Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Diary for the 21st - 27th June 2007

THURSDAY 21ST JUNE - Observing Britain

Today I'm going to apply to become a writer for Mass Observation. It's an organisation that was set up in 1937 by three men who wanted to create an 'anthropology of ourselves'. Mass Observation recruits volunteer observers from all over the country to submit their ideas on two or three subjects a year. You can write as much or as little as you like, and there is absolutely no pressure to stay involved. Recent projects have included writing about the smoking ban and the London bombings last year - you can find out more information here.

I want to get my application off in time for an event that Mass Observation are holding in Brighton on 28th June (more details in next week's blog) to celebrate the project's 70th anniversary. If you would like to attend it's best to get in touch with the organiser, Dr Amanda Claremont, now on or 01273 642288

FRIDAY 22ND JUNE - Anthropology in Wales

There's a fantastic-looking event happening today at the University of Wales in Lampeter. The Wales Anthropology Day is jam-packed with workshops, films and information about studying anthropology at university. There are talks on a huge range of topics that anthropologists have studied - from cars to shamanism to bling culture. There's also a special session by staff from the BBC TV series Tribe and friend of Anthropologist about Town, Gem Jones, the education officer at the Royal Anthropological Institute. The day lasts from 9.30 to 16.30 and you can register here - if you're interested in studying anthropology in Wales then it looks like an event not to be missed.

On Friday you can also go to the opening of a new exhibition at The Sesame Gallery in London. Past and Present is an exhibition that explores our relationship with the past and its stories. One of the artists featured is Guy Barton, whose paintings are reinterpretations of old anthropological photographs from colonial days. The exhibition runs until the 13th July but you can get yourself invited to the private view tonight, starting at 18.30, by emailing the organisers at

SATURDAY 23RD JUNE - From Tibet to the Arctic

On Saturday afternoon, there's a couple of things going on. There a film made by one of the most influential and interesting documentary makers alive today, Werner Herzog. He is renowned for his unusual and intense approach to his subjects - and the level to which he immerses himself in his subject is often compared to the work carried out by anthropologists.

Wheel of Time is about the largest Buddhist ritual to promote peace and tolerance, and includes an interview with the Dalai Lama as well as footage of previously unseen rituals. Ritual is especially important to anthropologists because it is a form of symbolic behaviour that can help us to understand wider society. The film is showing as part of 'The Worlds of Werner Herzog' and is on at 15.30 at the ICA in London. Tickets cost £8 and if you miss the film today it's screening again on the 26th.

Also on Saturday is the fourth talk in the Freeze Frame series that I mentioned a few weeks ago, all about The Cape Farewell Project. There will be a panel of experts, including film-maker and anthropologist Hugh Brody discussing Art, The Arctic & Climate Change - an project about how humans have contributed towards the world's environmental problems. Members of the project - ranging from artists to scientists - have traveled several times to the Arctic to try and express how we can live in a greater harmony with the planet. The talk is in the National Maritime Museum, starts at 15.15 and tickets are £7.50.

SUNDAY 24TH JUNE - The anthropology of corridors!

Today I want to listen again to Radio 4's Thinking Allowed programme from last week. It featured Rachel Hurdley, who has just finished doing some unusual ethnographic research into corridors and the how the meetings and relationships that occur in that space can be important in the lives of the people working there. She has previously done similar work on mantelpieces, and her research is a good example of how anthropologists can examine 'culture' in the most unlikely places. The programme also reviewed the life and times of Margaret Mead and Mary Douglas with anthropologist Adam Kuper from Brunel University. You can listen to the show here.

MONDAY 25TH JUNE - Robin Hood or con man?

This evening is the latest installment in the Pocketvisions season of the best films from the London International Documentary Festival. This week Con Man Confidential will be screening - it is a film about the social and cultural factors that lead people to become con artists and how they feel about their lives. The film is showing at the Roxy Bar & Screen in Borough at 20.00 and entrance is FREE.

TUESDAY 26TH JUNE - Why did the chicken cross the road?

Tonight I'm going to watch the third in the 4 part series of Lenny's Britain. Lenny Henry has teamed up with an anthropologist, Dr Marie Gillespie, at the Open University to investigate the variety in sense of humour around Britain and what that says about us as people. Dr Gillespie spent 6 months researching what jokes can tell us about our society and what we think about the world, using a traveling joke booth.

This week's episode is about humour on holiday and looks at whether the slap-and-tickle stereotype of British humour is justified. Based in Blackpool, Lenny talks to a variety of people from chambermaids, to drag queens and hen nights to investigate how important humour is to our leisure time. stress or long working hours in jobs ranging from a call centre to being a parking attendant. The programme is on BBC1 at 21.00 and you can also read an interesting article on the research here.

WEDNESDAY 27TH JUNE - Film festival begins!

The long-awaited 10th International Festival of Ethnographic Film starts today with a fascinating range of films from all over the world. On Wednesday there's a selection of entries to the student film prize being shown. I particularly want to see Ordinary Lives at 10.00 about a 10 person family living in a Mumbai slums and then, at 14.00, Into the Field about the daily life of a community of Romanian nuns.

In the evening, there's the official launch of the festival followed by the 2007 Forman lecture, which always provides an interesting point of view on the challenges of film-making. This year the director of The Last King of Scotland, Kevin Macdonald, is speaking about his career in documentary making. It's still not too late to get tickets for the festival, so make sure you don't miss out and register here.

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