Reading Response 1: Haltman
In the article: What is a Machete, Anyway? John Clin discusses different cultural denotations of what is a machete and the history of this tool. It appears to be an incident in 2012, where a man is arrested for carrying a machete, which made himself question: what is a Machete? Later on, in the reading, as he continues his research, he understands that the machete was originally a tool for agriculture that came from Europe: “ for multiple purposes: not only cutting sugarcane, but also as meat cleavers, axes, and, yes, weapons.”( John Cline, par. 12 ) Therefore, as he gets into deep research and analysis, he comprehends how the machete represents a cultural symbol for different cultures all around the western hemisphere and how it is perceived in different ways. It is this exact process what Kenneth Haltman would describe as analyzing and studying material culture.
As Haltman explains, material culture derives from the valuable historical interpretation of objects (Haltman, p. 2, lines 8-12). Objects contain valuable meaning for cultures according to the human experiences that people have had with it and how do people see it. For example, as mentioned by John Cline in his article: “the machete has a special place in the labor history of Florida, where for three and a half centuries slaves and wageworkers cut sugarcane in the fields by hand.”(John Clin, par. 4) It is evident that the machete has meaning and value in the labor history of Florida because of all the slaves that suffered many years utilizing this tool and witnessing its violence as well. The same situation applies for Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Haiti, and Guatemala but every single one of these has its point of view and its meaning for this object. In some of these the machete represents violence, in others rebellion and others see the machete as a cultural symbol or a weapon. It all depends on who is interpreting the object.
Throughout the text, it is showed how John Cline follows the steps that Haltman details for studying material culture. After he analyzed what the object looks like, according to Haltman’s theory he starts paying attention to: “not just to what the object might be said to signify but, as importantly, to how it might be said to signify.” (Haltman, p. 4, lines 1-2) Then, Cline starts learning more about its history in order to make an interpretation according to all his research. Furthermore, as he engages even more in the topic, the reader is able to tell how it becomes more complicated to study what this object means. According to Halman/s theory, this happens because: “the more self-conscious one becomes, the more complex one’s relationship to an object becomes, physically and ocularly as well as psychologically and experientially. For the purpose of analysis, there is value in isolating different realms of deductive response so that these can be handled more circumspectly.” (Haltman, p. 7, lines 10-13) Consequently, as he ends his article, he understands that a machete could be three different objects at once: a weapon, a tool or a cultural symbol. As he studies the entire history of this object, he realizes how the machete could mean terror, rebellion, or strength. He interprets the cultural value that this material has for each of these cultures.
Having analyzed these texts in detail made me comprehend the accuracy of Haltman’s theory and how useful it could be when studying material culture. I noticed how an object can be immensely valuable for a culture and why these could influence immensely in one’s history. Furthermore, I was able to understand how objects can have distinct values and interpretations because it depends on the person who is studying the object and how it is being described or analyzed. With the supplemental text, I was able to tell why polarities, in this case, if the machete is good or bad, a tool or a weapon, can be so valuable for research due to how much significance it adds to the object. Through these texts and studying them as a whole, I learned the value of studying material culture and the impact this could have in history when one is engaged in it.