The Sanctuary of Home

By: Mike Rogan

The Sanctuary of Home

The sense of home a person feels is unique to their own dwelling, not only because it is the area in which they eat, sleep, and ultimately reside, but because they also share a deep connection with the objects and various materials that make up that person’s individual sense of culture. This sense of culture is preserved through these items and artifacts by creating a sense of individual culture that is enshrined and archived within the home. As shown in Queen of Versailles, and through Ann Cvetkovich’s article, “In the Archive of Lesbian Feelings,” these items can be extremely different from individual to individual, however everyone has certain items which they hold dear to their person for one reason or another. When these two sources are compared to the items I would provide for my personal archive,it becomes clear that these items aren’t valued in a necessarily monetary or traditional sense, but rather in an emotional and personal construction of what our outside representations of home are. Although a person on the outside might view another’s object as trivial or ordinary, the value placed within it is by the individual, not by society as a whole. I believe this is a testament to the individuality and diversity of current American culture. This can be shown through my own individual selections as well as through the simple fact that without knowing me on an extremely deep level, you would not be able to guess the items I chose as being exceptionally special in my conception and creation of an archive of my personal culture. This being said, I am sure this applies to most individuals in American society as well. These items show the creative and personal process in which domesticity is created in America today.

The first object I have chosen is a collection of Rogue Farms bomber bottles, which I have chosen because of the sense of family as well as persistence the bottles mean to me. The second item in the archive of my personal culture would be a small statue of Buddha, in three similar poses, representing “See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil.” It has come to represent personal beliefs and feelings along with a sense of superstition. The final item I chose to represent my personal culture would be a large African themed warrior tapestry that hangs across my living room wall in my apartment. This is special to me as it represents both a sense of lasting friendship and tradition both within and outside of my personal life. The word domesticity, I believe, has taken a turn in the direction of warmth and comfort rather than a household set of role playing rules. The objects we fill our homes with are unique to our own sense of style and what relaxes us and puts us at ease. Through these objects, I believe I have accomplished creating such a personal archive in my own domestic sphere, as most Americans do in their own lives.
Five Rogue Bottles, Photo by Mike Rogan
The first item is the most recent, but seemingly most special in the sense that it represents a more traditional sense of American domestic culture. The reason I feel this is a part of my “material culture” is the bond it creates with my father, who had collected the first Rogue bottle released, and years later I began to collect Rogue without knowing. Representing our home through its similarity to our name, collecting then bottles brought a sense of pride that we came together as a family to continue and better ourselves. Also in a traditional American sense is the idea of persistence both in American values and the continual collecting of this object with my father.

 

Buddha Statue, Photo by Mike Rogan

The second item I chose in creating an archive of my own domestic culture would be a Buddha Statue which I have had in my room, wherever that may be, since I was around twelve. The fact of that it has followed me through four residences has made it a staple of my personal domestic culture. It represents domesticity through my superstition of it bringing me and my loved ones good luck, and through personal religious philosophies I’ve come to see as true in Buddhism. Although I am not a Buddhist, the customary understanding of this piece still holds meaning for me.

Tribal Warrior Tapestry, Photo by Mike Rogan

The third item in my archive I believe relates to domesticity through strong and enduring bonds of friendship and tradition. The tribal nature and sense of tradition remind me of my father and my Irish roots and its influence on how I view home. It also reminds me of two of my best friends, and current roommates, one of which I have known since I was one month old. It reminds me of the extreme duration of time we have spent together and expands my sense of who I include in “home” to not just those inside the actual home.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

Selling American Consumerism

By: Mike Rogan

The idea of the “American way” is one that is usually centralized around ideas of free market economy and the pursuit of capitalism. Stemming from this concept is the idea that if one’s desire is to constantly have purchasing power, there must be a system in place to control and influence what the population purchases: advertisements. Although advertisements have drastically changed in both appearance and method of delivery over the past decades, they still serve the same purpose of not only informing, but convincing, consumers to buy a certain product. Advertisements usually gain the attention of a more selected audience, and in the rise of American society, women viewed as domestic workers were much more often targeted in these advertisements than other groups.
First off, women’s roles in the evolving society were often of a much more secondary role than those of their male counterparts. They were viewed as inferior, although they gained more respect and rights as time went on. Due to this view, they were displaced from the majority workforce, and left with secondary jobs with lower wages as one of their various disadvantages. This caused many woman to remain home in an effort to take a more matriarchal role, since they lived in a patriarchal society. This cultural phenomenon was affecting the advertising market as well. Advertisers knew that women would be home most of the day in an effort to keep the children as well behaved and educated as possible, while also maintaining as close to a pristine residence as possible. “The metaphor that prevailed throughout the debate was that of a race. But it was not the arms race or the space race; it was the consumer race—centered on the home” (May 156). Advertisers made a conscious effort to target these housewives in order to get the largest audience of consumers interested in their products. As also stated in May’s articles, the goal was not to grant women in the household more free time, but was to give them the piece of mind that they were doing all in their power to keep their house at a top level in order to impress the suburb community that they were now engulfed within. Companies began to constantly produce not only products to make women’s lives easier, but also a vast marketplace for household goods, appliances, automotive maintenance, household maintenance, and even products to maintain one’s surrounding property.
Another form of consumerism within the marketplace was the idea of commercial domestic labors such as commercial laundry mats, hotel apartments, and delivery meal service. Some of these new enterprises brought continued success, others such as the commercial Laundromat remain in business while not necessarily flourishing, and others failed, like the meal delivery service which attempted to provide necessary provisions for meals on a daily basis to its customers (Cowan 108). All of these instances provide the framework to discuss how advertisements targeted and transformed the domestic sphere into a consumer market.


Caption: “American Kitchens,” [1951] Courtesy of Adflip.

This image attests to very epitome of changing domestic consumerism. The initial way is the play off the new suburban lifestyle housewives and American families in general found themselves in, exclaiming how “Folks always end up in the kitchen.” The ad also supports the idea that everything had to be the newest and latest model, while still maintaining affordable prices, with phrases like “only a few dollars a month on easy FHA terms.” The idea that the housewife was there to ensure the household was the cleanest, latest, and most modern put neighbors not in competition, but ensured for manufacturers that they would have a constant and consistent consumer basis. As the kitchens were put toward the front of the house to give them a better position for watching their children outside, it was assumed that the woman of the household would most often reside in that part of the house, and ads such as this one are playing into the notion that since it is the woman’s part of the house, she would want to do her job, and go beyond keeping it extra tidy and presentable to visitors.

“Built for the Future. Admiral 20″ TV. World’s Most Powerful TV. Ready for UHF Stations.” [1951]. Courtesy of Library of Duke University.

Here, another prime example of American domestic consumerism is displayed by Admiral presenting their newest 20-inch television set. This advertisement plays into the constantly evolving domestic marketplace for new appliances. All of these appliances, not just televisions, promised a whole new level of ease or leisure for their consumers and as stated by President Nixon in his show room display with then Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev, “a race for consumerism.” He believed leisure and comfort were the key to American happiness and success as opposed to any other means. This is shown vividly within the advertisement as they exclaim that this television set is “built for the future,” and further claiming it to be the most powerful TV in the world. Television sets grew rapidly in popularity with Nixon referencing that there were “44 million American families… with 50 million television sets” (May 155). In regard to the targeting of women in this advertisement, the only visible person is a mysterious woman in a veil. Her veil along with her golden earrings and large golden necklace display her sexuality and prowess as the woman of the household, elevating her self-esteem higher and raising her (the viewer’s) interest in the product.

Caption: “Built for the Future. Admiral 20″ TV. World’s Most Powerful TV. Ready for UHF Stations.” [1951]. Courtesy of Library of Duke University.

Although this advertisement is directed more at the male audience within the household, as its name portrays a strong and reliable product, it still maintains the domestic consumerism that took place within the suburban American society. It does not directly play into appliances, the household, or namely the kitchen, yet it does play a role in the domestic capital market through suburban property maintenance of the land surrounding the home. It once again plays into the competitive suburban nature of neighborhoods, as well as the added convenience of an easier way to maintain one’s lawn. It follows the revolving theme of ease and leisure providing, an easier way to accomplish a task which gives one more time to relax or perform other domestic duties within or around the house. This competitive nature was fueled because, unlike the kitchen or inside of the home, the lawn was always visible to everyone. This created a rush on lawn care products, even to the extreme of spray painting a lawn such as a comedian suggested, saying “why not just paint your lawns green” (Steinberg).

This post was completed as part of assignment on how the idea of home and the concept of domesticity has been used in marketing during different historical moments and in the present. For additional information on the assignment, please visit:https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-selling-home/.

The Continuity of Culture through Relocation

The Continuity of Culture through Relocation

by: Mike Rogan

A person’s culture is often associated with their global positioning, however that may not always be the case. An individual’s culture is often associated with a country, region, or more broadly, a continent, however this leads to a false identity  since no consideration of where they came from or where they are going to is taken into account. As global culture has grown and progressed, mobilization of different peoples has become all the more a possibility and reality.  America has been the quintessential example of this as it is often referred to as a ‘melting pot’.  However, this melting pot was once home to Native Americans alone, but they were forced to assimilate, clouding the idea of the melting pot. Through disease and harsh violence, they remained as spiritual and connected to their culture as they could. They faced many trials and tribulations along the way, ultimately experiencing what could be called cultural genocide. As one Native boarding school student put it  “Our name isn’t supposed to be ‘Jones’ but Chonku, or something like that and the teachers couldn’t say it right so they just gave us Jones” (Archuleta, M.L., Child, B.D., Lomawaima, K.T., 28).

“Domesticity dominated middle-class women’s writing and culture from the 1830’s through the 1850’s” (Kaplan, 5). This period of time in American history is one of great expansion and imperial acquisition. It was also during this period that immense groups of immigrants from all parts of the world were flocking to the United States. This laid the foundation for what would be known as the “American Woman,” regardless of where she was from or her cultural standards of what a woman was. In this way, women had immensely less cultural grasp as compared to men. They were not only second-class citizens for not being American, but for not being men as well.

Homesickness can mean very different things for different people, depending on their previous residence, and their cultural idea of “home.” It was not their new location that frightened most dealing with homesickness, it was missing out on their culture. In this sense, it could be thought that the feeling of homesickness was indeed the feeling of losing their own culture to another. In this thinking “Americans began to express not just a longing for a home left behind – the characteristic yearning of the homesick—but a longing for a home lost in time” (Matt, 102). “American” ideals, which is a strange idea by itself, since these ideals would seemingly be a blend of other countries’ ideals, were often times strictly rigid with little room for other cultures. It seems in American culture the only way to escape persecution is to find another group to attack, or give up whatever parts of your culture are asked. One way in which Native Americans, for example, were able to preserve their culture was the economic benefits it brought to the American government through shows and events. “’Indianness’ became more lucrative than virtually any government assimilation program that Indians could adopt” (Archuleta, M.L., Child, B.D., Lomawaima, K.T., 74). Although this form of assimilation could be thought of as degrading or as a second-hand culture, it did open the door for future preservation and not a complete destruction of their culture as had been intended.

Trying to Make a Living

The man I interviewed was standing outside the Carpenters’ Union, 60 William Street. He did not want to give me his name.

My grandfather was born in Cork. My grandmother was born in Kilkenny. On my father’s side it was McCarthy, and on my mother’s side it was Fitzpatrick. My father was born in Newark, and my mother was born in New York. In those times they came over in sailboats; there was no steam. There isn’t much that I know about them. They came over here to get anything they could, like we do now. My grandfather had a hide and fat business. The fat house was on the corner of Norfolk Street and Thirteenth Avenue. He was there for years. That’s the Fitzpatrick I’m talking about now.

“Did your father have hard times?” I asked him.

No, he worked for years for the United Cigar stores. He was manager of a store. I am a carpenter, trying to make a living. I have three kids — they’re all girls. I haven’t lived any place else. I lived in Newark all my life. Thirty-five years.

Did you have a happy childhood?

Oh, sure, that’s the trouble. I had it too easy. If I had had to work a little harder, maybe I would have got somewhere. Look at how these foreigners come over and make good.

My grandfather was worth over one hundred thousand dollars. I was born in our big house on Norfolk and Thirteenth Avenue. We had everything. We never wanted for shoes or clothing or eats. I never had an education. I didn’t figure I needed education because I was well off. In those days, the people didn’t think much about education. The property where the playground is on is where we used to have our house. The property is right near the Robert Treat school.

Ernest Pentz

October 10, 1939

Excerpt from “America, The Dream of my Life.” 3/3/2014. Image re-typed from North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.

This interview is from a third-generation Irish immigrant. It shows the loss of culture through the generations after migration. I think this not only applies to lacking a sense of culture, but a change in their values and mindset as well. This source shows the fracture of culture through the immigration process, rather than the preservation of it. Since the interviewee was born in America, as were his parents being born in New York and Newark, he had a significantly weaker attachment to his heritage. This brings to mind the connection many Americans have now with their ancestral heritage. He went so far as to say in the interview that he had also lost his hard work ethic as well as his drive to constantly become more successful and achieve more that his grandparents and possibly parents had possessed as part of their immigrant mentality. He talked of his being somewhat spoiled, which contributed to him feeling the sense that he did not have to work or try nearly as hard. He even said this is why he did not pursue an education, which is far different from just lacking a stronger work ethic alone. I think it shows a lot that even within a verbal interview he recognized the difference between generations. I believe this goes far to show how the American culture was beginning to change as a whole from a nation of immigrants into a nation that began to identify themselves first as Americans before any other cultural connection.

The banana plant dies when the single bunch of fruit it yields is cut off. After that the stalk is chopped down, but a new plant grows up from the old roots, and the same plantations keep bearing for years. “Banana Plant,” 3/3/2014. Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library

“Banana Plant,” 3/3/2014. Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library

This is an image from The New York Public Library. I believe this image relates to African American’s ability and desire to preserve their culture in a variety of ways. Bananas are a tropical fruit and working certain plants such as these were causes of their homesickness.  This, however, is more symbolic when put together with the caption of the picture. The quote serves as a metaphor for the perseverance and courage African Americans were forced to have, showing that despite severe injustices, through their roots and heritage they could not be destroyed.

“Gathering Mulberry Leaves for the Silkworm Culture, Los Angeles, California.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory

“Gathering Mulberry Leaves for the Silkworm Culture, Los Angeles, California.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of The Library of Congress: American Memory

This image is from The Library of Congress, and depicts a young Chinese boy who is also working the fields. This image shares a similar feeling to that of the Banana Plant photo, as the boy gathers Mulberry Leaves, which are native to southern Asia. Although the cultivation is being done in Los Angeles, he remains intact with a part of his culture since these plants have a wide variety of uses in Chinese culture. Additionally, you can see more traditional clothing on the boy, as he is wearing a rice hat.

Excerpt from “Topaz Times 1942-05-30.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of Utah Digital Newspapers.

Excerpt from “Topaz Times 1942-05-30.” 3/3/2014. Image courtesy of Utah Digital Newspapers.

This text is an excerpt from the “Topaz Times” newspaper on May 5, 1942. It was written to show different service times of a local church through newspaper distribution. This is very important to the idea of preserving culture through relocation. First off, one may notice the date of 1942, which is the year that Japanese internment was declared by the president after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, so it may be surprising to find Buddhism in the paper to begin with. This put a huge pressure upon Japanese Americans to preserve their culture in a country that was imprisoning them for actions they had nothing to do with. The only commonality between them was their ethnicity. On the other hand, it does show how strong religion was during this time, not for everyone overall, but each in their own respect. This specific image also shows the more dominant religions in America during this time period, and also tells an unfortunate tale of a lacking religious freedom and forced conversion.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here.