Posts tagged "Anthropology"

What is it about selfies?


Just a couple of years ago, “selfies” was an narcissistic action (technically it is still of course). However, today it is globally normality. Taking pictures of oneselfs. I know people that have thousands of pictures of oneself. I am not judging these actions. IN fact, I am a little selfie-prince myself. Im just trying to understand the phenomena. Why are we taking pictures of ourself? Everytime we do, we try to look the best as we can. Why are we smiling when the cam is targeting us? Making cute eyes. Finding the perfect perspective and light.

In anthropology we have a theory by Goffman: the presentation of self. We are trying to expose ourself as best as possible. Like the actor and his/hers audience. I have seen people taking selfie at the gym with big smile and after the shot the person looks angry. Actually, and very interesting,  “persona” meaning “mask”. Maybe we put on a selfie mask?

Many also publish the images in social media- displaying their succesful life. But in reality our life is like and embroidery. Beautyful picture in the front, but a totally more confusing structure behind. Isn`t it? The presentation of self meeting modern technology and the result is a selfie culture. In other words, the presentation of self has become technologyfied. Are we living in a time in which we love our self more or has social media plus technological development created a need to appear perfect in realtionship to other? I don´t know. But I always remember that there is another reality behind the scene, behind the theater carpet. And this backstage/frontstage are an universal feature of human life. I think this is a fundamental understanding of human life. Do you agree?

Anthropology: The Gift by Marcel Mauss

The Gift

Accompanied by a brazilian coffee, I decided this morning to revisit Marcel Mauss anthropological/sociological classical work “The Gift- The form and reason for exchange in archaic societies”. The essay was first published in 1925 in french, but translated into english in 1954. This is my interpretation of Mauss.

“The Gift” is the foundation of theories of reciprocity, and is frequently sited by social scientists. By reading of others works from all over the world, Mauss examine the function of the gift. The exchange of objects or services creates relationships, he argue. In other words, Mauss try to show us that the practice of giving creates social bonds. In society there is an obligation to give, to receive and to reciprocate- to give back. To not receive a gift is a declaration of war. To receive a gift put you in a kind of dept and the giver has an ascendancy on the receiver until the gift is reciprocated. And in this way an invicible bond is tied between groups (see book cover), and I would say the same function apply between individuals. Even that this study was of archaic societies, it is widely used even today to explain dynamics of social life.

Just think about how the practice of giving works in your life. For example how do you feel at christmas if one of your friends giving you this nice expencive gift and you haven´t given anything back? Or if a person borrowing money from you and never pay it back? Or if your colleague helps you move, you would feel obligated to help him/her to paint the house. It can even manifest as something simple as you are smiling to a person and that person doesn´t smile back (or smile back). Or if someone give you a payment, they will expect that you do the job and you will also feel obligated to carry out those tasks.

It is a story about that which is in between human beings. The dynamic of giving, getting and giving back is striking in our everyday lives. Even if the reciprocal function of the gift can be used with good or bad intentions, the baseline in Mauss is that here is no such a thing as a free gift.

Learn more about Marcel Mauss at AnthroBase.