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[Xmca-l] Re: Halloween, Yale and other complications
- To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Halloween, Yale and other complications
- From: Ben DeVane <email@example.com>
- Date: Tue, 10 Nov 2015 20:27:21 -0600
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I have some awareness of the literature on play, and I have to object to
your characterization. I would invite correction, but most contemporary
literature on the anthropology or sociology does not view play as a
complete or even thorough "suspension of the rules regulating social life".
In fact, the rules of social life are often thoroughly embedded in play,
albeit altered in some way. Gary Alan Fine's work on live-action role play
does an excellent job of examining the layers of "nested identities" that
are made manifest in such play, and my colleague Thomas Malaby explores the
blurred lines between work and play in contemporary games in depth (drawing
on Ortner's work on Himalayan mountaineering).
Your example of the costume party serves to illustrate the point: All rules
are not suspended. At a costume party, one cannot crudely insult the other
guests, abuse the furniture, be careless with one's drink, or grope the
other guests, without being ejected for misconduct. (I include groping
because 'in-character' sexual harassment is an infamous problem in
live-action role-playing games). And if one were to show up with a costume
crudely mocking a number of participants, one might expect said partygoers
to give voice to their displeasure.
If one were to show up at a Yale housemaster's Halloween party in costume
as an oblivious, overpaid, and unqualified residential hall administrator,
I doubt one would be warmly received. In said example, the resulting
lecture would likely tackle the topic of civility instead of "thinking for
P.S. No rules were "set up" at Yale. Only educational materials about
cultural sensitivity were distributed.
On Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 6:58 PM, David Preiss <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Thanks for the link, Peter! I will hear it.
> It is curious how Halloween became a mirror of how difficult is to deal
> with cultural and other differences.
> When is a costume celebratory and when is a costume offensive? There is not
> clear-cut line.
> One wears a costume because one is borrowing other (living or dead)
> person’s identity to play a game. Indeed, wearing a costume always involves
> some sort of pretense. I pretend to be somebody else as a part of an
> activity that intends to be non-serious and involves and agreed (or
> collaborative) suspension of the rules regulating social life.
> Problem is we all take our (cultural, other) identities quite seriously.
> Yet, if we don't suspend the serious rules we adhere to build our
> identities at some point in our daily lives there is no chance at all to
> make a costume party. And if we can’t make a costume party, we may become
> not only boring but eventually fundamentalist.
> Therefore, there has to be room to play, to make a costume party, at least
> in a society that allows for some difference.
> Question remains, how far can we go in this game so it does not become an
> aggression instead of a celebration of difference. If we set up rules, as
> some people made at Yale, we kill the party. If we don’t, we risk an
> identity conflict. There is no clear way out of this.
> On Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 5:09 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <email@example.com> wrote:
> > In case anyone's interested, I recently was a guest on the Atlanta NPR
> > station, talking about political correctness (the implicit theme of
> > article on Yale).
> > 2015 WABE (NPR) 90.5FM Atlanta: College PC Culture: It’s Not About
> > Offending But Respecting
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:
> > email@example.com] On Behalf Of David Preiss
> > Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 2:22 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Halloween, Yale and other complications
> > And so it goes with Halloween... It seems that this holiday is becoming a
> > college issue. Here, a college master (I never liked the term because of
> > the slavery implications it has), got in trouble because it did something
> > different than the other university president: she asked the students to
> > think independently. And the students were, of course, disgusted because
> > the request.
Ben DeVane, Ph.D
Psychological & Quantitative Foundations
University of Iowa