Thursday, January 10, 2008

Diary for 10th January to 16th January 2008

THURSDAY 10TH JANUARY - Reading about films

Today I'm going to purchase a new book which offers an introduction to documentary film. Cunningly entitled 'Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction', the text provides a concise history of how the documentary medium has changed over the years, including a section on its use in anthropology. It discusses several films studied by anthropology students, perhaps most famously Nanook of the North (you can view an extract online here) and also looks at the different forms in which documentary has been created from artistically, to as propaganda and advocacy. Such issues of representation - whether in film or in text - are a vitally important part of anthropological theory, so for those looking for an introduction to the subject this looks ideal - the book is priced at £6.99, available from the Oxford University Press.

FRIDAY 11TH JANUARY - The Pet Ship Boys?

Tonight I'm going along to the Barbican in East London for a special screening of Battleship Potemkin, the famous Russian propaganda film from 1925. The film is studied on many visual anthropology courses as an example of the use of film for political ends in society. Tonight it will be accompanied by a live soundtrack courtesy of the Pet Shop Boys - you can listen to some clips on the Barbican website - so it's also an interesting example of how political texts can change meaning and become part of art and popular culture. If you can't make it to the Barbican (the show starts at 21.00 and tickets are priced at £20 upwards) then you can also watch the film online here, though without the Pet Shop Boys!

SATURDAY 12TH JANUARY - Films from the web

Today I'll be browsing the 4DOCS website to have a look at the new films that were entered into a recent competition they held, around the theme of 'Outside Story'. Unsurprisingly, given that anthropologists often spend their time looking at the 'outside story', there were a few entries that classified themselves as ethnographic films, including this one containing the reflections of a Kiowa Indian on his ethnic identity: 'Where the Buffalo Roam'. To view more entries, you can sort the film catalogue by theme, and choose 'ethnography'. Happy viewing!

SUNDAY 13TH JANUARY - From Russia with love

Today I'm heading down to the Russian Winter Festival in Trafalgar Square, to sample some of the finest music, performance, food and drink the country has to offer. Highlights of the day, which runs from 12.00 until 19.30, include military marching bands, traditional folk music and Russian - 'blinis' and 'pirozhkis' - pies and pancakes respectively... The event in Trafalgar Square is just one of several events celebrating the culture of Russia - for example there's also a dance show on in Hammersmith on Saturday night. To find out more and view the complete listings, have a look at the official website here.

MONDAY 14TH JANUARY - New anthropology websites!

Come Monday I want to have a look at the recently relaunched 'Visual Anthropology Net' website, which has just been revamped to make it more user-friendly. The site includes reviews of films and books on all things visual and anthropological, as well as news of interesting screenings, festivals and publications. It is also linked to an organisation called Ethnodoc, which has just begun to put ethnographic films on its website for members to watch - subscription is FREE!

TUESDAY 15TH JANUARY - Ethiopian Encounters

On Tuesday I'm off to have a look at a new exhibition at The Fitzwiliam Musuem in Cambridge, called Ethiopian Encounters. It includes a series of watercolour paintings made by the British explorer William Cornwallis Harris of the various people he encountered on a mission to Ethiopia in the 1840s. It should be interesting not only because they are some of the earliest pictures of this social group in existence, but also to look at the way people were represented in imagery back then, as compared to now. The exhibition is open from Tuesday until Sunday until 17.00 and entrance is FREE. Look out also for a series of related talks, workshops and events.

WEDNESDAY 16TH JANUARY - What is change?

This afternoon I'm going to a talk in the Institute for Social Change at Manchester University, which is part of the Social Sciences Faculty and linked to Harvard in the USA. Professor Mary Waters from Harvard will be giving a talk about social change and the challenges faced by all levels of society in being part of, and managing 'change'. Social change is a topic that has been debated by anthropologists for many years, because it is often leads to overly neat theories about the structure of societies completely unraveling!
The Institute for Social Change is mainly concerned with how Governments can deal with change, rather than from a bottom-up point of view, but nonetheless the talk should definitely be worth hearing. It takes place in Room G.030 in the Arthur Lewis building at 16.00 - and it's probably worth phoning ahead to check there will be space.

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