Culture, Gender, and Power Differences in Conflict
Beasts of the Southern Wild; social constructionism and culture
Before participating in this week’s discussion forum, please complete the assigned readings and watch the film Beasts of the Southern Wild. You can watch it online, free of charge, at the following URL:
https://www.novamov.com/video/b62e21f6efc28 (Links to an external site.)
If you have watched this film in the past, prior to taking this class, please watch it again after completing the assigned readings. After watching the film, please address the following questions in an in-depth post on the discussion forum:
1, Based on this week’s readings, what do you think “culture” is?
2. How does it relate to conflict resolution?
3. How is the film Beasts of the Southern Wild relevant to “culture”, and to “culture and conflict”?
4. Please discuss Avruch and Black’s conceptualization of culture?
5. how some of their ideas are illustrated in the film?
6 How are Roy’s notions of power and conflict relevant?
7. How is the social constructionist framework an adequate analytical lens for this film?
Identify and discuss examples from the film that illustrate the social constructionist stance that the ways in which we understand the world and the categories we use are culturally and historically specific.
Think about agency as well. Social constructionism acknowledges that both structure and agency exist. It is not a deterministic framework. As Burr explains: “From a social constructionist perspective individuals are not determined by society, nor is there an ‘essential’ human nature or a ‘coherent, unified self’ capable of making ‘self-originated choices and decisions’ (Burr 1995:97). Can you find examples of human agency in the film?
Based on this week’s class readings I have found that culture encompasses many different things. It not only involves where we live, and those with whom we live, it delves deeper into our human interactions and perceptions of the world. The readings also firmly support the idea that culture is extremely relevant to conflict resolution. After reading this week’s readings and watching the film I definitely can see the association. The film Beasts of the Southern Wild is very relevant to the discussion of culture as well as to culture and conflict. It is evident from the beginning of the film that culture can greatly impact the way in which we perceive and deal with conflict.
Avruch and Black discuss how every individual can perceive, interpret, evaluate, and act differently in a given situation. This leads them to the question of how individuals conceptualize conflict. They discuss this concept by focusing on three particular areas of culture and conflict: cross-cultural, intercultural, and transcultural. The message they try to make evident is that culture influences conflict. The way in which Hushpuppy and her dad experience conflict (intercultural) is different from the way everyone in the Bathtub experiences conflict with those in the relief shelter (cross-cultural) once they are evacuated. The culture of these people strongly influences how they express conflict.
Roy describes power as something we do. She further discusses her idea that power is shaped significantly by the social situations we live in. I particularly feel that Roy’s discussion of culture and power is relevant to the movie. In her writing she is firm in the belief that individual histories and identities influence each individual to act in a certain way. This in and of itself creates a significant power dynamic. This is clearly evident in the film. At the point in the movie where those living in the Bathtub are forced to evacuate we see a significant power struggle strongly influenced by the culture of these people. They are being taken from their home and forced to go elsewhere. They feel betrayed and fight the removal from the Bathtub extensively. Shortly thereafter we see them escaping the relief center to go home.
Social constructionism involves looking at and understanding the world in a way that is based upon individual objective, unbiased observations of the world. This understanding is further rooted in historical and cultural context. Social constructionism also involves our understanding of the world related to our social interactions. This can definitely be related back to the film. It is shown that the individuals living in the Bathtub fear and dislike those on the other side of the dam. Social constructionism supports the idea that they developed these ideas and observations based on the human interactions they have with themselves. Maybe if their everyday lives involved some of “the other people” they would have differing opinions and ultimately be more receptive to these individuals.
Examples of human agency are present in this film. The individuals living in the Bathtub are truly not determined by society. They live in and among themselves and function effectively that way. This can even been seen in the relationship between Hushpuppy and her father. At the beginning of the film they live in two different places and throughout the film we see both of them trying to function on their own not being forced to work as a “unified self”. I believe that Hushpuppy is an excellent example of human agency in the film. She is a young child that really is fending for herself. She makes her own choices and decisions without the influence of others.
My internal dialogue surprised me during this film. The lives of Hushpuppy, her father, and their friends is not anything I have ever had to experience. In addition to living in poverty this group of individuals is then completely uprooted from their cultural background and moved somewhere completely foreign to them. They don’t know how to function out of the context of their home. I was frustrated that they didn’t trust the doctors and nurses caring for them in the shelter because my cultural background has taught me that these are individuals that can be trusted. They didn’t know or understand that concept. I found that the themes present in the readings and in the film really provided insight for me about how everyone can conceptualize conflict differently and that conflict can truly be influenced by culture. The information presented this week will be very beneficial as I advance in my career as a nurse and eventually a nurse practitioner. Knowing some of these concepts will help me to better understand why the patients and families I interact with may experience conflict differently.
• Before this week’s lecture, I thought of culture as a simple definition. However, throughout completing the various reading assignments for this week, I have learned that culture has a very in-depth meaning unable to specify with a one sentence answer. I believe culture is a way of life for a group of individuals. This includes the personalities and beliefs encompassed throughout a group as well as ways of communication, values and strategies for conflict resolution. According to Washington (2010), “Every society has a culture that carries its social rules. These rules are an unwritten code of conduct which is learned continuously throughout life” (par. 2). The different culture one possesses influences the way conflicts are resolved. There are five domains that have been developed to help understand the process and influences of conflict resolution. These domains include: Internal, transactional, organizational, cultural, and structural domains (Roy, 2008, p. 182). Each of these domains has its own definition and influence on conflict resolution. First, the internal domain is one’s ability to develop and express different emotions when it comes to conflict. Secondly, the transitional domain is a combination of everyday behaviors one expresses such as their body language (Roy, 2008, p. 182). Different cultures can have different body postures meaning different things. Body language contributes to approximately 90 percent of total communication, therefore it is important to understand the different meaning behind various culture’s body language (Karr, 2013, par. 2). For instance, it may be polite to shake hands when greeting someone in the United States, however, in a different area it could be taken as an insult. As expressed by Roy (2008), all five of the domains must be intertwined together in order to have a deep understand of the forces used for conflict resolution (p. 182-183). I gathered from the readings that culture plays a vital role in conflict resolution. Not only does culture create the conflict depending on different beliefs, different cultures has different ways of resolving the conflict.
Avruch and Black (1991), express culture as something not easily defined. One conceptualism expressed in the reading included an anthropological concept of culture. For instance, culture could be defined as “A distinguishing trait of our species and is transmitted through learning” (Avruch and Black, 1991, p. 27). Avruch and Black (1991), also explain the importance of culture for an individual to adapt to its habitat. The ability to adapt to different habitats and cultures come from both internal environments and external environments which play a key part in setting the “evolutionary challenge in human adaptation” (p. 27-28). Throughout Beasts of the Southern Wild, there were different examples shown of the ability to adapt to different habitats in regards to anthropological culture. First, the movie audience was shown the culture of Hushpuppy and her father, Wink. Hushpuppy and Wink live in frugal means. They are expected to kill what they needed to eat, live among animals and the only evidence of fresh water was the water surrounding their homes, also known as the “bath tub”. School for Hushpuppy consisted on an old run down boat. However, Hushpuppy adapted. Her internal environment had begun to match external environment. This life was all she knew. Hushpuppy was heard stating in the movie, “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right” (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012). And to her, everything did fit just right. However, until a big storm came, flooded her home land and she was forced to a shelter in the city’s hospital.
Throughout the film there are many instances involving Wink raising his voice to his daughter Hushpuppy. Wink is preparing Hushpuppy to be tough and able to survive on her own in a world of uncertainty. The act of Wink raising his voice when teaching his daughter is an example of a “power play”. A power play is a way to get someone to do something that they may not otherwise do. According to Roy (2008), “A raised voice, for instance, may be a genuine expression of emotion for the purpose of communicating something that adds to the listener’s power to accomplish something mutually desired” (p. 183). Wink realizes the difficulties that lay ahead for Hushpuppy after he is someday gone. Watching him raise his voice when he teaches her of methods to catch food, such as fish, expresses his fear for the future and desire for her to be self-sufficient.
Social constructionism involves the way one sees the world. Social constructionism can be broken down into different sub-categories on including historical cultural specificity. According to Burr (1995), historical and cultural specificity include the ways we understand the world around us. This includes, but is not limited to, the way children are viewed. Nowadays many children have to accept responsibilities that of adults when the past social constructionism involved children being innocent and having no adult responsibilities (p. 3-4). Throughout the film, there are many times in which Hushpuppy had the weight of the world on her shoulders so to speak. As Wink’s unknown illness progressed and he was unable to adequately feed Hushpuppy and look after her, she is seen foraging for food on her own. One of the last scenes in the movie showed Hushpuppy bringing food into her dying father, feeding him, and accepting the fate that she was now an orphan. She now had to practice the responsibilities Wink had been trying to desperately to instill into her. The film also expressed social constructionism when Hushpuppy was brought to the shelter after the mandatory evacuation. The first thing Hushpuppy thought when arriving at the shelter was that place looked like a fish tank without the water (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012). She was not used to this type of location. She was used to a culture and environment completely different. This would be no different if your or I attempted to live in Hushpuppy’s environment. It is not what we are used to, therefore, we find it strange or un-natural. The thoughts Hushpuppy was having throughout the film, in particular to the scene at the shelter, can be related to social agency. Hushpuppy was raised believing the way she lived was the only way. That is what influenced her to think strangely of the different environments she was exposed to.
I truly enjoyed this film. This film helped me gain a deeper understanding of different environments people are raised in. As a future nurse practitioner, I will have to provide care for patients of many different backgrounds and cultures. I used to believe culture was just a set of different beliefs. However, as I watched the film, I began to understand the different beliefs stems from a more complex origin. It comes from the environment in which you were raised as well as the internal values instilled in you from your surrounding family. I will admit, as I watched this I was in disbelief that Hushpuppy wanted to run away from the nice clean shelter that had hot food, to go back to her previous home in the bathtub. As I have learned more about the different theories of culture, social constructionism and agency, I realize my different and disagreeing thought stem from my own culture. I really enjoyed this movie, it is definitely one I’d recommend to fellow future nurse practitioners.
Avruch, K., & Black, P. (1991). The Culture Question. Peace And Change.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). [Motion Picture].
Burr, V. (1995). An Introduction to Social Constructionism . New Fetter Lane: Routledge.
Karr, L. (2013, February ). Cultural Differences in Common Body Language. Retrieved from Bright Hub Education: https://www.brighthubeducation.com/language-learning-tips/4599-cultural-differences-in-common-body-language/ (Links to an external site.)
Roy, B. (2008). Power, Culture, Conflict. In Re-Centering (pp. 179-192). Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Washington, W. (2010, November). What is Culture? Retrieved from Q What Is?: https://www.qwhatis.com/what-is-culture/ (Links to
Text: Nervous Conditions
Author: Tsitsi Dangarembga,
Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers
ISBN-pb: ISBN-10: 0954702336
Text: The MOVE Crisis in Philadelphia: Extremist groups and conflict
Authors: Hizkias Assefa and Paul Wahrhaftig
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
ISBN-pb: ISBN-10: 0822954303
Film: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Director: Benh Zeitlin