Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Outliers: Chapter 6: Harlan, Kentucky: Cultural Legacy

In Chapter 6 of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell starts off by talking about a family fued between the Turners and Howards.  If you look at the story for face value, it seems to be a simple family fued.  However, Gladwell continues to point out that, "When one family fights with another, it's a feud.  When lots of families fight with one another in identical little towns up and down the same mountain range, it's a pattern."  He goes on to explain that these families were all affected by 'culture of honour.'  "It's a world where a man's reputation is at the center of his livelihood and self-worth."  The reason why all these families along the Appalachian mountains were, or still are, affected by it is simple.  You can't farm on the mountain.  Farmers depend on the community.  They aren't at the risk of being robbed because you can't steal a whole crop.  The herdsmen, on the other hand, are at a huge risk.  They must be aggressive so that people will not steal from them.  Many of these herdsmen could be found along the Appalchian mountains.

Also in this chapter, Gladwell talks about some tests performed.  Northerners and Southerners around the ages of eighteen and twenty were going to be insulted.  Their handshake and facial apperance were rated and there saliva was tested for change in testosterone and cortisol levels.  Southerners whose ancestors were Scottish-Irish and immigrated along the mountains, were more violent after being insulted.  This leads us to cultural legacy.  Do our ancestors and where we come from affect us and our attitudes?

I am almost 100% Punjabi except for the little British blood runs through my veins because of the British infiltration in India.  Punjabi's are known to be proud people.  I am a part of the highest class, and my family has been for as long back as I can remember.  In a new movie coming out, they say, "In Punjab, you shoot first and ask questions later."  That's not to say we just shoot everyone.  It just means we act against insults before we think.  I also practice Sikhism.  In Sikhism, we believe that we fight to protect only.  No wonder Sikh men are always posted at the Pakistan-India border...  My cultural legacy, clearly, is full of pride and the urge to protect our families.  I guess it's no wonder why I'm always ready for a fight- always ready to win.  I think I can say I am very close to the Southerners when it comes to their attitude towards being insulted.


  1. Wow Amarpreet! You are very close to the 'culture of honor' from the England, Ireland, and Scotland area. That's s cool.
    The way you act (not saying it is a bad thing) does reflect you cultural legacy. Coincidence I think not! (what movie is that from? it is on the tip of my tongue but I haven't been able to figure it out yet. It's driving me crazy)
    Our legacies are almost opposite. In my faith, we always think before we act and think about the Church's stand point on the topic.
    Isn't it cool how people raised by different cultural legacies can still get along?

  2. Amarpreet I like how were able to tie in your own heritage very closely to the information expressed in Outliers. It's really neat to see these behaviors expressed all across the world, and how we in our class can tie our own lives into what we are learining about in class.

  3. Amarpreet, I can definitely see the resemblance between our two families. It shows that people from the same area of the world act the same towards certain things. This was definitely one of my favorite chapters in the book.