Political leaders will use the idea that there are distinct cultures to justify what they are doing. You will see this in the case of Myanmar where the dictatorship insisted that human rights were not culturally relevant to the Burmese people. The right not to be executed, used as human shields, tortured, strip searched or stopped and frisked is something desirable to all regardless of color, gender, creed or nation. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sun Suu Kyi made a different argument--that not only did the people of Myanmar want these human rights, that are applicable to all human beings, but the leadership, in denying them, was not following its own tradition of Buddhism (see lecture).
This class has also emphasized that there is not one culture particular to a nation or to a group of people identified by phenotype or religion. For instance, no culture is more war-like (as we discussed in the case of Palestine-Israel), but it is instead the geography of occupation that makes martyrdom seem like a viable option for Palestinians.
A friend of mine recently got US citizenship. Part of the process is a ceremony over which a judge presides. In her case, the judge told the group of new citizens that there is no one way to be American. While this is true, it is also clear that there are pressures on immigrants to assimilate (to melt into the pot). Europe, as you've learned, is having an especially difficult time accepting newer immigrants who practice Islam or have darker skin than lighter-skinned Europeans. In the case of Europe, you learned about overt or de jure -- enacted through law -- assimilation pressures. Less evident is the way that assimilation works through dominant norms.
These dominant norms, to which people are expected to assimilate, are established by groups who, through their dominance in a society, have been able to determine what is "normal". Norms are always contested (people try do things differently) and new norms take hold.
First, write down the following in your notes: What are some dominant norms? In other words, what is "normal" or acceptable according to US culture for men and women? Is individualism a norm? What about becoming middle class? What's normal middle class behavior? Is it the norm to drive a car? The accepted way of organizing space in this society is partitioning -- places for people (cities) and for plants and animals (farmland) or places for work and places for home (city and suburbs), or a place for the river and barriers to keep it from flooding into human space.
Second: answer the following in your notes: What do refugees need when they come to the US and who provides it? What challenges do they face? How are they encouraged or challenged to assimilate? What does it mean to become an American?
Third: answer the following in your notes: What does the geography of immigration and assimilation look like? If you were to map it what would you draw? (geography, as you know, involves where people go in the US, where they live, what they own, what they do for work and play, where they meet, what they eat, where their food comes from, where they feel safe, where they can be spiritual, who they see most often, what their neighbors do and think about them, how they understand their identity, what they think about their past etc.).
This blog assignment concerns the second part of the lecture on the Hmong diaspora and specifically the case of Hugo, MN. You will need to listen to the lecture before you can respond. The author of the study, geographer Dan Trudeau, argued that the desire for freshly slaughtered animals for religious or consumption purposes by Hmong and East African groups challenged what the white, middle class residents considered acceptable. They didn't think those practices associated with these groups belonged in that place.
1. Discuss the decision the town of Hugo made. Does Trudeau's argument about the dominance of whiteness (practices deemed normal by white middle class people) in US society seem reasonable?
2. Provide an example of a dominant norm and its effect on certain groups in society or how norms make space. Dominant norms apply to the categories of race, class, gender, sexuality and ability. Age could be included as well but typically it is associated with another category. For instance, it is the norm in this society for older women to try to appear younger. Everywhere older women look, there are messages telling them to dye their hair to conceal gray, to be thin despite having had kids and to use all sorts of "beauty" products to hide signs of age. This is a social pressure in which women are complicit (they go along with and reproduce the expectation). Show me you understand the concept of a dominant norm and that you can apply the experience of the Hmong people and the case of Hugo to another case.
Your post can incorporate your thoughts from the above exercises (first, second, third) and should show me that you've listened to the lecture.