Evolving Culture

I have always found the concept of culture fascinating but never indulged into the subject as much as I would’ve liked to. This chapter went in depth about how culture affects us, culture as a means of survival and fitting in, subcultures, language, etc. I never thought to think of the fans of Star Trek as a subculture in themselves. There is so much more than just a countries flag, a language, or the type of foods they eat. The modern world has made it possible to interact with so many different countries and their way of life that we are able to become more aware and tolerant of them. We are also creating new cultures in this way, the famous melting pot idea, for example.

I never thought to break down culture into material and nonmaterial subjects. The book also explained how these can be interconnected, bringing a broader understanding to the concept. There may be certain stigmas towards the way someone dresses and a style of fashion would be the physical aspect of that idea. I do believe that values can be universal but whats tricky is that they are rated as different importance. Sometimes concepts cannot be applied the same in different countries.

I believe that we should be tolerant and respectful of other cultures as long as they are not harming anyone in a universally morally wrong fashion. It is hard to say what is a violation of their beliefs or a violation of basic human rights. But this does not have to be across different counties. Culture Wars can happen within your own country.  Religious organizations, for example, can complain that something if offensive, such as a piece of art, and ask that it be removed. But who is in the right in this situation? Isn’t the church also violating the culture of the artist by saying it is not fit for society?

Another concept discussed in this chapter was having a certain knowledge and understanding to survive and succeed in certain cultures. Without this, one would experience culture shock. Something as simple as attending a fancy dinner party requires a certain sub-culture knowledge. This goes hand in hand with norms in society. All of these concepts are ever-changing. Slavery was acceptable at one point in time, but now it is seen as shocking and wrong. The same goes for housewives or gay couples. Every year norms are reevaluated to accommodate for changing ideas in society. There are many advocates for this type of change. For example, hippies were a subculture in the 70’s that vied for a change.    This can be achieved through protests or even magazine ads. But with the internet all of this is so much more plausible than ever before.

We as a society are constantly evolving quicker than ever in the modern age and are absorbing old and new traditions from all around the world. I for one am excited to see what the future has to offer.

News Analysis Group Article


Discussion of the latest kidnappings of women, girls and boys across Nigeria

By Ellie Parrish, Dhruv Sethi, Joe Ditripani, Breann Dick, and Zammy Loyna


Source: scmp.com


Source: smh.com

Boko Haram is a Jihadist terrorist organization located mainly in northern Cameroon, Niger, and northeastern Nigeria. It strongly opposes Westernization and has an ultimate goal of creating a pure Islamic state. The organization is commonly known to attack villages and community areas like schools and churches, and often takes hostages for negotiating purposes.

Boko Haram was officially founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, who created a religious complex (mosque and school) with the actual intent of jihadist recruitment. After about 7 years, it carried out its first attack in Borno which caused the death of 4 people. Since then, Boko Haram has been linked to 10,000 deaths from 2002-2013, with several hundred more already this year.

More specifically, Boko Haram has a history of kidnapping girls in Nigeria. They often hold girls captive for years at a time, waiting for the release of specific prisoners that are part of their organization. Because they are also against the education of women, kidnapping girls for long periods of time achieves the goal of preventing their educations as well. They’ve been kidnapping girls for years, and the reason a rescue effort is very difficult is because the groups of girls have been divided into many smaller groups. This creates a search zone that is thousands of miles large.

The type of Islam that Boko Haram associates with is one that forbids anything,  both political and social, to do with Western society. Even the name Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden.” The US declared it a terrorist group in 2013, but it’s unclear how strong its ties are with Al-Qaeda.

Two months after the kidnapping of over 200 girls from a boarding school in NorthEastern Nigeria, 91 more individuals have been abducted by Boko Haram. This group includes 60 girls and women, and 31 boys. They were kidnapped from villages south of the capital of Borno. 30 people were also killed during the village raid. 270 of the girls kidnapped in April 2014 are still missing, and the militant group has also been linked to other crimes in the area, including bombings of public venues screening the FIFA World Cup. The Nigerian government, under international scrutiny, struggles to find safe ways to bring the victims back to their families without cooperating with the demands of Boko Haram, who have offered to exchange those kidnapped for members of their group who have been imprisoned by the Nigerian government. The Nigerian government continues to try and obtain the women and children who have been abducted, and protect their citizens; however, their military is stretched thin and they are unable to protect all of the villages and rural areas in their country.

Renowned sociologist and professor at Devry University, Bartholomew Wright, has analyzed the Boko Haram kidnappings from three sociological theories and given The Riverview Press an exclusive perspective and inside look from the mind of a sociologist.

Conflict Theory Perspective

 Based on what we’ve learned above about the recent Boko Haram kidnappings, it’s important to understand how we can take a look at these recent events from a conflict standpoint. I am going to discuss this in three different ways, each looking at culture, structure, and power so that we can gain a better perspective and shed new light on this greatly controversial topic today.

This is not the first instance where Boko Haram has proceeded to kidnap hundreds of Nigerian citizens, and so what comes into question is the cultural implications that may be responsible for this behavior. As we can see, Boko Haram is using self guided interest and privilege and holding themselves above all of the other people of Nigeria in order to commit this horrible act. Boko Haram is clearly causing oppression of the people of Nigeria from the thousands of deaths he has caused to the hundreds of kidnapping of innocent women and children. These very actions are what would have caused Boko Haram to have been named a terrorist organization and become enemies of countries including the United States. The cultural impact on Nigeria has led to development of a higher group oppressing such individuals similar to Marxist theory of seeing power at the core of the social life of Nigeria.

The structure involving the Boko Haram organization has lent itself to its creation of itself as a dominant group of the region, and as such has become a formidable enemy against the people of Nigeria as well as the United States. Not only has Boko Haram used the threat of force against the Nigerian population, it has taken action and shown itself as an enemy by capturing hundreds of women and children over not just the past we weeks, but months. In order to contribute to the change of this organization and and to save the lives of those in Nigeria, it is important to take collective action, and rise up against Boko Haram together, as a country, as well as internationally. This I hypothesize would be coordinated by the United Nations as they have recently blacklisted the leadership, but it will require a little more effort in order to eradicate the reign of Boko Haram over the population.

In regards to the power of the Boko Haram, it is a dominant group that has reached its position of power through exploit innocent people as well as causing oppression. Mohammed Yusuf, the demagogue cited as who started the organization, created ideologies challenging Darwinism that led to a radical uptake in power creating a rift in power amongst Nigerians. This transfer of power is not limited to the country of Nigeria but has also caused havoc internationally.

Based off the recent conflicts occurring in Nigeria related to the Boko Haram kidnappings, it is evident that method of control by the organization is using conflict theory primarily to not only cause unrest amongst humanity but also across the world whether it is due to the western televised media focus to social media.

Functionalist Theory Perspective 

The education provided to the girls who were kidnapped, enables order, stability and productivity. Education plays it particular purpose in the functionality of a society. By kidnapping these girls, Boko Haram emphasizes terror and focuses on the disorganization of a unified, prosperous education system and society. Deviant behavior, such as that exhibited by Boko Haram is detrimental in societal components that aim to achieve stability. In this occurrence, manifest function was the girls attending school. As explained by BBC news, “Boko Haram has also stepped up its campaign against Western education, which it believes corrupts the moral values of Muslims, especially girls, by attacking two boarding schools – in Yobe in March and in Chibok in April.”

Henceforth, when one part of the system is not working or is dysfunctional, it affects all other parts and creates social problems, which leads to social change. However, Boko haram’s latent function and mission was to inhibit the schooling of these girls and control society by using the school as a recruiting ground for jihadis. Fear is also a major factor controlling and creating conflict within the society. For instance, Boko Haram has created and instilled enough fear in the Nigerian citizens, that it has justified the inhibition of action. In order for something to be functional, the society must agree for there to be complete stability and welfare. In this instance however social change is undesirable due to the continuous fear of the nigerian citizens. Overall, the functionalist theory is very poor in this regard, due to the fact that there is no social order demonstrated whatsoever and the society remains relatively unstable.

Symbolic Interactionist Perspective 

The use of the hashtag #bringbackourgirls on Twitter for the kidnappings in April 2014 was a way that people all over the globe tried to commiserate with those families that had had a child taken from them. Celebrities including Amy Poehler and Michelle Obama tweeted pictures of themselves holding hashtagged paper signs; thousands of people used the hashtag in their tweets. By using the hashtag to link to other people who were also concerned about this topic, Twitter (and Facebook, Tumblr, and other social networking sites) became a way to grieve and express concern for global events that one has little control over. However, there were arguments that the focus on the social networking aspect of the movement was disrespectful of the families of those abducted. Model Irina Shayk upset posted a topless photo of herself holding a hashtagged sign and faced online backlash calling her “tasteless.” The use of “social media activism” has been accused of being empty of any real meaning, and an easy way for individuals to feel as if they had contributed to the movement with no real effort and no tangible outcome; despite the thousands of tweets and facebook groups concerning the abductees, the girls were, in fact, not brought back. Currently, the hashtag is not trending, despite almost a hundred more people having been kidnapped. Outside of the internet, there have also been prayer vigils and other signs of remembrance for the people who remain missing. Acts of solidarity help to create community bonds and create safe spaces for grievance. The media attention for this incident is indicative of the global networking that is a product of social media; people feel akin to those who have been hurt in Nigeria, and invoke sentiments of brotherhood and empathy for the missing students and villagers.


Works Cited:

Boko Haram Suspected of New Kidnappings in Nigeria

The New York Times, 2014


Macpherson, Robert. “Missing Nigerian girls – from #bringbackourgirls hashtag to global action.” Sydney Morning Herald. 9 May 2014. Web. http://www.smh.com.au/world/missing-nigerian-girls–from-bringbackourgirls-hashtag-to-global-action-20140509-zr7d0.htm

“Michelle Obama slams Boko Haram for kidnapping Nigerian girls.” South China Morning Post. 11 May 2014. Web. http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1509217/michelle-obama-slams-boko-haram-kidnapping-nigerian-schoolgirls

“The Limits of Everyday Thinking”

I found this section of the book the most relatable, almost every child grew up with the traditions of Santa Clause so you wouldn’t think that the believe in a fictional character could actually be detrimental. The book describes five reasons why a belief like the one that children have in “Father Christmas” can lead to several significant issues. The first issue would be to accept an idea just because it is common knowledge. We used to accept the idea of slavery but does that mean it was okay? The same idea can be applied to many scientific theories as well. The second reasoning is an acceptance of tradition. Because there is so much invested in the idea, it must be true, correct? This reminds me of religions, where there isn’t substantial evidence towards them but because they have a much established following and churches all over the world it is seen as true. It is understandable to think that because so many people believe in the traditions of a religion that one should do so as well. Another issue is personal experiences, which can be easily fabricated. You may overgeneralize your experience, remember it wrong, be fooled in some way, or overall just want to believe in it. There must be more widely accepted evidence and more eye witnesses to something for it to be true. The forth idea  is about selective observations and evidence. It can be easy for someone to fabricate evidence that is seemingly true, but you have to think about it from all perspectives. The book uses the example of milk and cookies that Santa has eaten in the morning, but that does not necessarily mean that Santa was the one to eat them. And the last issue with these beliefs is biased opinions. It is seemingly harmless and no one would want to ruin the idea of Santa Clause and gift receiving on Christmas because the children get so much joy out of it. This can also be a potential factor that would blind someones beliefs, they believe it to be true because they do not want it to be false. All of these reasons can be used for something much more serious than Santa Clause. Ideas become inaccurate and require a social scientific approach to research it correctly.

Changes and Transitions

Quite a few of the developments listed in the book affect my life or future whether I realize it or not. I believe the aging population is the most relevant towards me. By the time I reach an age where I will need to be looking into long term health options, many developments will have occurred. Scientists are creating new technologies as this blog is being written. I saw with my grandparents the hassle of old age. My mother went through so much taking care of my grandfather’s health and well being until the end of his life. There are many things to considering throughout this process and someday I will be handling this for my own parents. But when it comes to be my turn I believe it will be unimaginably different. Today we must deal with how to accommodate increasing number of senior citizens. Taking care of their health, places for them to live, etc. This creates many problems, jobs, utilization of resources, and so on. It is a problem that I find interesting and connect it to the topics of prolonging life with science and drugs and assisted suicide.

One change that was not included on the list that I believe will have an increasing impact on our lives is how technology will affect how our children grow up. I was born in the age where computers were just being invented and becoming available for personal and home use, I have seen many technologies rapidly develop. But that is happening even faster now that ever. Toddlers are being taught how to potty train and soothed by their iPads. Kids are getting cellphones at an even younger age as it now becomes vital to have one, our society has built itself around certain technologies and people have to keep up. Much of technology is also being developed that will help families and affect how children grow up, specifically in education. Schools and parents will have many new apps and resources to teach their children how to do simple tasks such as reading and writing. Children’s toys are becoming more advanced than ever and families must keep up. Technological changes are happening faster than ever and our new generations will be the most affected by them as they will grow up with an understanding that that is how life is.


What is it like to be a student today?

Having just completed my first year in college I can say it was vastly different from my high school experience, but I can’t say that it was up to par on my expectations. My favorite part of the college curriculum was how much of the responsibility  of classwork is left up to the student. I am enrolled in the art school at VCU and therefore would expect a different type of learning than most students. I decided to attend a liberal arts school for the reason that I wanted an education beyond the arts. VCU makes that very possible so I am pleased with that. I plan to major in illustration, minor in writing, and complete the da Vinci program, which focuses on product innovation through combining the business, art, and engineering schools. But I was a little disappointed after finishing their Art Foundation program. There are countless teachers that come and go through this program and the class structure is really left up to them. Therefore what you learned depended upon who taught you. I wish I was taught more skill based and technical ideas. We were judged on our ability to complete projects on time and creativity, but not so much technical skill, which will come in handy later on in our artistic careers. I definitely came from one of the more well off high schools and communities that the book described.  My parents are making it possible for me to have the education that I am attaining, without them, completing high school and attending college would not have happened for me. My high school was well equipped with tax payers money and no one in my town was struggling financially. This allowed most students to achieve for higher standards. It was a competition in my school of grades, who was accepted into NHS and the best schools. We didn’t have to worry about having enough computers or textbooks ever, in fact we had an abundance of technology and plenty of money set aside for sports teams. So my experience is like the one described in our book of a wealthy town with an equally wealthy school. The students that graduate from there, which almost everyone does, will become successful with the tools they were provided due to their upbringing. I am fortunate enough to have parents who were able to set aside a savings for me to go attend college. I won’t ever have to worry about debt like so many of my peers do. This will allow me to focus my efforts on my education as utilize my resources to the fullest. It scares me that the jobs that will be available when we graduate do not even exist yet. I find it fascinating to think about how we will keep up with this and what is the point of learning for jobs that will not be relevant when we are ready to take them. This brings up the point that google made about “majoring in learning”. This idea really resonated with me. There are so many things that school cannot prepare you for and something new is always around the corner. It is extremely important to put an emphasis on this and encourage students to learn how to learn. I feel as if we are expected to know how to complete are assignments they way they want, we are given tasks to complete but are not taught how to complete them. Our learning then becomes so specific and focused in one area that it only weighs us down in the long run. I believe teachers should constantly challenge the rigid structures of the curriculum and think outside the box, challenging the norms, etc. In the text, it describes that social and economic inequality are necessary, even if everyone had an equal education, the value of a college degree would drop immensely and there would be no one to complete the necessary jobs such as serve coffee or clean the streets. The schools unknowingly reinforce this idea of inequality. I find this fact interesting that even though schools promote equality and want to help all children have a chance at a good education, it is necessary for this to not be true. They do this through the lack of resources that some schools have as compared to the excessive amounts that others own. They also sort the schools by social class, coincidentally it ends up that way through which town and district you are in. The reading also spoke of schools having a hidden curriculum that taught kids about morals and other life lessons. I have definitely witnessed this during my first year at VCU. I have grown immensely as a person through my own experiences alone and witnessing the lives of other students around me. The majority of this occurred socially, especially living in a suite of eight people. There is so much more to school than just the textbook and that is what is most important to me. Every day there is a lesson to be learned that might have nothing to do with mathematics or english, etc. As a student today, I see how the world is rapidly changing and how we must quickly adapt to it, I see how being born into a certain family may determine your future just by luck. I believe that your education is what you make of it and that anyone can learn anywhere as long as they apply themselves. You are in control of your future.

Introduction to Sociology 101

My name is Breann, I am a sophomore at VCU. I am currently residing in Connecticut for the summer. I am an illustration major and I hope to minor in writing, with an intention to be in the field of advertising. This class is part of a gen ed requirement for me and I hope to learn something new and interesting from something I have never experienced before. I think ideas from this class will definitely be relevant towards my work. I am excited to what lies ahead.