What does culture look like today in the Marianas? What factors, issues, and events are helping to shape local culture? Are there generational conflicts in the way that culture and cultural pride are expressed?
Northern Marianas College instructors and authors Ajani Burrell and Kimberly Bunts-Anderson will attempt to answer these and other questions as part of a book project that aims to document stories and collect a series of essays that examine contemporary culture in the Marianas. The authors are also encouraging community members with stories to share to contribute to the book.
“We are envisioning the book to be a collection of voices from the Marianas about culture in the Marianas, the full expanse of which we hope will provide a broad understanding of the present-day cultural dynamics,” said Burrell.
The book will explore themes that include cultural resurgence (like the cultural pride evident in the local clothing companies like Femme Fokai “Since ever since” and Tribe Marianas, or cultural maintenance efforts like “We Learn Chamorro”); island superstitions/beliefs; cultural artifacts (clothing, instruments, jewelry, tattoos, etc.); business and entrepreneurship; decay (abandoned homes, buildings, houses, institutions, etc.); changing demographics and their influences; cultural customs; and other modern cultural issues, aspects, and events.
Examples that may be examined in the book include families struggling with generational conflicts based on language barriers (e.g. grandchildren that speak no Chamorro or Carolinian while grandparents speak little or no English). The book will also look at current community issues, such as the plight of contract workers, social and cultural impacts of the first large-scale casino on Saipan, and the growth of intercultural marriages.
“In tackling questions of contemporary culture, the book hopes to provide a panoramic view through an examination of the microscopic—the individual as a tapestry of the whole,” Burrell said. “We’re looking for those in the community with a relevant, moving, and representative story to share.”
Burrell stressed that the book will be written in approachable, non-academic prose for general consumption. He said he and Bunts-Anderson envision the book to be used as a supplemental textbook in educational settings, whether K-12 or post-secondary.
Potential contributors or those who have stories they would like to share are asked to visit www.marianas.edu/culture and to fill out the contact form.
The project is supported by a grant from the Northern Marianas Humanities Council and Northern Marianas College.