Visualzing Cultures, Assignment 1

The Black Ship Scroll: Capturing Culture through the Visual Record

Write 2 double-spaced pages.

View the entire Black Ship Scroll uninterrupted. Then study carefully the animations for each scene. The Universals of Culture categories that are referred to in the assignment are given at the end.

  • Did the Scroll images tend to cluster in some cultural categories from the Universals of Culture? If so, which ones?
  • Were there categories that were not covered? If so, which ones?
  • What might be the reasons for this? Why might artists have captured some aspects of American culture to a greater degree than others?
  • Could some images that you categorized in one way be re-categorized?

Consider some elements of the Scroll that cannot be captured by the Universals of Culture framework. For example, how would you categorize the interaction and human behavior that is captured in the Scroll?

  • Is interaction formal or informal?
  • What kinds of interactions would seem to be a major component of the Perry mission but are not pictured in the Scroll? How can you account for this?

Consider the audience for the Scroll:

Consider the nature of the Scroll itself and how this might affect the aspects of American culture that the artists recorded.

  • Who do you think the Scroll was created for?
  • How would the audience influence the aspects of culture recorded on the Scroll?
  • What is difference in mission/purpose the artists of this scroll and the American official artist William Heine? What similarities?

In the final portion of your paper, present an image (or two) of your own discovery that demonstrates the use of many of the Universals of Culture to convey a specific messsage.

The Universals of Culture

(Developed by Alice Ann Cleaveland, Jean Craven, Maryanne Danfelser)

The "universals of culture" are a conceptual tool for the study of cultures. These "universals" are functions that culture serves and that are found in some form in every culture on earth. The following categories make up our list of the universals of culture:

  1. Material Culture
    1. Food
    2. Clothing and Adornment of the Body
    3. Tools and Weapons
    4. Housing and Shelter
    5. Transportation
    6. Personal Possessions
    7. Household Articles
  2. The Arts, Play, and Recreation
    1. Forms of the Arts, Play, and Recreation
    2. Folk Arts and Fine Arts
    3. Standards of Beauty and Taste
  3. Language and Nonverbal Communication
    1. Nonverbal Communication
    2. Language
  4. Social Organization
    1. Societies
    2. Families
    3. Kinship Systems
  5. Social Control
    1. Systems and Governmental Institutions
    2. Rewards and Punishments
  6. Conflict and Warfare
    1. Kinds of Conflict
    2. Kinds of Warfare
  7. Economic Organization
    1. Systems of Trade and Exchange
    2. Producing and Manufacturing
    3. Property
    4. Division of Labor
    5. Standard of Living
  8. Education
    1. Informal Education
    2. Formal Education
  9. World View
    1. Belief Systems
    2. Religion

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