Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Diary for 24th-30th May 2007

THURSDAY 24TH MAY - Clothing exhibition & adventure-anthropology in Oxford

Today I'm strolling on down to Oxford to check out a couple of new exhibitions at the Pitt-Rivers Museum. The first collection, Treasured Textiles, is a display of cloth and clothing (normally stowed away in the museum's reserves) originating from all parts of the globe. It aims to show the way that textile techniques contribute to design, decoration and adornment across different societies. Highlights include vibrantly colourful Guatemalan 1930s women's clothing and Chinese satin robes from the 19th century.

The other exhibition is a slightly maverick collection from the artist Sally Hampton. It charts the life and times of fictional explorer and anthropologist Kitty Lake. Loosely based on the artist's own life experiences, it recounts ethnographic studies of fairies on the west coast of Ireland and expeditions atop a camel through the deserts of Egypt and the mountains of Sinai - using a series of artefacts, journal entries and photographs. Should be an interesting, romantic 'artist's impression' of what being an anthropologist could be like.

The Pitt Rivers Museum is free and open 10-4.30pm Tuesday to Sundays and 12-4.30pm on Mondays. See the listing from the11th March ("My new favourite museum") for more details about the museum.

FRIDAY 25TH MAY - Anthropologist on the radio

On Friday I'm planning to listen to the Making History programme that was broadcast on Radio 4 on the 8th May (you can listen again online). It featured anthropologist Paul Basu, from Sussex University, discussing the history of Scottish emigration.

He was part of a fascinating feature on the accuracy of historical representations of a period in Scottish history called 'The Clearances', when highland clans were forcibly displaced by landowners who wanted to use their land for more productive means. Dr Basu conducted research in Scotland for his PhD

SATURDAY 26TH MAY - Film screening about land disputes in India, London

On Saturday I'm planning to learn more about the dispute highlighted in the film 'This land is Mine' showing at 2.30 over at SOAS (nearest tube Russell Square). The film is followed by a discussion, and explores how citizens of Nandigram, West Bengal are being evicted from their land under a new Government Act that allows corporations to develop previously agricultural land for industry.

There is much debate about whether the Special Economic Zones Act is just a smokescreen for corporate profiteering or than a balanced and beneficial piece of legislation.
In any case, it sounds as though some fascinating issues relating to ownership and grassroots resistance will be raised. The event is free and organised by the South Asia Solidarity group and the 1857 Committee. For more details email:

SUNDAY 27TH MAY - Chitter chatter on the wireless

Today I'm listeing to another anthropologist on the radio. Professor Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary anthropologist and psychologist presided over a debate on Radio 4's 'Men read maps, women gossip' series, about whether men or women are the biggest gossips. Professor Dunbar is perhaps most well-known for his formulation of Dunbar's number - 150 - his theoretical maximum number of individuals with whom a set of people can maintain a social relationship.

Language has long been a key area of anthropological resarch and gossip has been no exception - often cited as a form of 'social grooming' essential for our psychological well-being.

MONDAY 28TH MAY - Yoruba Music next to Buckingham Palace plus an anthropological samba band!!

On Monday, I plan to go and see the percussionist Lekan Babalola at the ICA. He's here as part of the London African Music Festival and in this specially commissioned event he will be performing Yoruba children's songs. The Yoruba are one of the largest linguistic groupings in Africa, with the majority living in Nigeria. If you are inspired by the music you could think about taking one of the evening course SOAS offers in Yoruba language.

On Monday you can also go and check out the University of East London Anthropology department's Samba band: Barking Bateria, who are playing at 6pm, Conway Hall London at the annual Beltane Bash. Barking Bateira was created by University of East London anthropology lecturers Chris Knight and Lionel Sims and is mainly based in the university's anthropology department - although you don't have to be a student to join. Carnival is really interesting area of study for anthropologists (University of East London undergraduate students can join the Samba band plus take an option in the Anthropology of Carnival!). As it says on the Barking Bateria website:

"All and any social, cultural, economic boundary is traversed during carnival, to show how underneath it all we are all humans and all equal. By men becoming women, paupers becoming kings, professionals becoming fools etc we are showing that we are more than the limits society places on us"

TUESDAY 29TH MAY - Learning to hula in Cambridge!

On Tuesday I'm looking forward to attending the activities on offer on Tuesday at the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology in Cambridge.

It's part of the Pasifika Styles festival I mentioned a couple of weeks ago and there are things happening all day from 10.30 until 4.30, ranging from the opportunity to make your own hula skirt, to sessions on dance and interactive storytelling workshops. Watch out next week for details of more films and plays from the festival.

WEDNESDAY 30TH MAY - Studying anthropology in the west

On Wednesday, hopefully sporting my brand new hula skirt, I want to investigate the range of short anthropology courses that have just been announced by Bristol University. Raging from one-off sessions on environmentalism and anthropology to a fortnight on rhythm and the body and 10-week programmes exploring development and globalisation, the courses are open to the general public and a great way to get a feel for the subject. The courses don't start til October, but will book up quickly.


Some sad news this week. Mary Douglas - one of the most respected and influential anthropologists of the last century - passed away last week at the age of 86. You can read a detailed obituary in the Times here.

If anyone is looking for an adult ed course in anthropology, check out the next taster course offered by he London City Lit academy. This is a day course called "A Taste of Anthropology," designed for people with no experience of anthropology. The next on is on the 30th June and there are still places available.