Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reciprocity, etc.

I'm not counting the days until Paris, I'm counting down the days until London where I get to spend a week and a half with my two best friends before my Field Study.  But if you tack on 9 days (which is 48 days), that's how many days until I'll be in Paris.  And, as it stands, with no place to live.  I'm nervous, but not nervous enough.

I've been spending some time looking at two blogs.  One of them is The Spirit of Black Paris which is not only fascinating but extremely helpful, and the other is Invisible Paris which has little to do with Black Paris, but has to do with places in Paris one isn't typically allowed to enter.  Invisible Paris gets me excited just to be in the city but The Spirit of Black Paris gets me excited to actually begin studying the people who I want to study.  I feel like I need to get started now, and I'm sure I could, but I just don't have the time.  Other classes and work and even attending classes seem very unimportant right now, as my mind begins shifting to a new perspective--that is, new for me--as I take into account a lot of the changes in my life that will be taking place in a little over a month.  And I have the most pounding headache.

The thing is, I'm not terribly excited, though people keep telling me I should be.

I've got two contracts set up, one called "Urban Studies in Paris" and the other "Writing Paris" and both are focusing on an American Studies methodology.  Urban Studies, in general is going to have an American Studies emphasis as I read about the Urban Studies theories, and then focus it a little into application of Paris.  The other class is going to help me hone my writing skills with an American Studies methodology for readers of any discipline.  This means treating places, art, music, food, etc. as 'artifacts' that are studied and written about from all four viewpoints of the methodology: its archive, the institution in which it was created or formed, textual analysis--the analysis of the piece itself sans all other influence, and the social theories surrounding it.

Been thinking about reciprocity since yesterday's lecture.  The lecture didn't become very interesting to me until the very end when the three types of reciprocity: balanced, negative, and generalized.  I couldn't help but think of this idea in terms of friendships, because that's what I think of most things in terms of.  Our culture is not one that practices generalized reciprocity in terms of "things," but we do practice it in terms of speech.  If someone continually compliments us, we tend to compliment back, and when we don't you can expect to have some rather offended or hurt people walking about.

For example, I remember my first year in college, when I'd come from a culture of generalized verbal reciprocity (also balanced verbal reciprocity) where compliments on dress, hair, makeup, general good-looking-ness etc. was always paid, particularly to those who paid it to you.  It was balanced in the sense that you did for others what they did for you, but it was generalized in the sense that you didn't worry about being nice to someone as many times as they had been nice to you, you just assumed that between the two of you the complements would even out over time. But I suppose that "services" were included in this, too: help with homework, giving of school notes, listening about boyfriend troubles, back rubs, etc.  No one only gave back rubs if the other had given them a back rub lately.  All these things were given easily, with the realization that it would be paid back eventually.  My first year of college was not like this.  Here I was, complementing people up the wazoo, because it was what I was used to.  Giving them service in one way or another, because it was what I was used to.  Hours of listening to issues, time spent making dinners or baking desserts, giving of notes, etc.  But after months I realized how tired I was.  And years later I realized that if one assumes in generalized reciprocity that you will be repaid and then at some point you realize that you aren't being repaid at all, you feel taken advantage of.  I think this occurs when you are operating in cultural norms that no one else is operating in.  Realizing that I was in a new, much more selfish, culture, I had to switch to 'balanced' reciprocity so I would be used up, taken advantage of, or simply tired out with no benefit to me.  You can only give so long before you've got nothing left, as it goes.

However, I think I most often experience the consequences of negative reciprocity, both because I often give too much, and because sometimes I am overwhelmed by others giving too much.  These friendships strain me.  Sometimes I give too much in a friendship, not realizing that that level of friendship cannot be repaid at the same rate as I am able to give.  I expect too much of my friends sometimes, and then I feel misused because I'm not being "treated right," whatever that means.  But the opposite happens, too, where someone is willing to give too much to me too soon for my comfort, and I don't feel I know them well enough to pay back the friendship in meaningful ways, therefore overwhelming me into feeling 'smothered' by them, or simply bothered by them because they're moving too quickly for me.  This is not specific to romantic relationships--this happens to me on all sorts of levels.

But this isn't to say that I think balanced reciprocity is necessarily the best of the three, for especially in friendships no one would be keeping tally.  All our best friendships should probably be some form of generalized reciprocity or a mix of generalized and balanced.  I am good with casual relationships that progress slowly and naturally.  This is one reason I'm not too worried about being the cause of negative reciprocity.  In 3 months I don't feel anyone will expect of me a life-altering friendship, and I also don't believe I will expect that of others.

Also, going to France, which is "western" in its mindsets, and living in Paris which is hardly a place where I might be expected to give more because I'm an American, or possibly give too much because I'm an American is less likely to happen.  I know that in some areas, bringing too much money in might make a family dependent on that money.  Though I don't yet know my living arrangement, I'm fairly certain this won't be the case.  If anything, people will see me as the poor student, much like is the culture in the states.  However, I realize this, too, can lead to some being overly generous, which is something not to take advantage of.

Anyway, these are some interesting things to give some thought to, which I'll continue doing.

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