Re: Culture of honour

From: Peter Smagorinsky (
Date: Tue Jan 06 2004 - 09:09:21 PST

I did not mean to sound offended, but wanted simply to ward off
overgeneralizations on a large and varied region.

First, people do not agree on what is included in the American South. When
I lived in Oklahoma, some considered it Midwestern, others Southern, others
Southwestern (and that orientation might depend on which part of the state
you lived in--the part bordering Arkansas, the part bordering New Mexico,
the part bordering Kansas). To some Maryland is in the South, to others
not. Many people in Georgia think that my home state of Virginia is in the
North. And many people in southern Virginia do not believe the Washington
DC metropolitan area (where I grew up) to be part of the South. So if
you're going to talk about the region, you need to consider that it's
ill-defined to begin with.

Second, many perceptions of the region are based on the dominant culture,
when many other cultures exist. In the South most obviously this would
refer to African American culture, which itself includes a number of social
class distinctions. Metro Atlanta, for instance, has a robust governing
and entrepreneurial African American social class that is not present in
other parts of Georgia where the legacies of slavery and segregation are
still present and affect economic opportunities for African
Americans. More recently, the large Latino/a immigration has brought new
cultures to the region--I emphasize the plural because of the variety of
nationalities represented (see, e.g., the large Cuban population in Miami
and burgeoning Mexican population in Georgia).

They say that the South isn't as Southern as it used to be. A lot of
Northerners have relocated to the South because of the temperate climate
and business opportunities. It's still got an unfortunate base of racist
White residents (see the inflammatory debates about the Confederate flag),
both those blatantly hostile and those who discriminate more subtly. But
I've lived in a number of parts of the US and have found racism
everywhere. This is not to excuse Southern racists, only to point out that
they're hardly unique and perhaps more indignant given that not long ago
their prejudices were written into law and they feel that they've lost
their entitlement. In most of the state-wide elections we've had since I
moved here, the candidates who've played the race card have lost.

As for a Southern code of honor, I just don't know. I think it's like a
lot of other legacies (e.g., the Southern tradition of civility, which was
extended only to other Whites), it's part of a heritage that may or may not
have actually been practiced, and is referred to these days primarily in
terms of its loss. But like a lot of other Golden Age concepts, it may
never have existed as strongly as memory suggests.

Well, hardly a chat analysis, and likely an impressionistic ramble, but my
2 cents' worth, and worth every penny.


At 04:44 PM 1/6/2004 +0100, you wrote:
>Sorry Peter,
>I did not want to offend you or other Southern in any way. I guess it was
>the same generalization as talking about Mediterranean, Arabic, Islamic
>culture of honour. And that is one of my problems to be able to locate it
>clear and distinct, but still it exist floating around and showing its face
>here and there. So Peter, since you are born, raised and live in South and
>work with CHAT what is your reflections on the subject? Can you give me a
>tread to start with?
>Yours curious
>Den 04-01-06 16.19, skrev "Peter Smagorinsky" <>:
> > Hans wrote: (I heard that some say that the culture of honour in the South
> > of USA should be somewhat equal to the Arabic?)
> >
> > I have lived more than half of my life in the American South and would say
> > that, while such a strain of belief might exist, it does not characterize
> > the whole region. The South is a large and diverse place, in spite of what
> > you see depicted in the media, which prefers Deliverance-style backwoods
> > caricature (note that almost any character in a movie or TV show with a
> > Southern accent is an idiot).
> >
> > Peter (native of Virginia, current resident of Georgia)
> >
> > At 03:41 PM 1/6/2004 +0100, you wrote:
> >> Hi,
> >>
> >> I am just starting to do an assignment about young people, who are
> attracted
> >> to their own sex, how they are exposed to violence in the family due
> to the
> >> culture of honour. And how the social service and police deals with it. It
> >> is not about what you call the coming-out process and problems around it.
> >> More that the violence towards girls in some family, even killing,
> have put
> >> a focus that there also could be the same problem for young people who are
> >> attracted to their own sex, living in such families.
> >>
> >> In Sweden we have had the last years two killing of daughter by their
> >> fathers in the name of family honour, since the daughters had Swedish
> >> boyfriends instead of the man to marry that the parents have chosen from
> >> their own culture. In both cases the families have come from rural Middle
> >> East culture. (I heard that some say that the culture of honour in the
> South
> >> of USA should be somewhat equal to the Arabic?) That made people in Sweden
> >> focus on patriarchal family system threatening or conducting violence on
> >> their children in the name of cultural honour. Culture of honour, in the
> >> violent form, seems to be connected to ³shame-culture², where the public
> >> esteem is the greatest good and to be ill spoken of the greatest evil. In
> >> the name of this honour-code mostly fathers and brothers use threats of
> >> violence, violence and in extreme cases killing to rule over their
> >> daughters/sisters. In Sweden we think that the same condition exist for
> >> young people who are attracted to their own sex. The Government therefore
> >> have supported funds for this report.
> >>
> >> But since I want to base the report on culturalhistorical activitytheory I
> >> want to ask following.
> >>
> >> I want to know if someone has done some researched in this area? Since I
> >> want to lift the question away from just Middle East/Arabic culture I need
> >> to focus more about what is building up a culture and in this case the
> >> culture of honour, and especially the culture that cherish honour more
> than
> >> life. And here I have not yet come across a good definition about culture
> >> out of CHAT. Do you know a good operational one? I have not yet found
> >> something using CHAT to explain family violence - in this case towards
> sons
> >> and daughters because of their sexuality.
> >>
> >> I have found some good thoughts in Lave and Wenger about the learning
> >> process which could be used to describe why the culture of honour still
> >> exist in families, even though they live in a country that do not
> allow that
> >> kind of law.
> >>
> >> Could anybody help me?
> >>
> >> Yours
> >>
> >> Hans Knutagård
> >> Sweden
> >

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Feb 01 2004 - 01:00:09 PST