“Pass the Spam, please,” are probably not words you will hear at this year’s Thanksgiving table. However, in South Korea, Spam is a luxury item and is considered a very important part of the gift-giving ritual at the lunar Thanksgiving festival. In this post, Ami Stearns argues that Veblen’s theory of the leisure class can help explain why Spam is so popular in some countries.
These are a few of my favorite (Thanksgiving) things: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, green beans, stuffing, cranberry relish, fresh rolls, and turkey! You can’t leave out the turkey. The familiar Thanksgiving Day spread in American society is a near-sacred cornucopia of culinary delights. Although regional variations abound (macaroni and cheese was never included at my family’s holiday dinners, but it seems to be common in the south), severe transgressions are frowned upon (spaghetti or peanut butter sandwiches in place of a turkey? No.). The undisputed star of the patriotic Thanksgiving table is the turkey. Turkey is so symbolic of the season that, when I was a social worker, we spent the month before the holiday collecting and distributing frozen turkeys to needy families so they would not miss out on the right to display a giant turkey on the table in late November. If a family had to substitute something for the turkey, say, a can of Spam, it would speak to the lower social class of the household. Spam is, understandably, not something to be proud of as the family crowds around the harvest table. That is, unless you live in South Korea.
In America, Spam is somewhat of a joke, “polka parodied” by “Weird Al” Yankovic, and once made a spectacular run as the freaky focus for a now-defunct festival to help “Keep Austin Weird” in Austin, TX, in addition to serving as bizarre fair food along with pig toes on a stick.
Spam’s humble beginnings in 1937 spoke to the desperation of Depression-era and World War II rationing. The way my grandparents reminisced about 1940s-era Spam recipes only made me sad, not hungry.
However, the star of South Korea’s Chuseok lunar Thanksgiving festival, held recently in September, is none other than Spam. In fact, Spam is quite the status symbol of South Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday. South Korean stores even sell boxed sets around the lunar holiday. Continue reading
Malala Yousafzai has received an immense amount of media attention in the past few years, and rightfully so. Just last week here at SIF, Mediha Din took a conflict theory approach to discuss Malala’s global influence as the young activist continues to advocate for girls’ rights to education. In this post, David Mayeda continues to examine Malala’s social impact, dissecting why Malala’s popularity has risen so dramatically in western society, and why other very related stories go virtually unnoticed.
As explained previously in SIF, Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year-old girl from Pakistan now residing in England. Roughly two years ago when living in Pakistan, Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen after she gained noteriety as an outspoken advocate for gender equity in education. A survivor of this horrific act, Malala continues her staunch social activism and has received extensive praise by the west for her actions. Check out her amazing interview on The Daily Show, where at one point she leaves Jonathan Stewart utterly speechless:
Considering the conditions that impact girls and women in Pakistan, it is not surprising, given her incredible conviction, that Malala spoke out for gender equity. Moving beyond educational gender disparities, in 2011, Pakistan was ranked as the world’s third most dangerous country in the world to be female. As reported by TrustLaw, in Pakistan: Continue reading
Polio was erradicated in Syria in 1999, but last week 10 cases were confirmed. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how social factors contribute to health outcomes and how the reemergence of polio in Syria could indicate an approaching epidemic of the disease.
Epidemiologists study the social factors that contribute to health outcomes (e.g., likelihood of contracting a disease or dying). Epidemiologists have found that factors such as race, gender, and age are correlated with health. For example, the leading killer of women in the United States is heart disease, but this is only true for white and black women. Cancer is the leading cause of death for Hispanic, Asian American, and American Indian/Alaska Native women. In other words, gender, race, and ethnicity are correlated with cause of death.
Epidemiologists work at organizations such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) These organizations track the spread of disease and work at preventing disease. Knowing who has contracted a particular illness can help the CDC and the WHO better predict which groups are most at risk so that they can better target prevention campaigns.
It is the job of epidemiologists to track epidemics, which could become pandemics. An epidemic is a disease that is widespread within a particular population (i.e., a community or country). A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread worldwide. HIV is an example of a pandemic in that it is found all around the world. Malaria is an example of an epidemic in that it greatly impacts some regions of the world while others remain untouched. It is possible for epidemics to be defeated.
Polio is an example of a disease that was once epidemic in the United States, but today is mostly a memory. Prior to the polio vaccine, there were approximately 35,000 polio cases each year in the U.S. After the vaccine, polio rates declined dramatically and there have only been 162 polio cases in the U.S. since 1980. Continue reading
Academics love conferences. It’s where we present our research and as you’ll see, present ourselves. In this post, Sarah Michele Ford examines the ways in which we all engage in impression management in professional – and really all – situations.
I spent the end of last week at an academic conference – the annual meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers. It’s a gathering of researchers from a wide variety of academic disciplines, countries, and perspectives. It’s also a gathering that I have often described as a very intellectual high school reunion.
While the conference is very fun, it’s also a multi-day exercise in impression management. Impression management is a key component of symbolic interaction theory, arguing that, in all of our interactions with other people, we are using our self-presentation to influence their opinion of us. These attempts are sometimes conscious, but in many cases they are not. Everyone has a number of tools with which to engage in impression management; we can influence opinion through our dress, through our interactional behaviors, through our adherence to social norms. Impression management is also very much tied to the various social roles that we all inhabit; the self that we present in a professional environment may be very different than the self that we present when we are at school or when we are with our friends or family. This all comes back to the dramaturgical perspective advanced by Erving Goffman.*
While we all engage in impression management in every interaction, there are times when we are more aware of it than others. I personally become especially aware of it in the conference setting because I find myself in the position of being a researcher, a graduate student, a teacher, and a friend all at once. Continue reading