Sunday, July 26, 2009
Revaluations, by Caroline Hunt
In 1901, the progressive, feminist home economist, Caroline Hunt, presented a philosophically-oriented paper entitled, "Revaluations", which discussed home economics as the practical AND philosophical core of liberation and social relationships. (See Caroline Hunt: Philosopher for Home Economics by Marjorie East, 1982). Although I disagree with some of her statements, for example, that the women of the early 1900s who continued to make their own soap were enslaved to that task when they could free themselves for other things if they made the choice to purchase pre-made soaps, there are other statements that I find interesting.
Caroline begins the Revaluations like this: "Vacations are to the worker opportunities not only for bodily recuperation, but also for orientation, and for getting a view of [her or his] work in its wider relations". Later on she writes, "Progress comes when a [person] is sufficiently clear-headed to deduce from [their] own experience a correct conclusion in contradiction to the world's conclusions as expressed in custom, and is strong enough to institute for [themselves] a new line of procedure." I wouldn't be quoting these two statements if I didn't agree with them. But if I follow Caroline's line of thinking, when I come to my own conclusion that "enslaving" myself to the task of making my own butter is my "new line of procedure" based on the evaluation of my experience, then I am progressive.
This was the kind of thinking that Professor Mark Shutes of Youngstown State University was teaching me as an undergraduate in anthropology - to understand the individual as choices were made (Mark died in 2001 from pancreatic cancer). In our research, we were understanding individual farmer choices in the town of ancient Korinth on the Greek Peloponnese and recording crop choices using GIS (Geographical Information Systems). Even though customs in farming choices could be had, farmers continually proceeded with farming options that would often shock their neighbors, and of course some choices were incremental steps in new directions based on current economic knowledge and risk.
Did the Greek farmers go on vacation to re-orient their thinking and return knowing what crop and how much to plant next? I don't know. What I do know is that when we step away from the farm, leave our office desks behind, put down the hammer and nails, leave the house cleaning for another day, stop flipping hamburgers, get our noses out of pre-written philosophy books, and take even just a few days vacation for "orientation", we've set ourselves on a path of renewal, self-understanding, and broader perspective. That's what I call a souvenir.
Posted by Westwind Eirene at 8:10 PM