Oftentimes, we fail to recognize our own cultural norms because they are so…normal. Does a fish realize that they’ve always been in water until they flop ashore? Cultural norms are the air we breathe; in the mountains we might notice the freshness of the air or in an industrial park we might notice the grittiness that comes from particulates that are pollution the air quality, but the point is that we might not notice the air we breathe (or our cultural norms) until we go somewhere else. Much what we see as our own personality has been shaped within our own cultural environment. It is not surprising then to see that where you are born can influence who you are and how you see your place in your community (Source: The Conversation). East Asian children are usually raised to be an integral part of the family and community, while American children who are often taught to become their own individuals and pursue their own path. Another author paused to consider if Western parenting strategies aren’t the “normal” ones, but if in fact they might seen as weird from a different perspective (Source: BBC). Even our psychological profile is also influenced by the type of society in which we were born. For example, children in hunter-gatherer societies are more risk averse than urban kids (Source: The Week). This is not to say that geography is destiny, but where were are from can have a profound impact on who we become.
“Cheese from all around the world comes in different forms, textures, and colors, from white to blue. It’s eaten in many different ways, and some cheeses have legends or myths behind their invention Let’s take a look at what cheese looks like around the world.”
Geographers are drawn to videos like this that give a quick tour around the world. The Travel Insider video channel has a few great examples that show how distinct regional variations in food production create cultural distinct local customs. Food production is inherently cultural, and these videos show how local flavor creates a series of regional variations.
While I’m a fan of the “cheese around the world” video, I’ll include some other of my favorites below. Linked here is a great article showing the amazing diversity of breads around the world. On the food them, there is desserts around the world, sandwiches from around the world, street foods around the world, breads around the world, and off the food topic, but still very cultural, wedding traditions around world as a sampler for the channel.
“Explore the Masters of Tradition story map. Discover the rich diversity of cultures and artistic traditions that enliven our nation. Meet extraordinary artists from across the country who have been awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor for excellence in the folk and traditional arts. Together they represent a remarkable portrait of America’s diverse cultural heritage.” SOURCE: ESRI
This is an excellent StoryMap that to shows examples of local and indigenous cultures that are being practiced by some in the United States. The NEA Fellowship also shows how preserving local and indigenous cultural traits in the face of popular cultural influences is difficult and is seen as a national priority and part of a treasured cultural heritage. This is a good article on how to plan a good storymap.
Excellent Examples using the Map Tour template:
“For all our current interest in identity politics, there’s no corresponding sense of identity linguistics. You are what you speak—the words that run throughout your mind are at least as fundamental to your selfhood as is your ethnicity or your gender. And sometimes it’s healthy to consider human characteristics that are not inborn, rigid, and outwardly defined. After all, you can always learn another language and change who you are. And the more languages you know, the more you appreciate how hard it is to label another person, because each mind contains its own unique collection of words. An individual who wrestles with a difficult language can learn to be more sympathetic to outsiders and open to different experiences of the world. This learning process—the embarrassments, the frustrations, the gradual sense of understanding and connection—is invariably transformative.” SOURCE: Time
In pop culture and the media, race and gender are usually touted as the most important part of a cultural identity, but in the APHG CED, language, religion, and ethnicity are the ones explicitly mentioned. This article calls for a more nuanced understanding of how language opens up the world and is a part of identity. It uses a few examples to show how language shapes our world as well as our perceptions of the world: 1-the politics of monolingual presidents and 2-Chinese men selling lingerie in Egypt (trust me, the examples actually work).
“While there are few symbols as quintessentially French as the baguette, its status – and quality – have been uncertain in recent years. Beginning in the 1950s, bakers began looking for shortcuts to make baguettes more quickly: relying on frozen, pre-made dough. ‘Those bakers at that time were happy,’ said Bouattour, as he led me past the fresh loaves at his Arlette & Colette in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. ‘But it killed our profession.’ In an attempt to save traditional French baguettes from widespread industrialisation, France passed Le Décret Pain (‘The Bread Decree’) in 1993, establishing that, by law, an authentic baguette de tradition must be made by hand, sold in the same place it’s baked and only made with water, wheat flour, yeast and salt.” Source: BBC
Technological advancements and economic practices would have altered French baking practices, but to halt the change cultural purists took political steps to preserve the old cultural traditions. The running of bakeries, and the winners of the prize for the best Parisian baguette have been bakers who come from immigrant families. Bakers with Middle Eastern, North African, and West African backgrounds are now key participants of shaping the most French of cultural goods.
Questions to Ponder: Why have bread-making practices become politicized in Paris? How have immigrants changed French cultural practices? How have French cultural practices changed immigrants?
"A generation ago, long before Modi (and the BJP) was in power, right-wing Hindu nationalist leaders in Maharashtra state renamed Bombay as Mumbai — a nod to the city’s patron goddess Mumbadevi. Other cities followed: Madras became Chennai; Calcutta, Kolkata; Bangalore, Bengaluru. All the changes were a rejection of Anglicized names that came into use during British colonial rule. In the most recent wave of name changes, it’s not about erasing colonial monikers. It’s about erasing Muslim ones."
Indian officials have been altering toponyms to be more Hinducentric; this is a results of growing Hindu nationalism as an important element of modern Indian politics. In another thematically similar, but regionally distinct example, we can see how place names matter in American cities. When large corporations (like Google or Amazon) move in to a city, the corporations might try to rename the neighborhoods and, in a sense, rebrand the place.
Both examples show that the cultural landscape, including the names on them, are not just a passive reflection of the cultures that have shaped these places; they manifest the power dynamics of competing cultural groups seeking to assert their vision of place and culture to be physically manifested in public spaces.
What’s happened to the vanished Uighurs of Xinjiang?
A few years ago, I wrote an article for National Geographic’s education blog about Eastern Turkestan, and the policies of cultural assimilation that the China is using to more fully make this place become Xinjiang. This BBC interactive (as well as this NY Times article) is the update to understand how extensive the human rights violations are as re-education camps/detention centers have been used in the last few years to hide away political dissidents and those practicing tradition Uyghur (Uighur) customs. This video from the Economist highlights how the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have not been able to participate in China’s recent economic growth as fully because of governmental policies. According to U.S. State Department, the number of people forced into these camps is at least 800,000, but potentially over 2 million.
"Old settlement patterns have reversed, but old problems of adaptation remain. Immigrants still like to settle where immigrants have already settled (chain migration). Once word of the new ethnoburbs got around, they grew fast. Letters, phone calls, and then emails back to the old country, enticed others. In Richmond, one group held an extended debate with city hall over there being ‘too much’ Chinese writing on business signs. Residents of a condo building complained when the strata council held its meetings only in Mandarin. And just as in other parts of gateway cities, as wealthy Chinese buy properties in ethnoburbs, they have been blamed for driving prices out of local reach."
Residents of ethnoburbs often have transnational lives that fit into their countries of origin as well as their new homes. Ethnoburbs are common in North America as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Questions to Ponder: What similarities and differences do ethnoburbs have from other ethnic communities? What similarities and differences do ethnoburbs have with other urban processes such as gentrification?
"Pound for pound, Parmigiano-Reggiano can compete with almost any food for calcium, amino acids, protein and vitamin A – and is prescribed by doctors to cure ailments."
While this article focuses often on the nutritional aspects of Parmigiano-Reggiano, I want people to notice the understated importance of place and the cultural ethos surrounding the production of this product. True, it is an economic industry for the region, but it is also a defining cultural characteristic of the place and a way of life. The place makes the product and the product makes the place.