Millions of people will honor the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick who died on March 17, 461 AD. This cultural and religious holiday known as Saint Patrick's day commemorates the arrival of Christianity to Ireland and allows a break in Lent dietary restrictions, therefore encouraging food and alcohol consumption. As a teenager St. Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved by the Irish raiders, where while serving as a Shepard he found God. After escaping and returning home, he became the infamous priest who evangelized northern Ireland and the portrail of the green shamrock as the holy trinity.
St. Patrick's Day is not a national holiday in the United States, but any American looking to celebrate their Irish lineage or looking for an excuse to drink observes. While cities like Boston and New York hold Saint Patrick's Day parades complete with the Catholic Church, leprechauns, Irish whiskey, beer, and shamrocks. The city of Chicago takes this day to a whole other level by dying it's river green. Ironically this tradition started 50 ago when a plumber used florescein dye to detect illegal sewage dumping. After realizing the florescein dye was in fact itself a pollutant, they've now switched to a supposedly non-toxic vegetable dye.
But if polluting your water source isn't enough, how about polluting your local watering hole. Also allegedly non-toxic there is green beer. Although emblematic if the green Emerald Isle of Ireland, green beer is American's embodiment of St. Patrick's day. Most Irish beer's would go unnoticed if dyed, but Bud Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon make the perfect palette for your palate. The tradition of Green Beer Day can be traced back to Miami University of Oxford Ohio, who's celebration involved this concoction. Obviously bored college students took to celebrating spring break on the first day of the college weekend, Thursday by filling their glasses with green beer. In contrast a green stained mouth in Irish culture has a different connotation, where as a consequence of the 1840s Great Potato Famine, starving citizens ate grass for sustenance resulting in a green teeth and death. Many of those escaping the famine and under-consumption immigrated to the United States to seek a better life and to find their pot of gold. Today we have green beer, green bagels, and the green Chicago River in honor of Saint Patrick, all of which signify American's over-commodity-ization in honor our Irish and Christian heritage.
100 Objects of Popular and Material Culture is an blog exploring the manifestations of human consumption and commodity-ization. The purpose of this experiment is to explore material and popular culture in contemporary society by using objects and concepts to prompt wider questions and reflections. So by emulating The British Museum's and Neil MacGregor's format of A History of the World in 100 Objects I plan to satirically analyze and reinterpreted 100 material culture objects over the course of 2014. Material Culture is the study of our culture's consumption of stuff; namely the manifestation of culture through material productions where people's perceptions of objects is socially and culturally dependent. With this, objects reflect conscious and unconscious beliefs on the the individuals who fabricated, purchased, or used them, and by extension the society where they live. So examining materiality, cultural truths and societal assumptions may be discovered. As anthropologist Arjun Appaduai states "in any society the individual is often caught between the cultural structure of commodity-ization and his own personal attempts to bring a value and order to the universe of things." Objects and commodities make up a much larger symbolic system consisting of want and need, socio-economic status, fashion, etc. Often times form follows function whether the commodity, market, and or consumer forever evolve around one-another. Philosopher Pierre Bourdieu's theories of capital flow full circle; where regardless if you are a minimalist or a hoarder the world is made up of things and everyone will leave their footprint on the earth. So by humorously analyzing marketed objects and concepts, hopefully this blog will provide further incite into ideas of over-consumption, a disposable society, consumerism vs. anti-consumers, planned obsolescence vs. sustainability, as well as the greater good of mankind and future generations.