Last Thursday I was in a meeting with my colleagues when the talk turned to culture. Someone mentioned the tradition of black folks in the south eating fish and spaghetti on Fridays. I had never heard that before, so they enlightened me about the presence of this cultural norm in black communities in the delta area. It apparently merged from both Catholic traditions and black traditions, and is a mainstay Friday meal in black communities. I was advised to stop at any convenience store deli on a Friday to check it out. Sure enough, Friday on my way home, I stopped to pick up the area's best chicken at Ward's One-Stop, my neighborhood convenience store deli. There in the case--noticed for the first time by me, were catfish and spaghetti. Of course, I had to order catfish and spaghetti--no way could I pass up the opportunity to try a new cultural norm.
I commented about it on the community listserv that comes out of Greenville, Mississippi, to my friend back in Texas. Odis acknowledged that his mom (from Greenville) still makes fish and spaghetti. I grew up eating fish and macaroni and cheese at the school cafeteria in the very Catholic community in which I grew up. Those seemed "normal" to me, though the idea of fish and spaghetti was quite a stretch. It is a reminder again of how culture influences our traditions and defines our world view.
The Global South Faculty Working Group is another opportunity to explore culture, traditions, and the intersect between both north and south hemispheres as it simultaneously affects us. We are approaching the second special lecture and the third working group workshop this week. Our guest lecturer is Saskia Sassen, from Columbia University and I just finished reading the article we were assigned prior to the workshop. (My summary is on the reading list on the right of this post). In addition, I have been doing research on global south issues as they are related to social work and my own research, to be prepared for the topic of the workshop following the lecture. My work in South Africa and Belize (and to some extent, St. Paul and Unalaska future research) as well as Mississippi are all intersecting in this working group. What I find is true of me now, as it has always been in my research, is that I tend to get too grand, too large, too excited, and those characteristics tend to make it harder for me to focus on exactly what I need to do. We are looking at commonalities in each of our areas (those of us in the working group) and how we might interface and collaborate in our work. It all is related to countries in the global southern hemisphere, though we have differing areas of focus. As Mississippi is part of the south and shares many characteristics with the global south, we are looking at how to connect our work here with our work in other countries: sort of a gateway to the global south connection.
As always, my ideas are big and grandiose and I get carried away with the vision. Eventually, though, I have to start to narrow it down and operationalize it in a way that makes it connect logically, and that is where I am right now. The first lecture was on colonization and its affect on the colonized, and how to decolonize our thinking; this lecture is on the changing construct of citizenship in a global world, and the emerging political context that creates. How do those relate to what I am doing? That is my task to accomplish by Friday's workshop.
I wonder if we will have fish and spaghetti for lunch?