What is the relation between culture and materiality?

I became interested in New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of ’58 by Sherry B. Ortner because I was helping to organize a high school reunion – which took place on Oct. 17, 2015 at Old Mill Toronto on the Humber River – for students who attended Malcolm Campbell High School in Montreal in the 1960s and 1970s.

I learned of Ortner’s study from reading a book by Marjorie Harness Goodwin entitled The Hidden Life of Girls (2006). I learned many things of value from the transcripts of social interactions that Goodwin has video recorded in school playgrounds. I like the level of detail that such a form of linguistic anthropology entails.

Ethnographic research has similarities to journalism.

In a previous post, I’ve excerpted opening paragraphs from an overview of Ortner’s career in Fifty Key Anthropologists (2011).

Anthropology and social theory offer a way of providing commentary about everyday life.

Presence or absence of commas

The first thing that I noticed about the reference on p. 176 to New Jersey Dreaming (2003) is that the latter book cites it as: New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture and the Class of ’58. That is to say, the serial comma before the “and” is missing. The book itself includes the serial comma: “New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of ’58.” However, on p. 178 in the list of select readings the comma is correctly included.

Material realities of individual students

The paragraph that is devoted to the book – and in the following excerpt I’ve added the comma – in Fifty Key Anthropologists offers an apt overview of it:

In New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of ’58 (2003), Ortner continues to address the relationship between culture and materiality by focusing on high school as a ‘social game’ where multiple forms of capital intersected in the lives of the Class of ’58 to formulate paths to future successes and failures, what she characterizes as ‘boy tracks’ and ‘girl tracks’ which intersect the material realities of individual students. Turning her attention to class structure in America, Ortner again addresses the tension between structure and agency by drawing our attention to the changing shape of the socio­ economic landscape. Ortner argues that the ‘hidden injuries of class’ experience are embodied in a post-war America where the class structure looks more like an hour glass, bulging at the top and bottom, and constricted in the middle.


In the excerpt, I have included the date (2003) in the italicization. In the original text, the date is not italicized.

In the original excerpt, the apostrophe before 58 is upside down. In the excerpt, I have set it in its correct position.

When I first came across this book, I didn’t know what to make of it. That was an reflection of my limitations as a reader. Several weeks or longer since I first encountered New Jersey Dreaming, I arrived at a better sense of its value. Usually I don’t buy books, preferring to borrow them from a library. In this case, I bought a copy so I can read it any time. Every few years, I stop to read it.

Stanford University Class of ’94

A Dec. 23, 2014 New York Times article is entitled: “A Brand New World In Which Men Ruled: Instead of narrowing gender gaps, the technology industry created vast new ones for Stanford University’s pioneering class of 1994.”

The article, which describes a 20-year reunion, notes:

Every reunion is a reckoning about merit, choice and luck, but as the members of the class of ’94 told their stories, that weekend and in months of interviews before, they were also grappling with the nature of the industry some had helped create. Had the Internet failed to fulfill its promise to democratize business, or had the women missed the moment? Why did Silicon Valley celebrate some kinds of outsiders but not others?

Deindustrialization, trade policies, and related topics

The following post adds background to the discussion:

Voter anger explained – in one chart – March 15, 2016 Brookings Institution article

A March 16, 2016 CBC The Current article is entitled: “It’s not bigotry but bad trade deals driving Trump voters, says author Thomas Frank.

An April 5, 2016 Foreign Policy article is entitled: “Taxpayers of the World, Unite! The Panama Papers confirm that the world’s elite cheat, lie, and steal. Will the masses finally do something about it?”

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