Decoding Culture- Sociology

1 January 2017

What are the important rituals in which these symbols are used? Are there any special languages or vocabularies, verbal or non verbal, which are used in this case? Upon entering a culture, the first thing one is likely to see is the symbols, objects or behaviors that convey a specific meaning to the people who share a culture. Though the focus is on the Mien culture, it is important to recognize that this case is about two cultures: the Mien culture and Linda’s culture of science and medicine.

Decoding cultures in this case requires, therefore, comparing and contrasting these two cultures. The case, however, doesn’t show us in very much detail what the symbols, stories, and worldviews of the two cultures are. The cure used in the Mien culture is a ceremony, and the objects used have symbolic value. The story about transferring the pain to the wall conveys the idea that non-material things such as pain can be physically moved from one place to another.

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Lying at the heart of Mien culture is animism, the view that the world is inhabited by spirits that reside in things, including people.

Within a culture, symbolic objects are treated as special, things that are out of the ordinary. Often, they are used in rituals, culturally meaningful pattern of behavior. The case, however, doesn’t show us in very much detail what the symbols, stories, and worldviews of the two cultures are. The cure used in the Mien culture is a ceremony, and the objects used have symbolic value. The story about transferring the pain to the wall conveys the idea that non-material things such as pain can be physically moved from one place to another.

Lying at the heart of Mien culture is animism, the view that the world is inhabited by spirits that reside in things, including people. In this story the main ritual used is the treatment done on Marie for a case of ‘Gusia mun toe’. In this specific social setting ‘Gusia mun toe’ is an illness seen among babies or in other words ‘Mien'(Origin from Laos) babies. It is assumed to cause restlessness, agitation, constipation, and loss of appetite in babies. The cure was to dip a pulp in pork fat and then lit it. Eventually that flame is quickly passed over burning the child slightly over the abdomen area.

Linda’s culture of medicine also has its symbols (white walls, sterile places, various tools) , rituals (the examination) and worldviews (science and the scientific method). Also words like ‘Gusia mun toe’, ‘ Mien’ are unique to the culture of Laos. Since language is another way to see symbols. Those words mentioned above can enable people to communicate with each other belonging to that same social group. These unfamiliar buzzwords may sound unusual and strange to us but for the people familiar with that language these parts of language and vocabulary are a important symbolic component in their culture and existence.

What stories and narratives do people tell in this case? Who are the central characters in these stories? What are the plots? What do the stories attempt to show? Are there slogan or mottoes that are heard over and over again? Are there scripts guiding action? The central characters in his case are Linda Gorman and Mrs. Saeto. They act as a link between two cultures. The plot of the story is cultural sensitivity. The stories include the time when Mrs. Saeto explains about their spiritual belief via the ritual performed to cure Marie (the baby).

The cure was made from a string of inner pulp from a special reed that her mother in law got which was lightly dipped in pork fat. She then passed the flame quickly over the skin of Marie’s abdomen in the area where the pain is worse. The flame raised a blister that popped. The blister meant that the illness was not related to spiritual causes. If the blister has not developed, they will have to shaman to conduct a ritual. What is of value in this culture? What are the important images and visions? How would you characterize this culture’s worldview and important beliefs? Lu Mien is the main culture in focus in this case.

They are of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China, where they reside in the mountainous terrain of the southwest and south. They also form one of the 54 ethnic groups officially recognized by Vietnam. In the last census, they numbered 2,637,421 in China, and roughly 470,000 in Vietnam. After obtaining refugee status from the Thai government and with the help of the United Nations, many Yao people were able to obtain sponsorship into the United States. Most of the Yao who have immigrated to the United States have settled along the Western part of the U. S. mainly in Northern California such as Fresno, Oakland, Oroville, Redding, Richmond, Sacramento, but also in parts of Oregon Portland, Salem, Beaverton and the state of Washington Seattle. Lu-Mien might not have advanced ideas and knowledge that associated with modern education. Miens have a number of techniques for treating people with both physical and mental afflictions. They have a method to treat as drag or knead in the painful, treat with herbs, worship the spirits. For example, when a family member is ill, other family members perform a ceremony asking spirits of their departed ancestors to return and help heal the sick person.

However, this service by ancestors is not free. The family must repay the kindness of ancestors by sacrificing animals such as chickens and pigs in a kind of ‘spirit’ payment. Linda’s culture of medicine is mostly to deal with modern world which associate new technology and all based on logics even though it also has its symbols such as white walls, sterile places, various tools, rituals such as examination. Therefore it is very educational to study about these two vastly different cultures. Culture as social glue Are some bonds stronger than other bonds?

If so which ones are stronger? Even thought the relationship between Linda and Saeto is a relationship which is on progress the bond appears to be strong, while the bond between Saeto and the outside world come in to view as a weak bond. The weak bond could be a result of her having to go through rough situations when she first came to America. Saeto has a strong bond with her family. It’s evident through her sense of belonging and respect to her own culture. What symbols, stories, and world views strengthen bonds? At the beginning of her new life in America Mrs.

Saeto had to go through many hard times which bonded her strongly with her culture as it was only them that was left for her. Even though scars and burns were left on Marie’s body she continued with the traditional treatments due to her strong bond with her culture. Saeto and her family acts as a group of cultural transmitters. Therefore, the stories that Saeto tells Linda strengthens the bond between them. Also, the worldview that Linda has towards the child abuse strengthens her bond with the outside world. Is a strong sense of “us” evident in the case? If so, how is this sense of “us” maintained?

The “US” seems to convey very strongly in the story. “US” is the whole Mien culture containing Mrs. Saeto, Marie, her grandmother and the rest of the members in that community. Due to their common belief and strong relationships with each other has brought them closer so the goes in to the extent of addressing them as one. And in this story it proven when Mrs. Saeto explains the treatment her mother-in-law carried out and she appears to be proud about it. Culture as an umbrella Who in this case sees things from their own perspective? Who attempts to look at things from the perspective of the whole? Both Linda and Mrs.

Saeto look at things from their own perspective but towards the end of the case Linda faces a dilemma because she looks at things in Mrs. Saeto’s cultural perspective, Given this analysis, it is clear why Linda faces a dilemma. She realizes that this is in fact a cultural problem. If she had thought that Mrs. Saeto had intentionally harmed Maria, or neglected her in ways that she should have known would harm her, then Linda would have had no qualms about turning her in. However, this is not her assessment. Rather, because Mrs. Saeto has told her about the Mien culture and her past, she knows that the traditional cure comes from Mrs.

Saeto’s culture and is seen by those in that culture as helpful and not harmful. As a nurse who works with many different types of people, she has learned that it is important to respect cultural differences. Linda does not see Mrs. Saeto as someone who is being swept away by false ideas. Linda probably believes that Mrs. Saeto’s culture has a great deal of value for her. Linda also knows that if she openly rejects something that Mrs. Saeto finds to be of great value, Mrs. Saeto may never return to the clinic. Then Linda will have lost her ability to prevent Mrs. Saeto from using these and other potentially harmful cures on Marie.

The dilemma is, therefore, whether Linda can find a way to get Mrs. Saeto to not use cultural practices that could seriously harm her and her children without Mrs. Saeto believing that Linda rejects her entire culture and way of life. Are there standards according to which everyone is evaluated? If so, what are these standards and how are they used in this case? It’s not easy to pin point common standards and values in the society according to this story. But as in general what happens to Mrs. Saeto at her school age is not accepted in any culture or society. But the Ritual or the medical treatment hich carried by Mrs. Saeto’s mother-in-law is considered as a accepted treatment that carried out by experienced healer and its well respected in her culture even though it’s not accepted in many other cultures or society including American culture. It will be addressed as child abuse in most of those. But moral standard of respecting each culture and those believes seems to be practiced my Linda at the end. According to what criteria are new comers selected and evaluated? It is hard to view this case as one of culture uniting people with diverse views through some common values or standards.

In fact, this is really a case where there are no common standards by which everyone is evaluated. Within American culture what was done to Maria is clearly wrong, but within Mien culture it is considered useful and good. This case therefore brings to the fore the idea of cultural relativity, that is, the view that practices and behaviors can be judged only by the cultural standards of the culture in which those practices occur. Rejecting cultural relativity implies that there are universal standards by which the practices in all cultures can be evaluated.

The problem with this position is that Often when people claim there are such universal standards, it turns out that those standards are just the standards of their culture. The result then is ethnocentrism, the view that one’s own culture is the superior culture and therefore its standards are the “universal” ones that should be used to judge behaviors in all cultures. Culture as a mask Is there a discrepancy between what people believe (or say) and what is really going on? From this perspective, what is important are discrepancies between what people believe and what is really going on.

Some people may view the Mien curing practices as an ideology that misleads and mystifies those who practice such cures. From this perspective Mrs. Saeto’s belief that the burning ritual really cured Maria is a false idea, a belief in magic. But to outsiders, cultural practices that are foreign often seem mystifying, while for insiders they are revealing and instructive. Also, modern medical practices can also be seen as sometimes distorting reality. For example, commercials for new drugs and medicines often exaggerate the benefits while trying to hide the negative side-effects.

Do those who are worse off believe that they deserve to be worse off? Do they believe that they cannot change the situation? Do they believe that they are really not disadvantaged? This can be explained by many features. In this situation almost all the people are happy and joy the way things occur. The point of view of Mrs. Saeto about the world and the cultures shows that she is aware that the traditional treatments that is used to cure her baby could be harmful, but she makes her self think that it’s a spiritual custom which is been carried out by her mother-in-law in order to cure her child.

When we conceder Linda’s point of view on this matter: it shows that she is completely against the healing methods that are used by Mrs. Seato’s customs. She also puts herself in dilemma because she could not ignore the fact that treating a baby in such a manner. She even wanted to go to authorities. What ideologies lead to these views? Who articulate these ideologies? Mrs. Saoto strongly believes about her culture and its practices including spiritual healing which she made her baby go through and when she was describing it to Linda, Mrs.

Saeto was able to make Linda believe that this practice is done for the betterment of the child even though its bit painful. This misleads Linda to believe that the sacrifices they were making are actually worthy. But as the experience became too painful, the ideology of the Mien culture no longer seemed to coincide with reality. Reality which Linda lives in the World that believes in, all the moral values and giving pain for anyone for any reason is wrong. This leads Linda to question her beliefs. Hence, Linda’s cultural mask seemed to peel away which made Linda to think logically.

Culture as a current What are the behavioral patterns indicative of some underlying driving force motivating behaviors? It is clear that both cultures provide meanings and purposes for Mrs. Saeto and Linda Gorman respectively. Mrs. Saeto’s beliefs about spirits probably orient her behaviors, especially when she encounters problems. Linda’s belief in science and medicine motivates her to use her knowledge to help people and prevent illness. What meaning do you think lie behind these patterns? What type of activities does these meanings motivates?

Linda’s dilemma is the direct result of the clash between her culture of medicine and Mrs. Saeto’s Mien culture. These two cultures are at odds over whether the burning “cure” hurts or harms the child. Given this cultural conflict Linda goes back and forth about what she should do. While conflict theory successfully describes instances where conflict occurs between groups of people, for a variety of reasons, it is questionable whether this represents the ideal human society. Culture is important because it is a meaning system that informs people’s actions and interactions.

This could be also applied to the situation in the story where Linda was were ego to know about the Mien culture, but seen the baby going through pain changes her mind as stated earlier. How do the symbols, stories, and worldviews propel the action that is evident in this case? Burning is considered as a symbol of strong belief in specific cultures. In this case it refers to the strong beliefs of Mrs. Saeto on her culture. Hard time she went trough in the beginning of her life in America made her strong on the Mein culture. And that strong belief made her burn her baby to cure her sickness.

Culture as a tool kit What are some of the similarities that are evident in the social interaction among people in this case? How do these social interactions differ from patterns you have seen else- where? It is instructive to examine to whom Mrs. Saeto turned when she needed to figure out what to do. She turned to her mother-in-law and the traditional cures of the Mien culture. Why? Because these are the ways with which she is familiar. These are the cultural tools that she has at her disposal. And with these cultural tools, Mrs.

Saeto will continue to understand problems and find solutions through the lu Mien culture. She believes that with these cultural tools she is helping her child. She has no intention of harming Maria. What are the culture tools that people in this situation use as they go about constructing social connections with others? What repertories and templates do they have at their disposal? Culture could be considered as a tool kit because people tend to create similar social connections because they have similar tools that they use when making social connections.

These tools consist of stories, symbols, worldview and language. In this particular case language plays an important part of Mrs. Saeto’s tool kit. Her Mien language enables Saeto to communicate with her Grandparents and her family, therefore her Mien language is a vital too to her. Another tool that enables Mrs. Saeto to communicate and draw closer to Linda are her stories. By relating her stories, Mrs Saeto is drawing herself closer to Linda, she is able to communicate and express her thoughts and feelings to Linda by relating these stories that are based on her very unique culture.

In my opinion I believe that people when in need of some sort of help, would always turn their faith in their religion or to a person they are very close to. In Mrs. Saeto’s situation , when she had her problem she sought help from her culture and that is the reason as to why she performed the ritual on her child immediately after diagnosing symptoms in her child of which she believed were harmful. bibliography: DECODING CULTURE DECISION CASE: “Linda Gorman” chapter 3 – sociology

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