For this project, each student is required to independently identify, analyze, and write a brief paper about a piece of seemingly ordinary, everyday American culture, and explore how it is actually an intricate part of social interaction in current American society.
Regardless of the piece of American culture you choose, ALL written papers are required to:
Locate and describe an example of ordinary, perhaps often overlooked, everyday American culture found in day-to-day life.
Consider: What does it look like to the “naked eye?” What make it seem ordinary and an everyday thing? How is it used in day-to-day life?
Example: A ring. It is a usually a piece of precious metal that is forged into a circle that is then worn on a finger. Some are fancier than others. Many people wear them, but they often go unnoticed or forgotten—perhaps because they are so common.
Explain what makes the thing a piece of material or non-material American culture.
Consider: Is it material or non-material? If it is material, then what pieces of non-material culture give it meaning? If it’s non-material, then what is its meaning?
Example: It goes from being a piece of metal to a “ring,” a piece of material culture that is worn on the finger, because of the non-material culture that gives it meaning. It now becomes something that is worn for a purpose—to express normative fashion and/or to symbolize a social status.
Explore the intricate, “unseen work” that this thing performs in everyday social interaction.
Consider: What is it purpose in social interaction in current, everyday America? What are the meaning and/or symbolism behind its use? Do its meaning and/or symbolism change in different social interactions? Does social setting play a role in its use, or in its meaning or symbolism?
Example: The purpose, meaning, and symbolism of rings change depending upon the type of ring and how it is worn. This also changes the social status of the wearer and the why he/she interacts with others. A plain band worn by a man on 9 figures may mean very little or, depending upon the ring, could symbolize wealth… But if worn on the left “ring finger” it means that he is married to another person, and symbolizes his marital bond to
that person. This indicates his social status as “husband,” and will effect how he interacts with other in everyday interactions.