Thursday, January 17, 2008

Diary for 17th January to 23rd January 2008

THURSDAY 17TH JANUARY - Does the shoe fit?

Tonight I'm going to watch an unusual appearance by anthropology in a BBC drama adaptation of the well-known fairytale Cindarella. The hour long programme is broadcast at 21.00, and tells the story of a university cleaner named Cindy desperate to study anthropology so that she can accompany a famous professor, named (you've guessed it) 'Prince' on his fieldwork expedition to Borneo. Competing for the place with two other, presumably ugly and sisterly, students, Cindy hopes to win Professor Prince's affections despite her lowly position. You can view clips of the film online, and also read interviews with the main actors here. Let's hope, for the sake of aspiring anthropology students everywhere, it all ends happily ever after.

After watching, you may also be interested to read a bit more about the anthropology of fairytales, and how their role in society has been understood. Chris Knight, from the University of East London, is an expert on the subject - and you can read some of his thoughts here.

FRIDAY 18TH JANUARY - Planning ahead

On Friday I'm off to a talk at SOAS in London entitled 'What's the use of anthropology to international development'. The development sector is perhaps one of the most popular and relevant areas for anthropology graduates to work in after they finish their studies, but as this talk explores, there are often tensions between the hands-on approach anthropologists try to take, and the realities of implementing government policy. The lecture is being given by Professor David Mosse as part of the fascinating Inaugural Lecture Series, and it begins at 17.30 in the Brunei Gallery - entrance is FREE and is followed by a reception, but you are advised to contact the organisers beforehand on 0207 898 4075 or If you find the talk interesting, then you may also like to attend the public lecture series on the anthropology of development that is running all term...

SATURDAY 19TH JANUARY - Green fingers on the radio

Today I’ll be listening again to an episode of anthropologists’ favourite ‘Thinking Allowed’ that was broadcast on Channel 4 before Christmas. It featured two anthropologists, Roy Ellen and Simon Platten, who are about to embark on a three year study on the ‘ethnobotany of the British garden’. The importance of a finely pruned hedge to the inner workings of British society has, according to them, been long overlooked. It has even been argued, apparently, that the national obsession with gardening is a reason for the calmness of the British temperament! Like all good 'reflexive' anthropology, this programme should begin to make us question an area of our lives that is usually ignored as simply 'normal'...

SUNDAY 20TH JANUARY - Living hour by hour

Today I wanted to read an article I spotted in the newspaper last week about British artist, Anthony Gormley, and his latest idea. He is trying to convince the powers-that-be that the next exhibition on the fourth plinth n Trafalgar Square should be an anthropological one. He thinks that for the entire year of 2009, a different person should occupy the plinth every single hour, adding up to 8760 people. He wants to create a living representation of Britain today, with people form every single walk of life appearing to dance, shout, scream, hop, speak....or whatever they choose to do. Sounds like something Lucy would certainly vote for! You can see all of the submissions for the project, including Gormley's , on the National Gallery website here.

MONDAY 21ST JANUARY - The catwalk of anthropology

Come Monday I will be looking for new ways to strut my anthropological stuff in the new collection from fashion designer Chayalan. A little random, but the Cypriot fashionista claims inspiration from 'current anthropology', as well as a host of other disciplines including migration and the philosophy of science. He wants his clothes to be seen as a part of culture, and not just an elite artistic world. Which is presumably why he has added signature drop pockets to his jeans... To read more about anthropology and fashion, why not check out this article.

TUESDAY 22ND JANUARY - Photographing history in Nagaland

Today I'm heading back down to the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London for a look round the new exhibition on show there, 'An Image of Nagaland'. It includes photos taken at the Hornbill Festival from 2000, celebrated by the various tribes of Nagaland, in which a totemic dance is performed in recognition of their common cultural ancestry and identity. The 2000 festival was the first one held by the Naga for some time because of ongoing conflict on their area of Northern India, so the photographs are anthropological documents of a new period of opitimism, as well as of a long-standing tradition. The exhibition is open until 22nd March from Tuesday until Saturday, and entrance is FREE.

WEDNESDAY 23RD JANUARY - Talking about religion

On Wednesday I'm going along to a talk at the Institute of Jewish Studies at University College London, as part of their 'Anthropology and the Bible' seminar series. It's the first of a series of talks throughout the spring, and this week Bruce Kapferer will be discussing 'Mary Douglas and Henry Frankfort: Re-orientations, the present and the past'. Mary Douglas, who died last year, was one of the last century's most famous anthropologists, and one of her specialisations was in comparative religion. Henri Frankfort was a Dutch academic, specialising in Egyptian history and religion - so this talk should present a broad analysis of some common themes in our understandings of early religion. The talk is in Room 218, Foster Court, on Gower Street, and lasts from 16.00 until 18.00 - get in touch with the Insititue of Jewish Studies on 020 7679 3520 for more information - admission is FREE and ticketless.