Click below for all "Seinfeld Ethnography" posts:
Marine Biologist The Doorman Opposite George Newman's Mail The Bootleg Marriage
Just Dessert Sleep Desk Late Coffee High Stakes Motor Oil Downtown
Code Cracking Nonfat Yogurt Bad Boy It's Not You I Can't Be... Exploding Wallet
Elaine Flies Coach The Close Talker The Alliance Broccoli Coated Culture Dinner Party
|[a] Caution Explosive RF|
This is gendered stuff, people. You know before I even say it that a purse is not even close to being equivalent in this discussion (purses need their own discussion, and will have it in due time). So do book bags. Today, though, we will consider gendered Georgeness and the possessive fury of a Costanza-bred raccoon. You see, George saves everything (although the raccoon might well wash it better). Take a look.
I am inclined toward the packrat angle. George carries his archive in his pants. The readings today cover a range of topics, though. The eminent French historian Georges Duby writes of the pleasure of perusing documents. Imagine George pondering the record of the past in his wallet. We then move on to Ruth Benedict's famous portrayal of Kwakiutl culture, and very public displays of wealth and power on the Northwest Coast. Finally, we end with A.R. Radcliffe-Brown's discussion of "joking relationships" in various societies, and their mix of friendship and antagonism should recall much of the action on Seinfeld. Let me stress here, as I do every week on Seinfeld Ethnography, that the readings are only meant to touch upon the clip from the show. They start with a little strand of similarity and quickly move in another direction. Some of my best insights over the years have come from just this sort of juxtaposed reading, and I am working on articulating it as a "method." Stay tuned.
In the Archives
I was alone. I had finally managed to have a carton brought to the table. I opened it. What was this box going to turn up? I withdrew a first packet of documents. I untied it and slipped my hand between sheets of parchment. Taking one of them, I unfolded it, and already I felt a peculiar pleasure: these old skins are often exquisite to the touch. Along with the palpable delight goes the sense of entering a secret preserve. When the sheets are opened up and flattened out, they seem to fill the silence of the archives with the fragrance of long-vanished lives. One can almost feel the presence of the man who, eight hundred years earlier, took up his goose quill, dipped it in ink, and began to form his letters at an unhurried pace, as if engraving an inscription for eternity—and the text is there, before one's eyes, as fresh as the day it was written. In all the intervening years, who else has set eyes on these words? Four or five people at most—a happy few. Another pleasure, and an exciting one, is that of deciphering the text, which is in fact nothing more than a game of patience. At the end of the afternoon, you come away with a handful of facts, a small haul. But they are yours alone, for no one else knows how to ferret them out, and the hunt matters more than the quarry.
Accumulation of Goods
|[c] Arch rival|
On Joking Relationships
This paper deals only with formalised or standardised joking relations. Teasing or making fun of other persons is of course a common mode of behaviour in any human society. It tends to occur in certain kinds of social situations. Thus I have observed in certain classes in English-speaking countries the occurrence of horse-play between young men and women as a preliminary to courtship, very similar to the way in which a Cherokee Indian jokes with his 'grandmothers'. Certainly these unformalised modes of behaviour need to be studied by the sociologist. For the purpose of this paper it is sufficient to note that teasing is always a compound of friendliness and antagonism.
 Georges Duby, History Continues [Translated by Arthur Goldhammer] (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 17-18.
 Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (New York: Mariner Books, 2005), 189.
 A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Structure and Function in Primitive Society (New York: Free Press, 1952), 91.
 Ibid., 104.
Benedict, Ruth. Patterns of Culture. New York: Mariner Books, 2005.
Duby, Georges. History Continues [Translated by Arthur Goldhammer]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. Structure and Function in Primitive Society. New York: Free Press, 1952.
Jerry gets a first-class ticket; Elaine doesn't. It is a world of privilege, comfort, stress, and discomfiture (full of theortical potential) next week on Seinfeld Ethnography.