Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Diary for 1st May to 7th May 2008

THURSDAY 1ST MAY - Film in fragments

As anthropology has changed over the years, it has become more and more concerned with the relationship between itself, its subjects, and its audience. Tonight I'm going along to an evening called Docufragmentary - an interactive film experience that explores such theoretical issues by breaking down the boundaries between film and viewer. The idea (I think!) is that the audience will be more aware of their interpretation of the film, as well as the interconnectedness of various different parts of society, and how they impact upon a community. The project is centred around the activism of the Brazilian Landless movement. After the film, the artist Nina Simoes will be talking with another film-maker, William Raban, and the exhibition itself goes on until 16th May. To attend tonight you need to head along to the London College of Communication with a print-out of this invitation and be prepared for something different.

FRIDAY 2ND MAY - Watching the English

Since St.George's Day a little over a week ago, that heady celebration of all things English, I've been looking into a new photography project called 'We English'. It's a year-long journey the length and breadth of England by image-maker Simon Roberts, who has previously documented Russia with his camera, and it aims to understand how people "derive meaning and identity" from their leisure time and community activities. Simon will be attending a series of local events across the country in 2008 (you can suggest your own on his ideas page), and you can view pictures along the way on the website. National identity is, of course, a hotly disputed matter...for an interesting introduction to a populist-anthropology view of this green and pleasant land, it might be worth having a look at 'Watching the English' by Kate Fox.

SATURDAY 3RD MAY - Why study anthropology?!?

If my weekly ramblings aren't enough to convince you of the wealth of interesting, inspirational and socially important opportunities offered by anthropology then you might find it useful to check out the following guide to anthropology, published in The Guardian last week. Although I would say anthropology offers a slightly more involved process than 'people-watching' from a cafe, the article is useful in pointing out the skills and career options offered by the subject, as well as the variety of subject matter on offer: "from the music of African pygmies one day and the corporate culture of the car industry the next". Find out more about about some of the places where you can study anthropology here, and don't forget to sign up for this year's London Anthropology Day which I mentioned last week on the blog.

SUNDAY 4TH MAY - Capturing Colombia

Following on from a photographic trip round England (and Russia) on Friday, today I'm off - at least in the form of visual inspiration - to Colombia. 'Once more, with feeling' is a collection of film and photography on show at The Photographers' Gallery in Central London that highlights Colombia's recent history, embracing depictions of the country's notorious violence, but also the humour and energy of its youth. It should be an interesting comparison to the We-English project, especially since it is a collaboration of different artists all with their respective takes on Colombian society. The Photographers' Gallery is open daily, admission is FREE and the exhibition runs until 15th June.

MONDAY 5TH MAY - Inspirational anthropology

Today I'm going to read more about the life and times of an inspiring French anthropologist who passed away last week. Germaine Tillion combined her anthropology - she was based for some time at the famous Musee de l'homme in Paris - with operating as a resistance fighter during the Second World War. Her work is an interesting example of how anthropology can tie in with much wider political concerns, and also be of benefit to increase understanding between communities. For instance, she once said; "What made me lucid is ethnography. From the start it taught me to respect other people’s culture. We are all walled gardens that must, paradoxically, communicate with others. You need to open the doors a bit, and always keep a corner where weeds can grow." In other words, she thought that anthropology was a vitally important tool in combating ignorance and giving voice to the voiceless - stirring words indeed...

TUESDAY 6TH MAY - Women at work

On Tuesday I want to go to a film screening down at Goldsmiths University that's being partly organised by an anthropologist, John Hutnyk, from the Centre for Cultural Studies there. 'Maquilapolis' is about the lives of Mexican workers in the maquiladores (multinational factories) close to the US border, and is part of the 'We are all illegals' film season that has been running for some time there. Like many anthropological films, its production was a collaboration between the film-makers and the contributors - the factory workers and community organisers themselves. The issues of labour, globalisation and identity that it analyses are also very relevant to any budding anthropologist. The screening begins at 18.00 in the Small Hall Cinema and entrance is FREE.

WEDNESDAY 7TH MAY - Magic and amulets

Tonight I'm off to a book launch at the Institute of Jewish Studies in University College London. Maureen Bloom, an anthropologist, will be talking about her new book, 'Jewish Mysticism and Magic: an Anthropological Perspective'. The book is a study of Jewish rites and rituals, including the importance of sacrifice, amulets and naming in Judaism. There is a reception beginning at 18.15 in the Terrace restaurant followed by Maureen's talk at 18.45 in the Gustave Tuck lecture theatre - entrance is FREE.

Also today, consider heading along to the Birkbeck College Open Evening - the college runs a variety of anthropology courses both as part of an undergraduate degree course and on an evening class diploma basis for those of you with less time on your hands! You can book online here - the event is being held at the Royal National Hotel in Central London.

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