Thursday, September 30, 2010

This is my dance space, this is your dance space

This is where I demonstrate to my parents that majoring in Anthropology in undergrad at a private university was a good idea (and why Roger should keep working hard so as to service that student loan). And p.s. any one catch the pop culture reference in the title.  Hint: if you don't get it, you must have slept through the 1980's and Jennifer Grey's acting career.

Both Roger and I have traveled to many developing countries in Africa and Latin America.  One of the big consistencies of culture in these places is the notion of personal space and how much it differs from our own American ways.  In Tanzania it's no different.  If you are waiting to prepay your electricity or pay your water bill you will no doubt have the great fortune of waiting in a line.  And if you're the only white person in that line (and this is where you see my insensitive side), you will no doubt be smelling the body odor of your queue companions (not to say that they're not smellin' each other tho too!).  And that's because they standsofreakingclosetoyou.  I never get used to it.  I try my best to strike an obstructionist pose, with my hand on my hips or a big bag on my shoulder, but its of no use.

The smell, well, I wouldn't say it's conducive to any yogic breathing techniques, but mouth breathing is manageable for the time being.  It's the touchingandcloseness and it just gives me the heebygeebies quite frankly.  Now I know what it feels like when Apple releases a new generation of the iPhone.

I took my anthropological curiosity to the natural next level - Wikipedia.  First of all, did you know there is an actual science for this, it's called Proxemics!  Geez, what highest freestanding mountain have I been living under?   As Wikipedia notes, personal space violations occur when a person feels a space that is "psychologically theirs" has been invaded.  Hmm, interesting... entitlement.  It also goes on to note that definitions of personal space can be influenced by living conditions (densely populated vs. spread out) and affluence.  Then it starts getting fuzzy for me (neuroscientist, feel free to weigh in here) when it mentions that personal space boundaries are suspected to have something to do with the development of the amygdala versus damage to it.

Let's just leave it at the former explanation, that it all has to do with population density and affluence.  I won't try and speculate any further in an area I know nothing about!  But, neat!  Anyone else find this as compelling as I do?  Now send some Speed Sticks over here STAT!

1 comment:

  1. I'll never forget being in India and having total strangers sit RIGHT beside you, stare, and not say a word. Ha ha! Ohhh, and as you noted, standing in line: nothing like spooning the guy in front of you - and being spooned behind - while waiting to buy a train ticket...and lovely odors to boot!

    Hope you all are well, Tyler.