The Machete Affect

Our primary reading, Essays in Material Culture edited by Jules David Prown and Kenneth Hallman, helped depict the difference amongst the value a physical object can carry amongst those who study it. The economic value, say that of a machete, which came around to be in Europe prior to the renaissance age, carried no weight having only been a tool to help harvesters pick their crops with a bit more ease. (“What Is A Machete, Anyway?”, John Cline) As time progressed, a new meaning arose for these long, sharp blades as Hallman writes that “only some of culture takes

Here is a woman using a machete, found on an article from LinkedIn.

material form, the part that does records the shape and imprint of otherwise more abstract… aspects of that culture that they quite literally embody.” (Essays in Material Culture, Hallman, P. 1)

Albeit having the machete take symbolic form within the Agricultural era, as governments began to grow so did their forms of violence. During the Rwandan Genocide, the machete was a form of cheap weaponry, allowing for more violent deaths for those unfortunate souls. The balance of meaning of an object cannot be justified through one certain event though. Four Central American countries, for example, used the machete as a form of weapon to help demolish the hold a man named William Walker held over the Nicaragua region. After Walker was taken down, the machete became a symbol for the freedom of Central Americans. Here the meaning behind the machete changed. Through a few generations, machetes were labeled as several different things depending on the both the time period and the region.

Here’s an image of a villager taken as a reminder of the Rwandan Genocides.

Both papers showed how, over time, an object was first given a purpose before a value, then it was shaped to become something of vulgar symbol throughout most societies who do not have agriculture being one of their primary sources of income. Because this knife, once used to help crop the land of agricultural based lands, was cornered into a form of self-defense for some people a new wave of meaning overcame it. No longer is it just a “tool” it is now an object people collect for fun or utilize for other harmful actions.

To explain more about the purpose of this assignment, I would have to talk about the significance of when both Essays in Material Culture and “What Is A Machete, Anyway?” were published and the background of both publication backgrounds. The affects and perhaps the bias from each writer helped influenced the way a reader views a certain subject. The most difficulty being the ability to differentiate the points the primary reading was making and being able to tie it back in with the secondary reading.

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