Wisdom sits in places chapter 2 summary
Number Our Days by Barbara MyerhoffWhen noted anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff received a grant to explore the process of aging, she decided to study some elderly Jews from Venice, California, rather than to report on a more exotic people. The story of the rituals and lives of these remarkable old people is, as Bel Kaufman said, one of those rare books that leave the reader somehow changed.
Here Dr. Myerhoff records the stories of a culture that seems to give people the strength to face enormous daily problems -- poverty, neglect, loneliness, poor health, inadequate housing and physical danger. The tale is a poignant one, funny and often wise, with implications for all of us about the importance of ritual, the agonies of aging, and the indomitable human spirit.
Wisdom Sits In Places
Wisdom Sits in Places analyzes the relationship between geographical location, cultural symbolism and place-names in the language and linguistic practices of the Western Apache tribe located in Cibecue, Arizona. The author, Keith Basso, is an anthropologist and ethnographer who argues that the field of anthropology does not study the relationship place, language and culture. Basso first visited Cibecue in when he was a student. After writing about the Western Apache in a scholarly setting, Basso became bored and so decided to visit the White Mountain Apache Tribe directly in order to make maps the tied Apache place-names to their geographical referents and to records the stories and symbols located with those stories. In the process, Basso secured a grant from the NSF and spent eighteen months over five years between and with the Western Apache, making maps and taking notes. Wisdom Sits in Places is a short book, composed of four largely independent essays.
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The Apache name locations by what they see the first time; the name is a visual description of the physical landscape of a location. For centuries locations were passed from generation to generation as a place to gather food, obtain water, good places to grow food, etc. As they described the location, they named the place. They see a spring, bubbling out of the rocks forming a pool and start toward it and are quickly halted by the leader who notices snaking sunning themselves on the rocks. He halts the group, telling them to stay put as he moves toward the snakes, talking quietly to them, convincing them to move one so the people can gather water. The people then are able to drink Basso,
Places include a social aspect; they are created by means of historical imagination, through many acts of remembering, imagining and their interaction. The locally imagined history must be lived as well; place-making also involves creating history around the place and revising and augmenting them. Place-making occurs easily even in cultures where there is no writing or record-making. Reinterpreting the past is easy even without a written history. What people make of places are often repositories of such knowledge. Place-making helps construct social traditions and even social and personal identities. Place-making is also a kind of cultural activity.