Cultural Diffusion

Once the clans were established, we asked each clan to define themselves. What makes you a unique people? Do you share a common language? Where do you live? What foods do you eat? Members of each clan visited other clans to learn some of each clan’s unique practices and then returned to their own telling some wild stories. For instance, the Wu-Tang Clan were fairly hostile to strangers and unforgiving of visitors not familiar with their customs. Visitors from other clans initially thought they were an unfriendly people, but it turned out the Wu-Tang Clan has suffered a history of warfare with neighboring peoples, leaving them wary of strangers. The Guitar and Tazmanian Devil clans have some fascinating ritual dances (video link) that were observed.

Discussing Blood Clan Rituals


Among the lessons we hope to have conveyed through these activities are that cultural practices that may seem strange when one first visits need to be understood in context (ritual greeting of the Tasmanian Devil Clan). Sometimes there are good reasons for a culture to behave in a way that may initially seem strange to outsiders. The second thing we wanted to impress upon the kids is that cultural practices spread through the types of visits they engaged in, but, in getting removed from their original context, often get modified or understood erroneously. So, whereas the Guitar clan tried to show others what the Tazmanian Devil clan’s dance looked like, it wasn’t quite the same. Cultural diffusion is much like the game of telephone, in that information tends to get distorted the further it gets from its original source.


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