Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Diary for 1st January until 7th January 2009

THURSDAY JANUARY 1ST - Better than a couple of paracetamol

Happy New Year to one and all - may 2009 be a year of adventure and endeavour for anthropologists everywhere! As many of you may be nursing a sore head today, what better way to recover than by listening to a selection of anthropological sounds from a recent anthropology/art collaboration done at the University of St.Andrews... You can banish that hangover by listening to sounds related to Efpraxia Pollatou's work on 'Fear, spoken words and fairies in a Greek island village' or 'Birds, Bells, car horns: acoustemologies across New Guinea, Europe, Africa' in the grandmaster of sound anthropology, Steven Feld's audiovisual lecture. There are many resources available on the website, all seeking to understand the many ways in which sound can be socially and culturally meaningful.

FRIDAY JANUARY 2ND - Images from history

A fantastic resource has just been launched by Google, called the 'Life Photo Archive'. It's an enormous collection of photographs dating back as far as the 1860s - many of which have never been published before. Imagery offers a great opportunity to see how 'others' live or lived their lives, as well as also a chance to interrogate how lives were represented pictorially - visual anthropologists are always trying to see beyond the surface level of an image. The archive currently contains 2 million images, but a further 8 million are set to be added, and you can search it by various useful categories...

SATURDAY JANUARY 3RD - Voodoo and Poppies

This weekend, given the freezing cold outside, I'm going to settle down with a couple of great anthropology-related books. First up, I'll be reading 'Devil Bones' by Kathy Reichs, which recently topped the Bestseller list of the New York Times. Kathy Reichs is a practising forensic anthropologist, and her latest installment in the investigations of the fictional Temperance Brennan sees him dealing with two victims of voodoo. I might also have a browse of Sea of Poppies, recently nominated for the Booker Prize - a tale set in the times of the Opium Wars, and written by Amitav Ghosh, who trained as an anthropologist. Plenty to get the year going....

SUNDAY JANUARY 4TH - Himalayan adventures

The British Museum should be early on in any New Year's list for an anthropologist about town, and today I'll be visiting their current exhibition, 'Between Tibet and Assam: Cultural Diversity in the Eastern Himalayas' which looks at the cultural differences and similarities between two tribes from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh - the Apatani and the Monpa. It includes contemporary and historical objects, ranging from paintings to textiles, as well as an audio recording of a ritual text connected to the Apatani Murung Festival. Entrance to the exhibition is FREE, it runs until April and there is an accompanying book to complement the collection.

MONDAY JANUARY 5TH - Mindful anthropology

Today I'm going to listen to a paper given by an anthropologist at a Psychiatry conference late last year. John Curran was speaking at a conference on 'Innovative Approaches in Mental Health Research' about his role as an anthropologist in a South London practice where he acts as a sort of cultural broker between patients and doctors, many of whom come from different social backgrounds. His talk, 'The anthropologist on call: using anthropology in everyday psychiatry' is an interesting example of anthropological techniques being applied in the 'real world' (whatever that means...) He discusses such important issues as the distinction between conceptions of 'disease' and 'illness', and how different medical terms are viewed differently according to an individual's cultural standpoint. There's also an interesting introduction given by anthropologist Sue Estroff available.

TUESDAY JANUARY 6TH - Healing words

Back down at the British Museum today for an interesting talk on 'Healing and the Spirit World of Asia', given by Anouska Komlosy. She is the Curator of Asian Ethnography at the museum, and is particularly focused on cross-border cultures. She obtained a PhD in Social Anthropology in 2002, after long-term fieldwork with the Theravada Buddhist Tai people of Yunnan Province, China, so she definitely knows her stuff. The talk lasts 45 minutes, and you can just drop in - it's in Room 24 at 13.15 - entrance is FREE.

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 7TH - An anthropological view on The Crunch

Today I'm going to check out the website of an extremely prescient anthropologist who has been predicting the current financial meltdown for over 3 years. Paul Jorion, a Belgian anthropologist (and apparent soothsayer), has published three books on the issue and writes regularly about it on his blogs, in both French and English. His most relevant published text, on the sub prime mortgage bubble in the USA, came out in January 2007 just before everything went a little pear-shaped. So if you want to know how and why the economy is affecting people, then his blog seems a good one to keep reading....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Diary for 18th December to 24th December 2008

THURSDAY 18TH DECEMBER - Andean adventures

If Andean activities are your thing, then today's trip is ideal - I'll be following the sound of pan pipes to attend a lecture on “Rampant Reproduction: Shifting Landscapes of Music ‘Piracy’ in the Bolivian Andes” at the City University Music Department in London from 14.00. The talk will be given by Henry Stobart, an ethnomusicologist (someone who studies the social and cultural aspects of music), who specialises in the highland music of rural Bolivia, and also has his own Andean band. The talk is in Room AG09, college building - see directions here - and in the meantime you can find out more about the subject on the British Forum for Ethnomusicology's website.

FRIDAY 19TH DECEMBER - Celebrating the credit crunch?

In an effort to alleviate the all-permeating economic gloom, this afternoon I'll be at the British Museum for a timely talk on 'Money and Celebration'. Given by Jennifer Adam, an expert on coins and medals, the talk lasts 45 minutes and will cover a range of settings in which currency has a more extensive role in society than a purely financial one. It begins at 13.15 in Room 68 - admission is FREE and you can just drop in. As a warm-up for the talk, you might also be interested to watch anthropologist Keith Hart's lecture on 'Money in the making of a World society' which was posted in full on youtube last week. Hart is a renowned academic who has written widely on economic anthropology - you can also see a lecture on the crises in anthropology and capitalism on his website here.

SATURDAY 20TH DECEMBER - A job for life

If the credit crunch has still got you worried about your future, then today I thought I'd put forward a bit of evidence that a degree in anthropology can help you be successful in the world outside academia. First up, have a read about Pippa Small, who after doing an MA in Anthropology, launched her own ethical jewelry company which sells her own designs alongside many by indigenous peoples, from Bolivian pendants strung on alpaca wool to gold-plated bracelets made by the Kuna Indians from Panama. Or there's Roberto Ricci - a human rights investigator, who uses anthropology in his work looking at rights abuses that have occurred in various places around the world, better to understand "the social reality in which actions occur". Both of them are good examples of how anthropological sensibilties can help set up very different career paths...

SUNDAY 21ST DECEMBER - Festive countdown

Since the prizes for the top anthropology blogs were announced a few weeks ago - as mentioned on this blog - there seems to have been something of an explosion in the publicity for anthropology in cyberspace. Today I'm going to have a look at some of the entries on this list of the top 100 anthropology blogs. (Scandalously, my travails make no appearance...!). Handily, the list is divided into thematic groups - from ethnography blogs, to ones on museums, to my particular favourite at number 43 - for those with a special interest in ancient dentition. Happy reading...

MONDAY 22ND DECEMBER - Jingle all the way

Whether it's Rudolph, Dancer, Prancer or Blitzen that's your favourite, you might be interested to have a Yuletide read of 'Reindeer People', an ethnography of indigenous Siberian people who use their reindeer not just for transport, but also have a spiritual relationship with them, viewing reindeer as mediators between the physical realm and the spiritual one. Indeed, this belief is the reason behind the popular imagining of reindeer flying - since it is thought to be able to transcend earthly reality. The anthropologist who wrote the book, Piers Vitesbsky, has worked with the Eveny people for over 20 years and the book has been praised widely both within and outside academia.

TUESDAY 23RD DECEMBER - Follow your nose, listen with your ears

This time of year is one where smells are all around us, and I'm not just talking about the stench of soggy feet in the morning rush hour. Today I'll be listening again to Thinking Allowed form last week, which featured anthropologist Rod Watson discussing the hidden social meanings of perfume with a fragrance expert. It was in response to a recently published book 'The Guide to Perfumes', which investigated what someone's chosen scent says about their class, self-perception and even their race. If you want to get your nose into a book about the subject, there's also anthropologist David Howes, ' Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell' available online.

WEDNESDAY 24TH DECEMBER - What really goes on down the chimney?

For last minute Christmas shopping/reading options, I think I might have found the perfect item. Daniel Miller's Unwrapping Christmas looks at how and why Christmas is celebrated in various social contexts from Sweden to the UK to Japan, and also delves into the relationship between Christmas and materialism, as well as the place of the family in Christmas celebrations. Miller is a specialist in material culture, and the ways in which people create relationships of love and care with objects. He is also one of the editors of a blog about all things related to material culture, which you can browse here. Ho ho ho...

No blog next week, see you in 2009!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Diary for 11th December to 17th December 2008

THURSDAY 11TH DECEMBER - Flagging up a new exhibit

On Thursday I'll be heading over to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge to have a look at their new exhibit. It's an eight-metre tall pouhaki, a flag pole-like structure carved from a single tree trunk, which was given to Prince Edward in 1920 by Tene Waitere (a famous Maori artist), but has long lain abandoned in a Portsmouth naval base. Last week the pouhaki was unveiled in a ceremony in which prayers of respect were said because "If the spirit does not settle, things can happen." It's the only one of its kind outside New Zealand and the oldest known in existence, so well worth a look - the museum is open Tuesday until Saturday between 10.30 and 16.30 - admission is FREE.

FRIDAY 12TH DECEMBER - Don't forget your hankerchief

On Friday I'll be at the Khalili Theatre in the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in Central London for their final anthropological film screening of term, which this week is Quand les Hommes Pleurant (When Men Weep). It's an award-winning work about the lives of North African migrants in Spain, exploring issues such as discrimination, labour and marginalisation. The film is being shown to provoke discussion about how the subjects are portrayed as victims, and whether that matters. The film begins at 13.00 and entrance is FREE - you just need to pick up a visitor sticker at the main entrance and find your way downstairs...

SATURDAY 13TH DECEMBER - Academic cinema

A real treat in store this Saturday as I'll be visiting the inaugural celebration of a decade of audiovisual practice-based phDs from across the UK. Drawing on anthropology, cultural studies, film and new media, Viva Viva, at the University of Westminster, is an exhibition of films and installations together with their accompanying written theses. Screening today from 13.00 onwards are three anthropology-inspired pieces: Transfiction, Domov and Mirror Mirror. Their subject matter ranges from femininty in the post-socialist Czech Republic (Domov) to work inspired by famous anthropological film-maker of the 1950s Jean Rouch (Transfiction & Mirror, Mirror). Those latter two emphasise the process of film-making as a collaborative creation between film-maker and 'subject'. On Saturday, there is also a student symposium, to which all are welcome - see here for more details. The exhibition is FREE, and full directions can be found here.

SUNDAY 14TH DECEMBER - Snacking on Ethnography

On Sunday I'll be browsing the interweb and viewing some of the work of a cyber-anthropologist who goes by the name of Ethnosnacker. Using his own youtube channel, he aims to "expose, breakdown and reconstruct ethnographic research or commercial anthropology for those who want to understand it better". His work is an interesting example of how anthropology is increasingly 'used' for commercial purposes. There is plenty of debate about whether this is an appropriate use for the discipline - his view seems to be that ethnography is suitable in any situation where it can help bring meaning to an event or activity....You can watch a introduction to the site here, as well as several interviews that both support and question his work.

MONDAY 15TH DECEMBER - Castanets a-go-go

Castanets and dancing shoes are the name of the game tonight as I'll be over at SOAS' Brunei Gallery for a night of music from Morocco. It's all part of the touring exhibition Moroccan Memories - look out for more dates around the country in the new year - and to launch its three-day stay at SOAS the Harir Band and Gnawa Blues will be playing out. Gnawa is traditionally performed as trance music in healing ceremonies across North Africa. The accompanying exhibition, whish also features films screenings and discussions, is at SOAS until 18th December - the website also has a wealth of resources including video and oral history to complement the live exhibition. The music this evenign begins at 19.00 and you can reserve a ticket online - entrance is FREE.

TUESDAY 16TH DECEMBER - Peace at last

A warm fireside and a cup of something hot today as I'll be settling down next to the radio and listening into Radio 4's Book of the Week, which features a Massobs text (those pioneers of everyday anthropology), called Nella's Last Peace. Read by none other than Imelda Staunton, the book recounts the daily life of a housewife, Nella, in Barrow-in-Furness, who regularly submitted her diaries to the Mass Observation offices in London. The book narrates her hopes and fears for the post-war world. It will be broadcast Monday to Friday at 9.45 and repeated each night at 23.30, as well as online on the Radio 4 website. You can buy a copy of the original book here.


On my brief trip to Paris last week I also came across an exhibition being put on by visual anthropologist Elhum Shakerifar (she studied the MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths). If you happen to be off to the French capital this week then you might also like to pop into 'Secrets de Bam' as well as the other anthropological bonbons I put on the blog last week. It's a collection of photographs from the Iranian town of Bam, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 2003. Shakerifar collaborated with some of the residents of Bam to put together a selection of commemorative portraits.The exhibition runs until 30th December and is open from Tuesday to Saturday between 12.00 and 19.00 at La Galerie Associative on 13 Rue de Cambodge 75020 - for more information email

Thursday, December 04, 2008



Hi everyone,
Unfortunately the screening at UCL of Holy Men & Fools has been cancelled - many apologies for the late notice - it has only just been brought to my attention.

See you next week,

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Diary for 4th December to 10th December 2008

THURSDAY 4TH DECEMBER - Fooling around on film

On Thursday I'm going to see Holy Men and Fools, a film made by Mike Yorke, who worked for many years at the BBC producing anthropological films. This feature-length documentary traces the pilgrimage of Hindu ascetics across the Himalayas, and seeks to understand their life of devotion and penance. Mike, who currently teaches visual anthropology at UCL and also sits on the Royal Anthropological Institute's Film Board, will be around for a Q&A afterwards - he is always an entertaining speaker. (You can also see some interviews with him here). The film begins at 18.30 in the Anthropology Department at University College London - for more details you can contact Dr. Paulo Favero on

FRIDAY 5TH DECEMBER - The grass is always greener (on the other side of the screen)

Tonight I'm heading down to SOAS to see 'Grass', a film made in 1924, about the spring migration of the Bakhtiari nomads of Southwest Iran, who traveled between the Khuzestan plains near the Gulf and the Zagros Mountains. The film-makers (who were later made their own version of King Kong!) were on their way to India and came across the Bakhtiari by chance while held up by the uneasy political situation in southern Iran at the time. The film is thought to be one of the earliest 'ethnographic' films, but has been widely criticised for the stereotypical way in which it depicts nomadic culture. It is showing in the Khalili Gallery at SOAS in London from 18.30, admission is FREE, and there will be a Q&A afterwards.

SATURDAY 6TH DECEMBER - Long lost images

On Saturday I'm heading down to a fascinating exhibition of photographs entitled "Tribal Portraits: Vintage & Contemporary Photographs from the African Continent". It includes over 200 rare images dating from 1865 to the present day, some of which have not been seen for many years as originals. Whilst the techniques of representation employed by the photographers (as always) are up for discussion, they are a stunning collection of images, as you can see from the few examples here. Many of the images were produced by or for anthropologists, and are at Bernard J Shapero Rare Books, 32 St George Street, London W1S 2EA from now until 23rd December....don't miss it.

SUNDAY 7TH DECEMBER - Lounging with Longinotto

Another pair of great films showing this afternoon, with the screening of Divorce Iranian Style and the lesser-known Runaway, both directed by Kim Longinotto at the Curzon Soho's Doc Days in London. Longinotto will be hosting a Q&A afterwards, which will no doubt be a chance to find out more about her observational style of film-making, similar to the way many ethnographic film-makers operate. You can watch Divorce Iranian Style on 4docs if you can't make it down, as well as an interview with the woman herself. The films begin at 12.00, and tickets cost £8.

MONDAY 8TH DECEMBER - A skeletal welcome

Concentration required to start the week, as today I'll be attending the 2008 Wellcome Lecture, this year being given by Professor Luigi Capasso on the subject of 'Paleobiology of the victims of the volcanic eruption of Herculaneum". Professor Capasso is an expert in Physical Anthropology from Italy, and he will be discussing what the preserved skeletons from Herculaneum (just down the road from Pompeii) can tell us about the physical conditions of Romans at the time of Vesuvius' eruption in 79AD. The talks beings at 18.00 at the Wellcome Collection, in north London, and entrance is FREE. Places should be booked in advance though, by emailing or calling 020 7611 8744.


I'm hot-footing it over to Paris today for pre-xmas minibreak to check out an exhibition that comes highly recommended. 'Native Land', as far as I can tell from my rusty French, is a collection of films that seek to give voice to those people across the globe who have strong ties to their land and do not want to be relocated. It includes testimony from the Yanomani people of the Amazon, who have been widely studied by anthropologists over the last century. You can view a trailer of the main film 'Hear them speak' on the website. Directions to the exhibition at the Fondation Cartier, which costs to enter, can be found here.

WEDNESDAY 10TH DECEMBER - Happy birthday to an anthropological Grandfather

Today I'll be raising a glass to Claude Levi-Strauss, the French anthropologist who was at the forefront of the theoretical movement called structuralism, which flourished in the 1970s. Last week he celebrated his 100th birthday to almost cultish adulation. Structuralism, although now outdated for its overly rigid mathematical rationalisations of society, was important for turning anthropology away from a focus on traditional 'primitive' societies, to look at the complex inter-relationships at the centre of every community. I'll also be sticking around in Paris after my trip yesterday to visit Quai Branly - the Parisian anthropology museum whose structure and layout were inspired by the endeavours of Levi-Strauss, and includes ethnographic objects from his 1930s visit to South America.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Diary for 27th November to 3rd December 2008

THURSDAY 27TH NOVEMBER - Not a Waste of Time

Tonight I'll be back down at the Horniman Museum for an event linked to the India Recycled exhibition that I've mentioned previously on the blog. It's a collection of images that illustrate the journey of clothes donated to UK charity shops, which are recycled and re-sold in the markets of Northern India, and which on the flip side also looks at Indian saris and textiles that are recycled as western fashion items. From 19.00 exhibition organisers - anthropologist Lucy Norris and photographer Tim Mitchell - will be discussing photographs from the collection with photo historian Helen James. It all takes place in the Music Gallery Performance Space and admission is FREE.

SATURDAY 29TH NOVEMBER - Musical interludes

On Saturday I'll be spending a tuneful day in the company of those present at 'Musical Anthropologies' Study Day run by the Royal Musical Association. The event is in honour of Georgina Born, an anthropologist and musician, who has just been awarded the Dent Medal for academic achievement. The day is made up of a series of workshops, kicking off for example with a session on "Musical Publics And Spaces: Views From An Urban Ethnomusicology" - you can view a full programme with abstracts here. It lasts from 10.30 until 17.00 in Room N336 at the Institute of Musical Research, Senate House - directions available here. Admission is £10 (plus another tenner if you require lunch) and it might be a good idea to reserve a place by emailing Valerie James at

SUNDAY 30TH NOVEMBER - Sizing up the competition

In the history of obscure awards, the announcement last week of the best anthropology blogs in the world might just mark a milestone. Sadly, the travels of yours truly did not make the running, but I did find out about a few more anthropologists in cyberspace through the list, and their thoughts are well worth checking out. The 'Most excellent blog', according to the ceremony at the American Anthropology Association's annual shindig, is 'Culture Matters' - an Australian site that looks at the practical application of anthropology to the world around us. You an view the full list of nominees here, as well as entrants for the even more prestigious 'Most Excellent Uncategorizable Digital Thing-a-ma-job for Anthropology...

MONDAY 1ST DECEMBER - Childish debates

Today I thought I'd ponder the thoughts of an evolutionary anthropologist who appeared on the radio last week. Dr Justin Barrett from Oxford University was arguing that it is the natural tendency of children to believe in God, i.e. that they do not learn about a higher power from social or familial indoctrination, rather instinctually. Dr.Barrett was appearing in preparation for a lecture delivered at a Cambridge University Symposium on whether it is religion or atheism that is learned as we grow up. You can read an article about the
discussion here, or listen again to their debate here.

TUESDAY 2ND DECEMBER - The wheels on the bus go round and round

Next time you're stuck in a queue you might want to consider the findings of American researchers that “The queue is a social system". Apparently, the academics behind the study, who have a background in anthropology and social psychology, have conducted a thorough survey of U2 concert queues and come to the conclusion that the fact most fans keep their position in the line is because "Any threat to the established queue might create chaos to the whole system and threaten one’s own position". Their work sounds remarkably like a group of fans finding an excuse to go to lots of gigs, but is an entertaining piece more here...

WEDNESDAY 3RD DECEMBER - Photos with a Voice

On Wednesday I'll be flicking through a recently released book called 'New Londoners'. It's a collection of photography that's been put together, with all the images taken by a young people who have recently arrived in the UK from countries like Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The photos are a fascinating insight into their different views of their new place of residence in the UK as they await decisions about their future from the authorities. A few of the images are available to view on the web, and you can learn more about the project on c0-organisers DOST or Photovoice's website. Many of the themes are common to visual anthropology, in their focus on representation and perspective of place and people. If you require more information, or want to get hold of a copy of the book (selling at £19.99) then you can contact:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diary for 20th November to 26th November 2008

THURSDAY 20TH NOVEMBER - Snakes and faith

I'll be starting my week listening back to Radio 4's Book of the Week, which is currently featuring five installments from an American missionary's reflections on his life living amongst the Piraha tribe in Brazil. His book, 'Don't sleep there are snakes' is particularly interesting because he went there as a linguist and a missionary, but returned deeply changed by the people he lived with. It's a fascinating example of how one's preconceptions can be deeply changed by the experience of fieldwork, whether anthropological or otherwise. The series also includes original sound recordings from his time in the jungle, and there are a selection of photos about the community here.

FRIDAY 21ST NOVEMBER - Anthropology at large

Tonight I'm going to listen to the final episode in another radio series that has been running this week. The Essay, on Radio 3 at 23.00 has been focusing on anthropology, with a series of programmes entitled 'The Lives of Others'. Each night has featured a different anthropologist talking about their work, from Maurice Bloch on Madagascan campfires, John Gledhill on studying the Mexican Zapatistas to Rebecca Cassidy on the social life of betting shops. The programmes are fantastic for their concise and clear introductory approaches to the subject, drawing on a diverse range of intriguing examples. you can listen again to all of them online.

SATURDAY 22ND NOVEMBER - Visual Exercise

If you've got an empty day today why not have a look at some of the latest batch of films produced by students on the MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths. Ranging from an experimental documentary about communal exercise in China - 'In motion' - to a portrait of a blind shepherd in Ireland - 'Happens to be Blind' - you will find the films a good cross-secton of the kind of subjects and themes anthropologists investigate. You can also watch films and photographic collections from previous years' students, as well as learn much more about the department, on the website.

SUNDAY 23RD NOVEMBER - Cultural thinking online

On Sunday I want to check out a new online resource launched by the London School of Economics in collaboration with the Institut Jean Nicod based in Paris. The International Cognition & Culture Institute (ICCI) is accessible to all, and is comprised of a blog intended to provoke discussion as well as a lot of information on the subfield. Cognition and anthropology essentially relates to the relationship between thought and culture, and although it is one of the trickier areas of anthropology to get to grips with, it's definitely worth the thinking time you might need to invest...

MONDAY 24TH NOVEMBER - Populating the cinema

The 'We the Peoples' Film Festival kicks off today, with the screening of 23 short films commemorating the etablishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The festival exists, in collaboration with the UN, to draw attention to many 'development' issues occurring around the globe. The topic of development often intersects with the concerns of anthropology and anthropologists, so the films showing over the five days should definitely be worth viewing, ranging as they do from the Kosovan 'freedom train' to the stories of Ugandan child soldiers. Many of the films are screened at universities and are FREE admission. See the website for a full programme.

TUESDAY 25TH NOVEMBER - Land of a thousand (Pop) Stars

This afternoon I will be going along to a seminar on The Thousand Stars Rift Valley Music Festival, being given by film-maker Nico Lewis and anthropologists Ricardo Leizoala (from Goldsmiths Centre for Visual Anthropology). They will be talking about their recent filmic research, in which they have documented the multitude of different ethnic groups represented at the festival, and how the groups come together over the days from very disparate areas. The seminar takes place at 17.15 in Room L67 in SOAS; it is worth getting in touch with Angela Impey ( beforehand if you wish to attend. You can also watch plenty of footage from previous festivals on the website.

WEDNESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER - Filming the Ainu anew

Another fantastic screening 'Upsatirs at the RAI' (Royal Anthropological Institute) today, where they will be showing some films on the Ainu people, using material recorded by Neil Gordon Munro in the early 20th century. Much of this footage is in the RAI archive, including video of the Ainu Bear Sending ceremony, the Iomande. The film is being shown to coincide with a visit from Japanese project partners, and so will be followed by a discussion with Professor Junko Uchida, Kazuo Okada and Ainu representatives Koichi Kaizawa and Shiro Kayano. They are also bringing a recently discovered version of one of Munro's films from the 1930s, and will be discussing the relevance of the films for Ainu people today. The event begins at 18.00 and entrance is FREE.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Diary for 13th November to 19th November 2008


This evening I will be heading down to a film screening at University College London, where they are showing an autumn series of ethnographic films. Tonight 'Ngat is Dead: Studying Mortuary Traditions' will be showing, a film about Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto, who has been adopted by a local family on the South Pacific Island of Baluan. It's an example of how the process of ethnographic film-making can become as important as the film itself in terms of the relationship between anthropologists and their subjects. You can view a clip on this website, and read more about the director here, who will be present at the screening. The film begins at 18.30 in the Archaeology Lecture Theatre at 14 Taviton Street, WC1H OBW - to find out more details you can contact the organiser Paolo Favero on Entrance is FREE.

FRIDAY 14TH NOVEMBER - A two-stringed fiddle

Friday night party zone this evening as I'll be at the 'Qobyz: Spiritual Journeys Through Music' concert at the Royal Academy of Music in Central London. Raushan Orazbareva, no less, will be performing - reputedly one of the world's finest players of the qobyz, a Kazakhstani violin-like instrument, supposedly encompassed by a shamanic aura. It was suppressed under the Soviet regime and has only in the last couple of decades begun to re-emerge as an important and recognisable part of Kasakh culture. Other instruments will also be on show, all of which makes you think how important music can be in cultural identity - you can read more in books like this. The concert begins at 18.30, and you need reserve your FREE place beforehand by emailing

SATURDAY 15TH NOVEMBER - Going up in Smoke

The weekend gets a fiery beginning as I'll be at an exhibition in the Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London featuring the ethnographic film 'Smoke', about fish-smoking in a small town in Holland. The film, which is part of the Royal Anthropological Institute's film library, uses archival footage combined with contemporary film to depict the lives of the fishermen's lifestyles on the Dutch coast. It is part of a larger exhibition under the same title all about the presence, and also disappearance, of 'smoke' from UK society! You can catch the exhibition at The Pump Room - entrance is FREE - until 12th December.

SUNDAY 16TH NOVEMBER - Remains on the Radio

I'll be whiling away the Sunday hours by catching up on a spot of Radio 4's Thinking Allowed. It recently featured anthropologist Adam Kuper discussing a new book about the ways we treat human remains in preparation for display in museums. Together with the book's author, he was discussing how and why museums are now involved in the 'repatriation' of remains to their original communities. Following that, I'll be tuning into the subsequent week's edition, which paid tribute to recently deceased Studs Terkel, the Chicago DJ whose shows operated as a kind of everyday ethnography of the city, through his interviews with ordinary working Americans.

MONDAY 17TH NOVEMBER - Crunching the numbers

Gillian Tett is an interesting journalist who I;ve mentioned before on the blog - now assistant editor at The Financial Times, she also has a phd in social anthropology from Cambridge University on Tajikstani goat-herders. In a recent article in The Guardian she pointed out the usefulness of the subject to her job, and the financial world in general. Tett thinks that by adopting an overall view of the financial sector - including cultural and social factors as well as economic ones - you can better understand the way it works. Such is the 'holistic' way that anthropologists work... it even enabled Tett to predict the current meltdown long before many other experts. Read it 'with interest'...

TUESDAY 18TH NOVEMBER - Read all about it!

Anthropology is a much more well-known subject over in the USA than it is in good old Blighty, and that is perhaps why an online magazine called Anthronow has just been launched over there. Run by three anthropologists, it aims to bring anthropology together with the general public by combining the discipline's theoretical observations with more popular topics. Articles in the first issue include pieces about the growth of Chinese cuisine in New York and US culture's obsession with breasts. You can read more about the rationale behind the project will be interesting to see the reception it has amongst anthropologists and the wider public alike.

WEDNESDAY 19TH NOVEMBER - River of death

Another great film is showing this afternoon down at SOAS in London. Forest of Bliss, directed by Robert Gardner, has been somewhat controversial in anthropological circles over the years, with debates whether it is 'ethnographic' or not. Although such arguments often become fairly circular, what cannot be doubted is the film-making skill behind the piece, which depicts the Indian city of Benares, a place organised around the rhythms of Hindu funereal ceremonies. The film contains no explanation other than the images on screen, so it is very much left up to the viewer's interpretation of the various metaphors on screen - whether that makes it more or less impressive as a portrayal of the society is something you will have to debate as you are watching. The film begins at 13.00 in the Khalili Lecture Theatre and admission is FREE.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Diary for 6th to 12th November

THURSDAY 6th NOVEMBER - A Stitch in Time

For centuries different groups of women around the world have been involved in knitting or sewing . If you have recently been to Borders bookstore you may have come across a knitting group in Starbucks, sipping their coffees while knitting and chatting away. Today I have decided to create my own English needle masterpiece. I will be joining a group of enthusiasts at the Asian Women's Resource Centre, for a workshop led by Sophie Lond and Kate Farrer from the Royal School of Needlework. The workshop runs from 11:00am to 3:30pm, and will teach traditional English surface stitches. The workshop is part of a lottery funded project called a stitch in time. Materials for the workshop are provided, and entrance is free. Booking however is essential. To book please

FRIDAY 7th NOVEMBER - Unlocking Conflicted Identities

Tonight I am heading to the British Museum's BP lecture theatre to listen to the internationally renowned anthropologist Maurice Godelier. Professor Godelier is a specialist in societies of Oceania. In 1995 he created the Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur L'Oceanie (CREDO), and has since gone on to hold many distinguished positions in the field of anthropology. He has written widely and has received numerous awards for his contribution to the social sciences. Tonight's lecture at the BM is entitled: Community, Society, Culture:Three Keys to Understanding Today's Conflicted Identities. The lecture starts at 5:30pm and there will be refreshments afterwards. Entrance is free. For more information please contact the Royal Anthropological Institute at:

SATURDAY 8th NOVEMBER - Indulging in Film

The 22nd Leeds International Film Festival 2008 is a visual feast for anyone interested in contemporary films and film making. Running until the 17th of November, the festival will host over 200 screenings from around the world in venues all across the city. The festival has various themes including : Cinema Versa ' for documentaries and underground voices, mavericks and nonconformists', many of which focus on music as a theme of exploration. For more information on the programme and how to buy tickets, visit the festival's main website.

SUNDAY 9th NOVEMBER - Birth Rites

There are many rituals and cultural practices that are practiced when women give birth; these practices can be dependent on a number of interrelated aspects: ethnic background, gender roles, environment, economic factors or religious beliefs. Birth Rites is an exhibition at the Manchester Museum that uses artwork, film, objects and illustrated books to critically engage with questions such as: Are all births equal? How free are women to give birth in a way they want where they want?. The exhibition concentrates on childbirth in a Western context. Entrance is free. The exhibition runs until November 30th. Click here for more information.

MONDAY 10th NOVEMBER - The British Sari Story

What does the design, fabric and patterns of a sari tell us about the person who is wearing it? Today I'm heading to the Charnwood Museum in Loughborough to see a fascinating exhibit on traditional saris from South Asia and a new brand of saris reflecting British Asian life and identity. The exhibit is based on the British Sari Story, a project inspired by the work of Helen Scalway, an artist and researcher who spent three months drawing what she found instide a sari shop in Tooting, London. For more information about the project take a look at this British Arts website, the website also includes a picture gallery as well as downloadable British Sari Education Pack. The exhibit runs until November 30th.

TUESDAY 11th NOVEMBER - Celebrating Student Ethnographic Films

Tonight I am going to Goldsmiths, University of London, for the opening of their international student film festival entitled: Constructing Bonds: The Politics of Relation in Ethnographic Representation. Organised by Goldsmith's Anthropology Society and funded by C-SAP, the festival runs over two days and hosts a range of interesting films exploring themes such as the anti-consumerist activities of Freegans, and constructing beauty and identity in favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The screenings take place in the Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre from 6-9:30 pm. Entrance is free and open to all. For more information take a look at this website.

WEDNESDAY 12th NOVEMBER - Cheka Kidogo: 'Laugh a Little'

Today I'm going to walk by the Southbank to check out the photographic exhibit Cheka Kidogo which means 'laugh a little' in Swahili. British portrait photographer and film director Rankin, who is best known for his fashion photography, travelled to Mugunga refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Oxfam. He photographed some of the displaced thousands who have faced enormous atrocities, violence, rape, starvation, and conflict. He has sought to capture their dignity, individual personalities and stories through his pictures. You can listen to an interview with Rankin here where he talks about the people he met and the spirit he has tried to capture with his exhibit. Oxfam's website has a large sample of the exhibition online, including videos of individuals who were photographed and videos behind the scenes of the project. The exhibition is open to everyone and is at the Southbank until December 21st.