Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Diary for 28th June - 4th July 2007

THURSDAY 28TH JUNE - Gardening, Haiti and anthropology on TV!

Today I'm heading down to sunny Brighton for the Mass Observation event I mentioned last week, - Ordinary Lives, Everyday Speakers. Archive staff and academics will be talking about the different ways in which we narrate our lives to each other, drawing on some of the more unusual takes on everyday happenings that they have read over the years. The event is part of the archive's 70th birthday celebrations and runs from 15.30 until 19.00 in the Jubilee Library in Brighton. Topics being discussed range from stories about England's status as a 'nation of gardeners' to the importance of wedding gifts. Entrance is free and includes refreshments, but places are limited so you need to RSVP to Dr Amanda Claremont at or on 01273 642288 to confirm you will be going.

Alternatively on Thursday, there is a talk about how anthropology can help play a role in reducing malnutrition in Haiti. It should also be a useful insight into how anthropology can have an impact in the 'real world' and the sorts of careers it can lead into. The talk is at 17.15 in the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and entrance is free. For more information, contact Jenny Stanley on 020 7958 8140 or Medical anthropologists study the cross-cultural causes and consequences of illness and disease, and you can study it as part of an anthropology undergraduate degree, or even for your entire degree at the University of Kent.

Also, don't forget that the RAI Film Festival continues in Manchester, and you can still buy day passes on the door. For me, the highlight of Thursday is a fascinating free public debate in the evening about anthropology on television. It's called "Anthropology on Television - Education or Entertainment?" and is taking place from 7-9pm in the Cosmo Rodewald Theatre. The debate is open to everyone (you don't have to be registered for the festival to go). Panelists include professors of anthropology plus Sam Organ, the executive producer of the BBC Tribe series and Will Anderson, Director and Series Producer of the new Reverse Anthropology series. The debate will be chaired by newsreader Anna Ford, who once studied anthropology at Manchester. Full details are available here.

FRIDAY 29TH JUNE - Is brown really the new black?

Today I'm going to get dressed up and attend the start of a two-day conference run by the History of Dress Association, called Black and White. A series of academics and experts will be giving talks on the ways in which black and white clothing have been worn over history and what that says about different cultures and societies - from Bedouin nomads' 'cool' black robes to Queen Elisabeth I's extensive white wardrobe. The event takes place at the Courtauld Institute of Art and entrance costs £25 for the whole conference or £15 for the day. You need to download and send off the booking form if you want to attend.

The highlight of the RAI Film Festival for today is probably the award-winning 37 Uses for a Dead Sheep which is screening at 19.00 and documents the exile of the Kirghiz tribe in Eastern Turkey - it was made in close collaboration with the Kirghiz themselves who carefully re-enact events from their past.

SATURDAY 30TH JUNE - Last day of RAI Film Festival!

On Saturday I'm off to the day of special screenings of films from China at the RAI Film Festival. China Day is a showcase of 12 films chosen to represent the cultural diversity of China, ranging from remote rural locations to life in the ultra-modernised cities. The screenings run from 9.00 to 18.00 and entrance is only £5 - you can pay at the door. If you fancy discussing what you have seen over a meal, then there is a Chinese 'banquet' in the evening at the Tai Pen restaurant. The prize-winners from the festival will also be announced at this banquet which costs £17.

Today is also the start of the 'Beyond Text' conference, running in association with the Film Festival. I may try and drop in on a couple of the sessions today, which are looking at the ways in which anthropologists can use other ways of expressing themselves other than writing, for example photography, film or performance. The conference runs until the 2nd July and although places have all been taken at the moment, you can place yourself on the reserve list by emailing

SUNDAY 1ST JULY - Dancing and entrancing at the Horniman

The Horniman Museum in South London is one of my favourite museums to visit. There's no better place to spend a Sunday than wandering around its Centenary Gallery, which has a massive range of object from almost everywhere I can think of, and plenty I've never heard of before. The collection was originally developed by Frederick Horniman who collected objects through auctions and has been added to by many anthropologists over the years. It includes items such as Buddhas from Burma and Ogoni elephant masks from Nigeria (see left).

Also on Sunday at the Horniman is a Nziga Dance Ensemble Concert, featuring dance performances from Africa and the Caribbean. It is part of a series of dance events at the Horniman over the summer, using performances to understand how dance represented a way for slaves to maintain their spiritual and social traditions. The dance ensemble will be in the garden from 15.00 and like the rest of the museum, entrance is FREE.

And if you still can't get enough of the Film Festival, there's a spin-off event today linked to the conference and an exhibition, Castaways, that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Castaways is an experimental mixed media exhibition at the Whitworth Museum and today there's a lunchtime discussion at 13.00 between the artists involved and 'acoustic anthropologist' Steven Feld.

MONDAY 2ND JULY - Monks on Merseyside

On Monday I want to visit the World Museum in Liverpool for a fascinating day of events looking at The Mandala and the lives of the Monks . Mandalas are the symbolic geometric designs used by monks to help them meditate and contemplate the structure of the universe. At 10.15, members from the TashiLhumpo Monastery in Tibet (click here to find out more) will be creating a sand mandala, together with a ritual of public chanting and dedication. There is then a talk at 14.00 explaining the importance of mandalas in their worship. Entrance to the museum is FREE.

TUESDAY 3RD JULY - Learning about the Jarawa

On Tuesday I'm going to attend the weekly Vigil for the Jarawa that is organised by Survival International, a charity that aims to help tribal peoples defend their lives and land. The Jarawa live on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean and are at risk of disease because of poachers coming onto their land. The aim of the vigil is to encourage the Indian Government to do more to enforce laws that are supposed to protect the Jarawa from exploitation. Several of Survival International's staff members trained as anthropologists and they have recently been involved in a high-profile campaign to stop tribal peoples being labelled as 'primitive'. The vigil lasts from 12.30 until 14.00 every Tuesday outside the Indian High Commission in Central London.

WEDNESDAY 4TH JULY - Living and Dying

The Living and Dying exhibition at the British Museum in London is a really fascinating display of the different cultural approaches people take across the world to health and well-being. It also includes objects used to try and ward off danger or illness, and looks at the relationships we form with each other and the world around us to achieve this. On Wednesday, I am going along to a talk by the curator of the display and British Museum anthropologist, Lissant Bolton, will be giving an introductory tour of the gallery at 13.15. The tour is FREE - all you need to do is turn up at Gallery 24 at the right time!

Also starting today is the New Crowned Hope festival at the Barbican in London, which runs until 12th August 2007. It promises artists from "every nation on earth" and takes its inspiration from Mozart in trying to exhibit new forms of expression, and individuals who are challenging cultural stereotypes in new ways. Look out for more on the blog in coming weeks!