sometime to achieve those goals. I leave my parents as well as Brian and in a couple of weeks he is be deployed overseas for the next 6 months. I am fortunate to already be in the graduate program and taking courses, it will be a distraction to be busy and keep my mind off of missing him. This is a great opportunity for him to be going on this deployment and even though we both will miss each other greatly, we were able to make it through this past year being separated and we can do it again. This time apart has built us as individuals as well as a stronger and more loving couple.

This semester I will be taking courses in three of the four subfields of Anthropology (the program really doesn’t have anything on the linguistics side) – 2 classes with a focus in archaeology, biological, and cultural. I am taking 4 classes, which really isn’t recommended but I like a challenge. This semester will be a challenge emotionally and academically. But I do have a great network of family and friends at home and in Florida who help and support me every day.

My goals this semester is not only to get through these classes, but to start building my resume and getting it out there. My goal for the year…to hopefully be able to write and finish my thesis in the Spring of 2014 (if not the Summer 2014). I want to be able to be home during the Spring semester and write my thesis so that I can spend that time with my parents, especially my father who has cancer, and hopefully be teaching at a local community college. Once Brian gets back in April-ish, we do not know if he will still be stationed in North Carolina or we will be moving somewhere else. And I would like to be finished with my Masters so that I may be able to pursue a career wherever we are stationed. I have been able to achieve my goal in getting all of my class but one elective and thesis hours, done in a year and half.

As far as this blog, I am still going to post as often as I can. With classes starting, projects, and readings, I should have more to talk about and share. My hope is that this blog my help in some way to anyone who is thinking about pursuing a degree in Anthropology or grad school. Everyone’s experiences are different, mine is just one perceptive. But I do want to educate more individuals on Anthropology as well as educate family and friends who still have no clue as to what I do as an Anthropologist.

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Wordless Wednesday – Interactive Anthropology/Archaeology Games for kids

Curator Collection

Hunt the Ancestor

A Site for Kids to learn about Anthropology from the American Museum of Natural History

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Wordless Wednesday – Is BMO From Adventure Time Expressive of Feminism?

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Gender & Culture

This past summer I have been working on a direct study on gender and culture. What I have posted is the final write up of what my experiences were with this research. I also have a reading list at the end if you are curious about my resources or would like something to read. 


Gender and Culture: Redefining the Lines

            When I began to research gender for this directed study, the focus was to gain a deeper understanding of how gender and culture intertwined, not specifically the argument of female subordination. The argument of biological determinism in social status as either dominant or subordination has always turned me away from studying gender within an anthropological context. In my studies through the years, I have always acknowledged the opposition of female and male in a symbolic sense in relation to sex and gender. However, I am very glad to report that within the past few months the thought process of gender and culture has changed and has become more accepting of gender as a subject of study.

Thinking of gender studies my mind automatically went to the argument of male domination and female subordination – Sherry Ortner’s argument that female subordination was universal due to biology – “male is to culture as female is to nature” (Ortner 1974). Although I agree that the female body has limitations to what activities that females can or cannot perform physically, I do not agree that is what binds the female sex into that social role of subordination to men. I argue that men have a more or less equal restriction in their biology in reference to social role. Ortner’s argument however, does not seem to take into account American or Western culture and defining sex roles within a society’s own cultural context as well as any given environmental pressures. Although male dominance is seen in many cultures, male dominance is counterbalanced by female authority (Sanday 1981). I argue that one must look beyond biological restrictions and focus on other aspects of the culture such as symbolic, economic, political, and religious spheres.

Biology is only one aspect of defining maleness and femaleness. I became interested in how cultures define male and female symbolically, how female power and authority played a role in political, religious, and economic spheres, and how these themes are seen in various other cultures. What I have come to understand is that to define what is male and what is female is to understand and unravel symbolic meanings. Sexual separation creates two worlds – male and female – in which both worlds consist of a system of meanings and programs of behaviors creating macrocosms of distinct cultures (Sanday 1981). Activities, rituals, and symbolic meanings reflect these worlds. The female world includes the focus on child birth, creation of life, food gathering, and ideology that projects inward on nature and the supernatural (Sanday 1981). In contrast, the male world includes activities of warfare, hunting, taking life, death, ideology that project outward onto nature and the supernatural (Sanday 1981). Females and males have equal powers – females have the power to bring/give life and men have the power to take that life away – life verses death (Sanday 1981). Sanday argues against Ortner in that male dominance is not an inherent quality rather than it is ‘a response to pressures there were present in late history” (Sanday 1981: 3-4).

For each male activity there is a female counterpart that is equally valuable to the overall structure and function of the society. Females contribute to the economy through the production and creation of goods from raw materials that are in turn transformed and used in activities from religious rituals, trade, etc. (Sanday 1981; Weiner 1989: 33-68; Linnekin 1990) In Linnekin’s Sacred Queens and Women of Consequence she states that although there was taboo separation reflected in the division of labor, women in pre-contact Hawaii contributed much more to the function of society through the production of woven tapas that were used as clothing for the chiefs and commoners to the wrapping of idols and offerings in rituals (Linnekin 1990: 44-46). Women made the highest valuables such as the tapas and the feather work that was worn by men in battle or sacred situations (Linnekin 1990:49). It is also evident that women exert political influence as well. For example in pre-contact Hawaii, women would try to marry up through the influence of sexual favors to acquire higher status for their children and security for themselves in old age (Linnekin 1990: 55-56).

From many of my readings, the same pattern emerges – with colonialism comes the breakdown of female power and authority and the rise of male dominance. From Hawaiian, to Native Indian, to African societies, the western influence focuses more on the male activities and their production of goods that reflect the political and economic wealth of the society. Women exist but are not represented or are represented very poorly. With the growth of feminism through the years, this has changed. Women not only as a sex, but as a gender, are being better represented as more equals to the opposing male gender.

Through my experience with gender studies, I have to come to appreciate feminism as well. I defined feminism as raving, angry females who were against men and male roles of society. Even though there are many females who are very much a part of that, I find that feminists are looking for ways to be equal to both sexes and defining gender identity. Our identity is defined by our cultural definition of gender and not just based on biological edifice.

Margaret Mead’s statement that “the personalities of the two sexes are socially produced” (Mead 1963:310), is a statement that I have sided with when it comes to self-identification in gender studies; that gender personalities are socially produced. From the Sambia to Native American to Western societies, gender is culturally constructed. There are many instances which boys are not yet defined as “men” and girls are not defined as “women” until they have successfully passed through rites of passage and been placed into their socially constructed roles as men or women. Gender is our identity and gives us a sense of personhood. Roles that are associated with those genders are culturally constructed within one’s own unique society. Due to gender roles being unique to individual societies, one must not make assumptions that these roles are universals. I feel that many individuals tend to forget that even though there are similar patterns of gender roles in society, especially societies that are economically and politically similar, but that those roles are not found in every single society around the world.

In conclusion, I am not one for universals because there is always an exception to the rule and I find that many use western cultures as the model for comparison due to familiarity. I have also found that individuals do not factor in the similar or ‘universals’ that are being researched are not always necessarily found in western societies; i.e. The United States and Europe. It is also important to factor in the perspective of gender through the lens of the individuals within that culture and through the researcher. The researcher may see the genders as unequal or unbalanced, but within the culture the individuals see a functioning society that has worked specifically for them. Again I argue that the definition of gender roles are unique to each individual culture and must be treated as such.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to research gender and culture these past few months. Not only have I gained a better understanding of gender through my studies, I am able to apply this knowledge to thesis research on Lord of the Rings as well as to future projects on gender in pop culture and gender in the Marine Corps.


Works Cited

Mead, Margaret

1963 Sex and Temperament: in Three Primitive Societies. New York: Morrow Quill



Linnekin, Jocelyn

1990 Sacred Queens and Women of Consequence: Rank, Gender, and Colonialism in the

Hawaiian Islands. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Sanday, Peggy Reeves.

1981 Female Power and Male Dominace: On the origins of sexual inequality. United

Kingdom: University of Cambridge Press.


Weiner, Annette B.

1989 Why Cloth? Wealth, Gender, and Power in Oceania. In Cloth and Human

Experience. Annette B. Weiner and Jane Schneider, eds. Pp. 33-72. Washington:

Smithsonian Institution Press.

 Reading List

Baal, J. van

1975 Reciprocity and the Position of Women: Anthropological Papers. Netherlands:

Koninklijke Van Gorcum and Company.


Collier, Jane Fishburne and Sylvia Junko Yanagisako, eds.

1987 Gender and Culture: Essays Toward a Unified Analysis. California: Sanford

University Press.


Herdt, Gilbert

2006 The Sambia: Ritual, Sexuality, and Change in Papua New Guinea. Second Edition.

California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


MacCormack, Carol and Marilyn Strathern, eds.

1980 Nature, Culture, and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Mead, Margaret

1963 Sex and Temperament: in Three Primitive Societies. New York: Morrow Quill



Linnekin, Jocelyn

1990 Sacred Queens and Women of Consequence: Rank, Gender, and Colonialism in the

Hawaiian Islands. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Lowie, Robert H.

1961 The Position of Women. In Primitive Society. New York: Liveright Publishing



Ortner, Sherry B. and Harriet Whitehead

1981 Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.


Reiter, Rayna R., ed.

1975 Toward an Anthropology of Women. New York: Monthly Review Press.


Rosaldo, Michelle Zimbalist and Louise Lamphere, eds.

1974 Woman, Culture, and Society. California: Sanford University Press.


Sanday, Peggy Reeves

1981 Female Power and Male Dominace: On the origins of sexual inequality. United

Kingdom: University of Cambridge Press.


Sanday, Peggy Reeves and Ruth Gallagher Goodenough, eds.

1990 Beyond the Second Sex: New Directions in the Anthropology of Gender.

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


Weiner, Annette B and Jane Schneider, eds.

1989 Cloth and Human Experience. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.



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Long time, no write

This past summer I have been horrible at keeping up with my blog. There has been a lot going on, so I think I can be forgiven. My now husband had received his orders to deploy in late June and we had to move the wedding from October to August. I am very grateful for all the support and help from friends, family, and our vendors who were able to change their schedules to accommodate us. So I am please to announce that as of August 3rd I am Mrs. Ebenal.

Although I am sad that I will be leaving in 3 weeks to go back to school, I am also happy that I am going back.  I know that he feels the same about his deployment – happy to go but sad to leave. He will be gone for 6 months starting in mid September and school will be a good distraction while he is away.  He is the love of my life and I am really glad that we made the decision to get married when we did and be able to enjoy this time together as husband and wife until we both have to depart.

These last few months I have been working on a direct study on Gender and Culture.  I will be posting my final write up about what I gained from my experiences from the research later on. I am also going to be posting on my blog more now that everything is calming down and the semester will be starting soon so there will be much more to post about. Wordless Wednesdays will also be making a comeback starting next week.

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