The Impact of Maryland Blue Crabs on Unity

The mindsets of individuals are heavily influenced by their culture; however, culture as a whole is very ambiguous and can be unique for each individual.  It is important to keep in mind that there are many types of cultures, such as French culture, deaf culture, African-American culture and gay culture.  On a fundamental level, it is commonly accepted that a culture should be a dynamic system of values or behavior, which works to ensure survival amongst individuals and groups; it should have the ability to be passed along intergenerationally and the potential to be modified by individuals.  For the purpose of this blog, I will be focusing on my culture as a resident of Maryland, and, in particular, the idea of the ‘Maryland Blue Crabs.’

When I was a child, I remember going to restaurants to order crab cakes, or going to the supermarket to buy Old Bay, and of course, having summer crab dinners when my family would host a cookout with plenty of crabs to shuck together.  Even at school, we had something called ‘Senior Crab Feast’ when the seniors could buy a ticket for a day when we could all go to the courtyard, adorned with tables, tablecloths and of course, lots of Old Bay, and shuck crabs together.  I believe that this part of Maryland culture promotes the psychological aspect of unity.  To further research this relationship, I reviewed scientific articles which concerned the association of food, traditions and schools with this idea of culture and unity.  But before exploring the Maryland Blue Crab’s association with these things, I first wanted to explore the development of unity.

Before attempting to explore the effect of the Maryland Crab on unity, I first needed to know background information on this idea of unification.  Unity in and of itself is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “the quality or state of being made one.”  From the festivities revolving around Maryland Blue Crabs, I was able to grow up seeing family, friends and classmates come together as one to celebrate, relax and enjoy traditions revolving around this part of our culture.  A scientific research article notes that “human development, especially that of the social versus the individual…[is] dependent on…having a specific place and role within this practice.” (Stetsenko, 2004) In the context of my own research, I interpreted this quote to mean that to develop unity, one should feel that they have a place, or a role within their culture.  A second scientific reference from this article stated that “The shift away from strictly individualist notions of human subjectivity and development is quite evident in today’s mainstream psychology. Be it social cognitive, cognitive developmental, social role-identity or cross-cultural theories, the self is presented as being profoundly shaped by social factors such as interactive experiences with significant others and group membership.” (Stetsenko & Arievitch, 2004) Again, this is a reiteration of the notion that human unity and comradery may form as a result of interactions with others.  Therefore, in my research, since I am trying to identify how Maryland Blue Crabs may help to facilitate the formation of unity, I will need to look specifically for how these crabs offer opportunities for interactions and group communication.  Once I established this scientific background concerning how unity may develop, I was then prepared to analyze the role of these crabs with food, traditions and school activities, and furthermore, to see how it can help to give people in Maryland roles.  While conducting this research, it was my belief that these crabs may help to establish practices among individuals and facilitate bonding within society.

From my observation and experience, even the simple practice of learning to precisely open a crab was a bonding experience in my home state.  My grandfather and uncles would take me step by step, getting the meat from the legs, opening the apron and finally getting the meat from the body and the claws.  I felt that we bonded in this shared process of ‘correctly’ eating crabs.  We felt connected in the sense of Maryland pride we had by knowing this precise method.  In scientific research that I found, there was a peer reviewed article which “examined the role…and function of food,” suggested that “food is the symbol of socio-cultural realities…[which] can be considered a means of communication through which the social agent expresses himself…” (Antonella, 2014) In Maryland, my family, friends and I were able to express ourselves and enjoy our time together through the whole process of going to the store to buy the crabs, the Old Bay, the crackers, the newspaper (for the table cloth of course), the butter and without a doubt, plenty of napkins.  Thanks to the Maryland Crabs, my peers and I were able to feel more connected and unified through our preparation for and memories we created because of the festivities concerning this food.

These Maryland Blue Crabs set the stage for unification in more ways than just over the food itself; it was the tradition that surrounded this food that also advanced this idea of ‘being one.’  My family and I always had traditions of seeing who could ‘handle’ the most Old Bay without needed to drink water, who used the most butter, who ate the most crabs, who could shuck a crab the fastest…and many more of these trivial games.  While at the time, I just thought of these as fun competitions (which I was never able to win), I can now reflect on these games as traditions which enhanced how connected we felt with each other.  To further explore how traditions can affect one’s culture, I referenced a scientific article which explained how “[asserting individual cultural identity] may take different forms such as simulating local traditions and ceremonies.” (Mukherjee, 2016) I interpreted this to mean that local traditions are an example of one way to express one’s own culture.  Once again, remembering that an important part of this idea of culture is the expression of values, I can see how this tradition with my family expressed our values.  We were able to bond over laughing, helping each other, friendly competition, and happiness.  These values are very integral to my family and to myself, and they were promoted by this tradition of shucking Maryland Blue Crabs together.

Finally, I was curious to research the effect of my school having a ‘Senior Crab Feast’ on this idea of a unified culture.  When reflecting on this experience in my own school, I remembered the video we watched in class concerning the activities of preschools in China, Japan and the United States.  This video talked about traditions, such as how in China, the children had lessons with daily exercise movement together, which I believe is referred to as Tai Chi.  Just as this was distinguishing to their culture, I believe this senior tradition at my high school may be distinguishing to mine.  While this activity was for the Maryland Blue Crabs, it represented and promoted so much more than that.  It cultivated togetherness in the way that our class made groups with our friends to design t-shirts for the day of the event.  These t-shirts had crab puns on them, and the group designing the shirts would all hang out together to make sure they matched.  We would puffy-paint, cut and tie them so that we might have a chance to win the award of best overall shirt at the feast. (As shown in the image below) On that day, there were also many games and raffles that happened at this crab feast.  I had never thought of it before, but now that I am in cross-cultural psychology, I can see how this crab feast may have been very unique to my Maryland culture.  In a scientific journal concerning the study of preschools in three different cultures, it was noted that “preschools are not just places where children develop physically, emotionally, and intellectually but also where they learn to be appropriate members of their culture.” (Tobin, 2011) I can see this statement being applicable even to my high school.  As students, we were learning the value of unity, comradery and friendship.  The Maryland Blue Crabs were the starting point for this whole event, and it became a large part of the culture not only in my high school, but in schools all across the state.

A picture that was taken of the Senior Crab Feast t-shirts my group made.

Overall, I believe that Maryland Blue Crabs play a large role in the development of the psychological aspect of unity in my culture.  Before making any conclusions though, I must recognize limitations of this proposal.  The scientific research journals which I have referenced do not concern Maryland Blue Crabs specifically; therefore, it was my own interpretation of these journals off of which I am basing my assumptions.  There is possibility that I may have misunderstood an idea which the article was attempting to convey.  Furthermore, as a member of the Maryland culture, and a big fan of Maryland Blue Crabs, I am biased.  I have preconceived ideas that Maryland Blue Crabs may promote unity.  While I am researching to test the validity of this idea, I am starting my studies from this partial state, as opposed to from a neutral perspective. From this research that I have conducted though, I can still reflect that through appreciating crab dinners with my family, having traditions with my friends and enjoying day at school devoted solely to crabs, the whole idea of Maryland Blue Crabs has made me feel closer to many others in my life.  This proposal aligns with scientific peer reviewed journals explaining that food, traditions and schools all can contribute to culture.  This aspect of Maryland culture encompasses all of those categories, and I believe that without a doubt, for me personally, it has fostered a feeling of unity in my life and also perhaps in the lives of many other true ‘Marylanders.’

 

Bibliography:

Antonella, G. (May 1, 2014). Food from a Sociological Perspective. Italian Sociological Review,1-9. Retrieved February 17, 2018.

Mukherjee, A. (2016). Culture, Tradition and Globalization: Some Philosophical Questions. Social Alternatives, 35(1), 53-56.

Tobin, J., U., & A. (n.d.). [Japan, China, USA] The Preschool in Three Cultures Studies. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from http://www.childresearch.net/projects/ecec/2011_05.html

Stetsenko, A., & Arievitch, I. M. (2004). The Self in Cultural-Historical Activity Theory: Reclaiming the Unity of Social and Individual Dimensions of Human Development. Theory & Psychology, 14(4), 475-503. doi:10.1177/0959354304044921

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