Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Diary for the 14th - 20th June 2007

THURSDAY 14TH JUNE - Imagining America

On Thursday I'm going to another event at the British Museum linked to the 'A New World: England's first View of America' exhibition. It's a three day conference called 'European Vision: American Voices', examining the work of the artists on show and how their first pictures of America have influenced how we see the country today.

As usual, there will be an impressive panel of experts at the conference, including anthropologists. They will be looking at how representations from a Native American point of view are often missing in similar exhibitions. The event runs from Thursday until Saturday and entrance is FREE for the first 50 students that email the organiser at

If that's got you thinking about living in America, it's worth knowing that some anthropology degrees offer exchange programmes with American universities. Oxford Brookes is just one uni that thinks anthropology students may benefit from time spent living and studying in another culture.

On the same day there's also a free anthropology talk called 'Images of the ancestors: Aesthetics and Moai being-in-the-world' at the British Museum Centre for Anthropology Seminar. Moai is the name for the giant statues carved from volcanic ash that are found dotted around Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. The talk starts at 10.00 and you can find out more details by emailing

FRIDAY 15TH JUNE - Women who become men

Today I'm going to listen again to anthropologist Antonia Young's appearance on Radio 4's Women's Hour last week. She was discussing her new book, 'Women who become Men' about women in the mountains of Northern Albania who decide to become 'honorary' men. Doing so requires a vow of celibacy and gives them greater respect within both their community and family. On the other hand, it also means they are expected to resolve blood feuds by whatever, often armed, means are necessary.
The book is a really interesting study of how issues like gender and concepts of honour can cut across all other aspects of society.

SATURDAY 16TH JUNE - Art & anthropology

On Saturday I'm going to the new Castaways exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. The exhibition is a multi-media show of 'sculptural paintings' made from environmental material from the coast of Ghana together with a film & audioscape by anthropologist Andrew Feld, from the University of New Mexico.

Sounds intriguing, but I'm a little unclear of what it's all about at the moment. Luckily, at 2pm there's an interactive guided tour by Dr Rupert Cox (brother of film director Phil featured last week) who runs the Visual Anthropology department at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology in Manchester. The talk is free and you can also see the exhibition at the RAI film festival in coming weeks.

SUNDAY 17TH JUNE - Spotting statues

The plan for Sunday is to check out Blind Light - Anthony Gormley's new exhibition based in the Hayward Gallery, and featuring a range of his iconic sculptures. Perhaps the most attention-grabbing of these is Event Horizon, a series of 31 life-size moulds of Gormley himself, that he has located around London, from rooftops to ground level. Antony Gormley studied anthropology at university and has often claimed that the 'anthropological' is central to his work. You can read an article here by another famous anthropologist, Hugh Brody, about the sense of 'belonging' and community he sees in Gormley's latest exhibition. The exhibition runs until mid-August and tickets are £8 (half-price concessions) for an hour inside the gallery - booking ahead is highly recommended.

MONDAY 18TH JUNE - Refugees planting roots

This week is Refugee Week and there are cultural, artistic and educational events being held all over the UK to celebrate the place of refugees to UK society, and encourage greater understanding between communities - something anthropology often ends up doing too! Refugees are studied by anthropologists because they are frequently at the margins of mainstream society and can help us understand where cultural differences arise.

A couple of events especially caught my eye. Firstly, there's an exhibition running at the St Mungo Museum of Life & Art in Glasgow called 'A Glasgow Story'. It's the result of a collaboration between photographer Roddy Mackay and Glasgow's large African & Caribbean population and portrays aspects of African life and culture in the city. It runs on until the end of July and entrance is FREE.

Secondly, this week sees the release of a film called Grow Your Own. Based on a true story, it is about a group of asylum seekers in Liverpool who are given plots on an allotment in the midst of members of the local community. The film examines the interaction between this diverse group of people and how they come to terms with their different cultural backgrounds. Grow Your Own is showing in cinemas nationwide.

Also today, for those of you feeling like a bit of exercise, anthropologist Lionel Sims from the University of East London will be hosting a guided tour of the Avebury monuments in Wiltshire. Avebury is the site of several stone circles and a large henge and its historical purpose is still not fully understood. Dr Sims has been studying henges for most of his academic career and recently produced a documentary for Channel 5 on Stonehenge. If you would like to attend - be warned the walk is a hefty 6 hours long! - then meet at East Kennet village at 11am. The walk is part of the Radical Anthropology Group's annual trip to Avebury. RAG is a weekly evening class in anthropology open to everyone. Check out the link for more details.

TUESDAY 19TH JUNE - Feeling peckish?

There's a really different and interesting series of talks today in Cambridge. Given by experts from a variety of subjects, they are centred around 'Foodomics' - the study of what we eat and why. Dr Manpreet Janeja, from the Department of Social Anthropology, is giving a short talk - 'What did you eat today?' on the Culture of food choices at 11.50 in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences.

I'll look forward to understanding the reasons behind the sandwich I decide to buy for lunch (strictly no sweetcorn) after the talk, and may head down to the CUP bookshop to see if they've got any books on the anthropology of food. You can also study the anthropology of food at a postgraduate level at SOAS - see here for more tasty details.

WEDNESDAY 20TH JUNE - Peering at the Pitt-Rivers Museum

Tonight I want to go to the Annual General Meeting at the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford. If that sounds a bit stuffy, then rest assured the main reason I'll be there is for the lecture that follows the meeting entitled 'Seeking knowledge, seeking life: PRM collections and First Nations communities in Canada'. It will be given by Dr Laura Peers who regularly gives fascinating talks about the representation of indigenous North Americans in museums. Yow can read an article by Dr Peers on one of the museum's collections (also well worth a look) here. The meeting and talk take place at 18.15 in the museum's extension, with refreshments available from 17.45.

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