Cultural object

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 10 August 2016

Cultural object

The object is an illustration present in a rectangle paper. The paper itself is glossy, thin and fine meshed. In the object, the words “SUPERMAN” can be found illustrated at the top of the paper in a block, all caps font, colored yellow with red lining. Below it and slightly to the right can be found the words “SUPERMAN ON EARTH” set in yellow all caps block font. At the center of the rectangular paper is a depiction of a male Caucasian garbed in a blue colored fitting suit, with a red triangular cloth covering the genitalia and a red cape flowing from the shoulders.

Situated at the center of the man’s chest is a symbol, an “S” painted in red inside a red outlined pentagon filled with yellow. The illustration of the male Caucasian is seen standing over a depiction of the horizon of the world. On the left side of the male is an illustration of an explosion, with rocks being scattered. At the center of the explosion is an illustration of an elderly man and a woman garbed in a grey suit. The elderly man has the same symbol on his chest as that of the male in the center, although the elder man’s symbol is outlined in black.

To the right of the male Caucasian in the center is a depiction of a star, pale white in color, with spires arising from the four primary and four secondary directions. The background is set in a black sky dotted by stars. A circular emblem colored blue and white and containing four stars set around the letters “DC” can be found on the upper left corner. Slightly below it is the words “No. 1, May ‘02” inside a yellow star like object.

From the treatment of the paper to make it glossy, it is probable that this superman figure is of some importance to their (American) culture. The words “Superman on Earth” denotes his origin as extraterrestrial, as seen when accounting for the stellar background. The couple to his right is probably his parents since the elder man has the same symbol emblazoned on his chest. Deriving meaning from the name, superman means a man above the rest or a man better than the rest, giving a clue that the man is no ordinary human and may be imbued with special powers.

His bearing whilst sanding over the world is more of as a guardian that as a creator giving a hint that as someone with extraordinary powers, he may have used those powers to guide or guard the world. In considering all of this, the figure could be a mythical hero of their culture whose exploits are recorded or told in a series of manuscripts using detailed illustrations and words to convey the story. The “no1, May 02 may refer to the date this illustration was created or made available. Biological Context of the Object

Humanity’s interest in mythical heroes can be seen throughout history. These heroes usually have above average traits that set them apart from the normal persons of the times. This drive can be a result of humanity’s recognition of evolution and the principle that those with particular traits like incredible strength or stamina survived much longer and are better equipped to accomplish more than their ordinary counterparts. This veneration for those with extraordinary powers probably arose upon man’s recognition of his own physical limitations.

When compared upon his prey, animals, man saw that there are some traits that would be useful. Flight in birds, speed in cheetahs, strength in bears, endurance of mammoths, and these traits made man wish that they had them. These wishes translated to mythical accounts of what it would be like to have those kinds of powers, accounts that are now perceived as myths and legends. Humans are the only species to be found capable of abstract thought. This allows us to manipulate resources in order to derive enjoyment. Literature, arts, these things enable us to derive enjoyment from our current society.

Throughout history, civilizations have tried, after realizing their basic needs, to indulge in pleasure. Curiosity in man has also led to advancement. Myths and legends are byproducts of mans inquiry as to the nature of the world and philosophy as to the nature of the self. The object is a product of man’s persistent question, what if? Cultural/historical context: Depictions of individual with powers greater than that of mortal men can be found throughout history, in various cultures. These can be found in depictions of supernatural beings with extraordinary powers.

Usually, myths stem from established cultures whose basic needs like food, shelter and security are ensured. It is then that the society turns to explaining the world around them. These are the foundation of first the creation myths, found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Greek, Babylonian and Nordic myths, as well as the Bible. Levi Strauss argues that myths stem from people’s intellectual inquiry, from the desire to explain self, surroundings and society. Various cultures around the world have provided objects by which beings with powers are depicted.

These includes clay tablets where the epic of Gilgamesh is written,, the bible, ceramics depicting Hercules, Aztec pottery depicting Quetzalcoatl, among others. In these, it is evident that the heroic figures play a much important role to society than merely stories. Myths are closely tied with religion, as with the Norse, The Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans. The concept of myths in early civilizations is most often a reflection on the prevalent culture, society, politics and beliefs of the people. Not all heroic stories stem from myths however.

Most often, heroes in folklore have also superhuman powers. And most often, the stories portray the hero not just in one setting or one plot. Instead multiple stories abound, yet the protagonist remains the same. This is evident in Beowulf, the labors of Hercules and in American folklore, Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan. In American culture, folk heroes usually offer a glimpse of the culture of the times. The spectacular deeds of Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan reflect upon what was considered the ideal American of those times, strong rugged, humorous and witty.

They reflect a culture that is wild, that sees itself as being capable of great things. Looking at the object, we see that it gives a hint on the culture. From the object itself, one may deduce that the protagonist, Superman, was not of this Earth ( the stellar background, Earth’s view from a space perspective and the phrase Superman on Earth). The belief in an extraterrestrial coming to earth is not unknown of in world cultures. The Mayans, Aztec, and Egyptians all had beliefs in extraterrestrial life. This belief could be said to stem from a sense of terrestrial achievement.

A sense that the culture is at its peak and that progress or destruction comes not from itself or from other cultures but from extraterrestrial sources. The object can be perceived as a story telling device of a mythical hero, not unlike clay tablets or parchment. This may be for amusement or inspiration. However, the use of graphics and words as means of expression, just like that of Egyptian pictograms and hieroglyphics shows that the object is intended for a wide audience based those who can intellectually understand as well as those who can appreciate the aesthetic value of the story.

In standing over the world, it may be seen that their culture not only values their nation’s advancement, but may also see themselves as responsible for the welfare of other cultures, much like the Roman, Persian and Muslim empires. This may again stem from a sense of cultural supremacy, as well as from advancement in the various aspects of civilization. Much like oral tradition was used in the past, and later on the written word, for storytelling, so this object may be the means of telling the stories of this culture.

Its use of graphics provides a starting point by which the imagination, conjured up by words, can take off into the realm of the supernatural. Just like myths and folklore of the past, the object provides a reflection not only on different aspects of the culture but also on its intended destination for the future. Economic Context Looking at the object, it really has no material value in the simplistic context. It is not edible, is not made of precious metals or gems, nor can it be used as a weapon.

A society that produces these kinds of objects with only their aesthetic value and meaning and not that of necessity has presumably moved past the barter system of trade where only goods of necessity has any value. The object then can be either religious or secular in origin. The object could be religious as a representation of a believed and worshipped deity or secular as a means of entertainment. In observing the material by which the object is imprinted upon, the use of a higher quality paper denotes a higher value for the object, as well as the apparent detail in its production.

Only a society with an advanced economic system is capable of allocating so much resource into a single representation, more so that the object is presumably for entertainment purposes. Most cultures that give priority to the arts are those whose economies are capable of allocating value to something that does not satisfy man’s basic needs but its wants. These civilizations, like that of the Italian Renaissance, the Aztec civilization, Egypt and Rome, use graphical representation to please a society satisfied with life. The same could be said of the economy and society that produced this object.

It could be deduced that economically and socially, a majority of those living in the culture whence the object came from have their basic needs, food, water, shelter and security satisfied. Hence, they can allocate more in the pursuit of entertainment, education and other abstract needs. It could be seen that the culture is first technologically advanced, and second, is economically capable of obtaining materials for production. First, the paper in which the object consists of is glossy, not easily tearable, and water resistant and fine wired.

This could only be a result of technological processing. The colors used in the paper can only come from pigments. In various cultures, it is only those with advanced economies which could lead to the middle and lower classes, and small objects, being painted with such detail. Ecological Context Ecology has at its maxim that the strongest population has the greater chance of passing on its traits to its off springs and thus enduring. The stronger population can secure resources, protect against attacks and obtain more space. Thus, rooted in ecology is the desire to be above others.

In a sense, the appearance of a Superman would signify complete ecological dominance. That a culture would idealize a concept like this signifies that that culture, in terms of ecological population, has secured food, space and security from other neighboring populations. That the logical next step for this culture would be provided by an outside, or extraterrestrial source since all terrestrial aspects can be deemed fulfilled. The materials of which the object is composed of also give a clue that the civilization it belongs to is capable of producing synthetic material.

Production of synthetic material is primarily a result of two things, scarcity of natural resources, or economic superiority by which materials can be obtained without touching one’s natural resources. Summary/Closure: The object can be said to be a means of entertainment and storytelling. It portrays a being with superhuman powers coming into Earth and protecting it. This object is a result of and shows different anthropological aspects of the culture that produced it. Biologically, the object can be perceived as the product of man’s desire to improve himself, and also his awareness of his limitations.

The object also shows man’s capabilities throughout history to utilize its abstract thought to derive pleasure and ideas from the surroundings. Man’s innate curiosity has lead to the production of myths, featuring beings with supernatural powers, which serve as both answers regarding questions about the natural world and representations of the civilization itself. Throughout history myths have propagated, portraying the general psyche of a civilization. Methods of passing stories from one person to another includes oral, which became written, which as evidenced by this object became a combination of both.

The depiction of men with supernatural powers have in history, generally been a representation of the strength and power of a civilization. The depictions of heroes that are larger than life exhibit a culture’s greatness. The wide spread indulgence of this can only come if all basic needs of the people within the culture are satisfied. Then the culture can indulge in other fields. The object signifies that in the culture that produced it, the basic needs are supplied, that help will come from others, not from other nations.

The use of this object means that the society is willing and capable of allocating resources to personal entertainment. By looking at the object, one may be able to make deductions regarding its use and the culture that produced it. However, these deductions may or may not hold true, and requires much more evidence to be able to get a thorough knowledge of the culture. REFERENCES Harris, M. Culture. People, Nature: An Introduction to General Anthropology. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975. Keesing, Roger M. Cultural Anthropology. Sidney: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson, 1976.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 10 August 2016

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