Rugby: A Growing Worldwide Phenomenon

IMG_0243

IMG_0239IMG_0247

As shown in the above photos, the USA Eagles national rugby union team played the New Zealand All Blacks this past Saturday, November 1st, 2014 for an exhibition game at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The historic match was sold out, filling the 61,500-seat stadium, drawing fans from around the area and the globe to see the upstart Americans take on the mighty All Blacks, widely considered not only the best rugby team in the world, but the best sports team in the world, considering their winning record. Here’s a piece from the TV news program 60 Minutes that breaks down the All Blacks’ legacy and significance for an uninitiated North American audience. Saturday’s event marked the All Blacks’ first-ever appearance in a match in the United States.

There’s something elemental – dare I say, “pure” – about a sport like rugby (aka “Rugby football”). In this sport, which, along with soccer, “descended from the winter ‘folk-games’ which were a deeply-rooted tradition in pre-industrial Britain” (Dunning and Sheard 2005: 1), there are two teams of players, a ball on a field, time on the clock, and a few referees. No sticks, no pads, and none of the start-and-stop minutiae of more ancient games like cricket, or more recent ones such as baseball or American football. Of course there are finer points that add to the complexity of the game. But within rugby’s more elemental aspects of strength, stamina, and teamwork lies its great potential for both individual expression and synergy. As well as its worldwide appeal.

In a nutshell, the sport of rugby is played in two 40-minute halves, separated by a very brief halftime, wherein two teams (or “sides”) of fifteen players each battle to advance an egg-shaped ball into the opponent’s end-zone. A “try” in rugby is the equivalent of a touchdown in American football, but in the case of the former is worth five points as opposed to six. Another difference between scoring in rugby and American football is that, in rugby, the ball must be literally touched down onto the turf in the end-zone to count. A successful conversion after a try – a kicked ball through the goalposts – is worth two points, as opposed to the 1-point extra point in American football. Otherwise points in rugby are scored – in this regard identical to American football – by kicking the ball through the opponent’s goalposts for three points. Differing from American football, however, is the rule in which a felled ball carrier in rugby does not signify a stop of the clock or a “down” but rather that the tackled player must pass the ball onto a teammate on his or her feet to continue the advancement down the field. And, oddly enough to we Americans, while said advancement is achieved by running the ball forward, a pass to a teammate may only be executed by tossing the ball either backwards or to the side. Mistakenly passing the ball forwards would result in a penalty. Make sense? Here’s a quick recap of Saturday’s USA-New Zealand match for an example of what this all looks like at the highest level of play.

In the nations where rugby has been historically popular and remains so to this day – namely, New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, South Africa, France, and Western Samoa  (Dunning and Sheard: 256) – oftentimes the role of the sport takes on great geopolitical significance. In no case was this more true than the Rugby World Cup of 1995, when the New Zealand All Blacks faced the Springboks of South Africa in the final. Set against the backdrop of the recent end of South African apartheid, the introduction of universal suffrage in that nation, and the election of formerly jailed political dissident Nelson Mandela to its office of President of the Republic, the Springbok’s dream season is expertly captured in the book Invictus by John Carlin, as well as the feature film adaptation of the same (directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon). Quoting the Cape Town newspaper the Argus, Carlin sums up the national significance of the event: “‘The Rugby World Cup has led to a spectacular upsurge of national reconciliation among all races in South Africa, researchers and social scientists reported this week'” (2009: 203). With the backing and encouragement of their new, charismatic, and peace-loving leader, millions of South Africans cheered the hitherto divisive Afrikaner-majority “Boks” on to a 15 to 12 victory over the seemingly unbeatable All Blacks. Previously a symbol of the Boer-ruled apartheid regime, Mandela paid considerable attention to rugby as it related to the Afrikaner psyche as well as its potential, exemplified in the slogan “One Team, One Country.” As Carlin details, through his support Mandela convinced his constituents to do the same and come together as a nation, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, language, or politics.

While the USA Eagles were certainly also underdogs in their match against the New Zealanders, rugby perhaps has a ways to go before it attracts the most well-suited athletes of the American populace away from other sports. Even though the Eagles only scored six points on their home turf against New Zealand’s stunningly coordinated 74, the sold-out match, however, is perhaps a foreshadowing of a growing popularity of the sport on American soil. As the game grows here, as will fans’ expectations of the Eagles’ performance on the international stage. And, in that case, they had better figure out a way to first get past the All Blacks’ haka, the formidable, awesomely intense traditional Maori war dance performed before each match they play begins. As the chant goes, “Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora!: ’Tis death! ‘Tis death! ’Tis life!” (Armstrong 1964: 139). IMG_0276

Sources:

Armstrong, Alan (1964). Maori Games and Hakas: Instructions, Words and ActionsWellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed.

Carlin, John (2009). Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a NationLondon: Atlantic Books.

Dunning, Eric and Kenneth Sheard (2005). Barbarians, Gentlemen, and Players: A Sociological Study of the Development of Rugby FootballOxford: Routledge.

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr

The Amish of Illinois

Poster advertising the "Simply Amish" furniture brand

Poster advertising the “Simply Amish” furniture brand

Think for a moment what the word “worldly” connotes in its modern usage. Maybe in there are ideas about high levels of formal education; sophistication; open-mindedness about cultures, languages, and ways different from our own. All in all, these can be seen as quite positive attributes, right? In some circles, one might fondly refer to a well-traveled and/or multilingual friend as “worldly,” perhaps with a slight air of envy at their mobility and adventuresome lifestyle. On a “world-class” university campus, “worldliness” as an ideal state of mind and of action has become intertwined with such institutions’ mission statements. And, of course, not without good reason, considering the highly interconnected and transnational nature of modernity.

Now compare this to another interpretation: Worldliness might entail all of those positive attributes mentioned above, sure. But it might also come at the cost of breaking with tradition, with isolating oneself from one’s family and home community. With being, as it were, too attached to this world when not only one’s identity as a member of a group is at stake, but also one’s eternal status in the afterlife.

This is the view of the Amish.

Thus, when something – an act, a technological device, a manner of conducting oneself – is considered “worldly” by practitioners of the Amish faith, it is often considered better avoided. Not judged as evil, necessarily, but not deemed as useful in the grand scheme of things. Perplexing to our modern sensibilities? Certainly. But this is the nature of the Amish outlook and this culture and its folkways have thrived intact, in spite of the dominant society on the North American continent, for over 250 years by maintaining such views.

Most, if not all of the reactions I received to the news that I was conducting research on the Amish belied a certain befuddlement and overall mystery about them. Certain traits of the Amish that were listed off either anecdotally or from hearsay turned out to be mildly to wildly inaccurate. Contrary to some comments I heard, “technology” in and of itself is not eschewed by the Amish, but rather the effects that certain kinds of technology can have on a given Amish community. Thus, a car is not inherently sinful or evil and in fact many Amish rely on non-Amish (“Englisch”) coworkers for rides to and from work. But the potentially negative effect that a car has on one’s bond with the home community means that its ownership is clearly verboten. What is or isn’t permitted is determined by each congregation’s Ordnung, or “order” in German, meaning the community’s unwritten set of rules and regulations (Mabry 2008: 10).

So who in the world are the Amish, really? Strictly speaking, they are Anabaptist Christians (i.e., practitioners of adult as opposed to infant baptism), descended primarily from immigrants from the post-Reformation, German-speaking regions of central Europe, including areas of what are today France, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. However, since the 1930s, there are no longer any Amish in Europe (Nolt 1992: 182-3). As for other Anabaptist groups, relatively small numbers of Mennonites remain in Europe, according to the Mennonite World Conference World Directory, 2012. Those Amish who maintain the practices of strict shunning, avoidance of most technological innovations, holding church services in congregants’ homes (as opposed to meetinghouses or churches) and in the High German language, and plain dress are considered Old Order Amish, as opposed to other sects that have changed more drastically over time.

The Amish take their demonym from the surname of the preacher Jakob Ammann (1644 – c.1720), who broke away from the less socially conservative Mennonites in 1693. In particular, Ammann promoted the strict practice of socially shunning church members considered to be living in unrepentant sin. Before this schism, however, Anabaptists in general were persecuted by mainstream European society throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, leading to a galvanized sense of both their religious and ethnic unity. An early avoidance of all things “worldly” (a prime example being violence in general) led these early “radical reformers” to adopt strict pacifism, self-sufficiency, and, overall, a highly cautious perception of the world-at-large. Later, when both Amish and Mennonites sought further opportunities to practice their beliefs in peace, they arrived at the same conclusion as many other European conscientious objectors of the 17th and early 18th centuries: emigration to the New World. In particular, these groups chose one of the most culturally and ideologically tolerant of the thirteen British colonies in America, Pennsylvania, recently founded by the progressive-minded Quaker William Penn. Groups identifying as Amish began arriving as early as 1737 (Nolt: Ch. 1-3).

Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, the intrinsically rural Amish avoided the burgeoning, industrialized urban centers of colonial and post-colonial America and gradually spread westward, covering a large swath of territory in not only Pennsylvania, but also Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. While there are small Amish communities in other areas (including the Canadian province of Ontario), in general they followed the predominantly ethnic-German wave of immigration across the Midlands region of the continental United States (Woodard 2011: Ch. 8).

Established between 1864-66, the Amish communities of central Illinois are concentrated in Moultrie and Douglas counties, about 35-40 miles south and west of Champaign-Urbana (Nolt: 188-9). This predominantly Old Order Amish settlement of around 4,000 can be found along Route 133 between the towns of Arthur and Arcola. According to Anabaptist expert Donald Kraybill, it is the ninth-largest Amish settlement in North American (Mabry 2008: 6). Congregations of more modernized Mennonites are also located nearby, as well as interspersed among them.

I visited this area by bicycle recently and took a few snapshots (I avoided any close-up shots of Amish people, as they strongly prefer not to be photographed – according to their beliefs it promotes vanity):

"Dutch" in the modern context is a misnomer but in an earlier sense referred to the Amish-Mennonites as ethnically and linguistically German (Deutsch or Deitsch)

Billboard at the entrance to Amish country between Arcola and Arthur, Illinois. “Dutch” in the modern context is a misnomer for the Amish-Mennonite people, but in an earlier sense more accurately referred to them as being ethnically and linguistically German (i.e., Deutsch in High German or Deitsch in the local vernacular, also known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”).

Horses and buggies coexist with automobiles as tradition and modernity continue to overlay each other in increasingly complex ways

On the outskirts of Arthur, IL, horses and buggies coexist with automobiles. Amish tradition and “Englisch” modernity continue to overlap each other in increasingly complex ways.

IMG_0184

IMG_0190

Founded in 1890 in Sugarcreek, Ohio, the Budget provides weekly, highly localized news to the Amish and Mennonite communities throughout North America and the world. It represents an otherwise archaic form of mass print journalism, in that the news is reported almost exclusively by the paper’s readership itself, via “scribes” or writers representing individual Amish or Mennonite communities (Nolt: 202-3).

What I found while riding my modern bicycle alongside horses and buggies constructed according to centuries-old methods was a place where the past and the present intersect in notably profound ways. Yet, to the Amish, certain things do not change because they needn’t change. According to Steven M. Nolt, a recognized expert on Mennonite and Amish history,

“While the larger Western world seeks peace in bigger weapons, happiness in newer, larger and ever more material things, and disregards extended family and community in the search for individual self-fulfillment, the Amish continue to espouse such unpopular values as ‘turning the other cheek,’ living with less and working for a common good. Faith in God and God’s activity in the world through the church has marked Amish life as noticeably different from an American society bemused by ‘progress,’ but unable to find a purpose or meaning in the resulting activity” (283).

As I perused the items in Yoder’s Lamps, Antiques and Collectibles in downtown Arthur, I overheard the proprietor speaking in the unfamiliar tones of Pennsylvania “Dutch” to his employees, reminding me that the melting pot of the United States has not yet – nor may ever – come to a full boil. On my way out of town, an elderly Mennonite woman who repairs sewing machines and hardcover books explained to me that though the Mennonite church no longer uses High German in its liturgy (as the Old Order Amish church does), she is bilingual in the same Low German dialect as that of her Amish neighbors. “We have the same roots,” she confirmed. Since much of the modern American (and, to a certain extent, Canadian) Midwest was originally populated by immigrants from the same areas of German-speaking central Europe as both the Amish and Mennonites originally hailed, what’s clear is that adherence to or distance from traditional religious practices has meant the difference between maintaining distinct ethno-linguistic identity or otherwise assimilating to the culture of the Anglo-American majority.

Whether we, as outsiders, wish to view the Amish (and Mennonites) as models of Christianity, as paragons of simple, family-values-based living and local entrepreneurship, as leaders in environmental sustainability, or perhaps even as stubbornly anachronistic outliers to the norm, what’s clear is that their presence and impact add a fascinating element to our understanding of the North American cultural landscape. And as pertains to the European historical roots of this continent’s ideological and religious heritage, they most certainly cannot be ignored.


 References (click links for UIUC Library catalog records):

Mabry, R. (2008). The Amish of Illinois’ HeartlandChampaign, IL: The News-Gazette.

Nolt, S. (1992). A History of the AmishIntercourse, PA: Good Books.

Woodard, C. (2011). American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North AmericaNew York: Viking Books.

For more information, see:

Beiler, J. (2009). Think No Evil: Inside the Story of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting…and Beyond. New York: Howard Books.

Hurst, C. and McConnell, D. (2010). An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World’s Largest Amish Community. United States: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr

Hispanic Heritage Month

Every year, Hispanic Heritage Month is observed here in the United States. It is September 15th through October 15th. Throughout this month, the culture, history, and contributions of Hispanics in the United States is celebrated. Whether it is the history of people from Spain, Mexico, Central & South America, or the Caribbean. So, how did Hispanic Heritage Month come to be?

It began in 1968, when there was a Hispanic Heritage Week. Although it started under the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, it expanded under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. According to the Government Printing Office, it became a law (Public Law 100-402) in August of 1988. This month is celebrated in many different ways.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month pic

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography.

Nationally, the Library of Congress has events, exhibitions, and stories. Among the events, a book talk by Carmen Boullosa, who is a Mexican poet, novelist, and playwright. Others who are being honored are author Cindy Trumbore and illustrator Susan L. Roth of Parrots over Puerto Rico.” They will be awarded the 2014 Américas Awards for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. For more information, be sure to visit the Official Page of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Locally, UIUC has a couple of events going on around campus and the community. Among them are:

CLACS (The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies) has organized the 2014 Latin American Film Festival. This Festival began on September 19th and will go all the way through September 25th. Seven films will be showing. The countries and cultures from these films are diverse and showcase that while the countries may be in Latin America, each one has their own unique language/dialect and culture. For the movies and showings, check out the schedule.

There is also a Lecture Series that provides talks and lectures on many different subjects and interests related to Latin America and the Caribbean. Topics such as, “Big Business as Usual: the 2014 World Cup.” For more information, be sure to check out the full schedule.

For more events, La Casa Cultural Latina has a whole schedule for the month. La Casa was part of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations’ (OIIR) initiative to the “recruiting and retaining underrepresented students, diversity education, civic engagement, and fostering the leadership skills necessary to develop global citizens.”

Just because Hispanic Heritage Month is just that, for a month, it doesn’t mean that it stops there. The University and Library offer many resources for students of Latino descent, or for those who would like to learn more about Hispanic Culture and/or language. Lucky for you, we compiled a list for you.

UIUC Mi Pueblo: This a Spanish-conversation group. They meet at different parts of campus for 1-hour sessions led by UIUC students. For more information about the sessions. Check out their website.

La Casa Cultural: Founded at UIUC in 1974, La Casa Cultural Latina has been committed to Latino/a students on campus, as well as the community [.

Browse through the Registered Student Organizations (RSO) and pick which ones would be the best for you.  For a complete list of RSO’s, browse a whole list of them.

Don’t forget that your library also has some great resources. Did you know that the International and Area Studies Library has a collection of Latin American books? Not only books, but newspapers and journals as well, so that you can keep up with the news. A lot of them in Spanish!

The Undergraduate Library also has a media collection with many movies and documentaries in Spanish and Portuguese, ranging from many different countries in Latin America. Some examples include, “Diarios de Motocicleta” (The Motorcycle Diaries), “Maria Full of Grace“, and “El Norte” (The North), just to name a few.

The Undergraduate Library’s QB (Question Board), has received questions from students since 1989. There have been many different questions throughout that time. Among them:

“Could you come up with a list of native women writers (novelists) writing at the early part of this century in Mexico? Preferably titles that have been translated into English”

“I was recently in New York, being a salsa person like myself, I went to a salsa nightclub. I heard of a band that was originally from Japan and came to New York to learn Spanish in order to become a salsa group. Their name was Orchestra de la Luz. Can I have some more info please? Signed, Inquiring Minds Want to Know”

“There is a popular song in Spanish called “La Macarena” (I think). There are different versions (2 that I know of). Can you tell me what “La Macarena” refers to and where did the song originate? Thanks. Signed Curiosita”

The above are just a few of the different types of questions that QB receives. To browse, search, or even submit your own question, visit QB!

For more resources that the library has to offer, browse through the subject guide offered.

There are so many things, that even we can’t list all at once in this blog post. We hope that you have found some new activities to take part in and new resources around the library.

 

 

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr

Occupation Libraries: Libraries speak

Occupation libraries are temporarily built street libraries during protest activities. Protestors or the general public can stop at the library in the street to read as a way to show their support to these events. Some of the first occupation libraries were built during the Fall 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests in New York[i] This practice has been adopted by protestors in Turkey.

Occupy Library 2

Occupy library in New York street [ii]

The protest in Turkey started in Gezi Park on May 28, 2013. It was triggered by the government selling out the Taksim Gezi Park, Istabul’s last public space, to real estate developers for commercial use. This protest later turned into a large scale civil rights event to pursue freedom of expression and other civil rights.[iii] The occupation library was initially built in the park with a box of abandoned books. Later more than 10 Turkish publishers donated books to the library to support their protest. These donated books cover a variety of topics, including political issues, religions, history, philosophy, etc. Some popular readers’ picks on the shelves cover: The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Carnus, Leaf Storm by Vabriel Garcia Marquez, Old Garden- Old Love by Tezer Ozlu, When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin David, and Resurrection Gallipoli 1915 by Turgut Ozakman.[iv] People are invited to read at the protest site, preferably in front of police officers to support this activity.[v]

Both makeshift libraries share some common features. First, all books in occupation libraries are donated by individuals or institutions. They are open for the public use. Second, because of their special nature, these libraries operate under strict government rules. This causes challenges to preserving books. Some of the first group books in the People’s library in Occupy Wall Street campaign were flooded in a rain because the police did not allow librarians to cover them.Taksim Square Book Club

People are reading at the Occupy library in Istanbul[vi]

Occupation libraries extend libraries’ missions in social life from circulating materials and sharing information to expressing people’s attitudes. Occupation libraries also mark a new development of civil rights activities. Despite protesters’ dissatisfaction with the government, these libraries avoided violent confrontations in the protests.  Instead, they invite people to stop and read at the library as a way to say they care and support the activities. No matter which side these libraries stand with, they should be respected for expressing the public’s opinions on social issues and discussing disputes in an open and peaceful way.


[i] Christian Zabriskie (2013). A Library Occupies the Heart of Occupy Movement. http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/library-occupies-heart-occupy-movement.

[iii] Wikipedia: 2013 Protest in Turkey. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_protests_in_Turkey.

[iv] George Henton (2013). In Pictures: The Taksim Square Book Club: Protesters stand silently and read books in central Istanbul, in stark contrast with scenes of violence. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2013/06/2013624105477515.html.

[v] Ariel Bogle (2013). Turkish publishing houses unite in Gezi Park to distribute books. http://www.mhpbooks.com/turkish-publishing-houses-unite-in-gezi-park-to-distribute-books/

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr