Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Diary for May 29th to June 4th 2008

THURSDAY MAY 29TH - Consuming consumer society

This evening I'm heading down to East London's HOST Gallery for an exhibition and talk with artist Adam Hinton. His latest collection of photographs looks at the impact of consumer society on China, and the way in which the lives of those in a rapidly changing '21st century metropolis' have changed as a result. At 18.30, there is also an opportunity to hear Adam in discussion with Chris Wright, a lecturer on the MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths University. They will be talking about the common anthropological topic of 'commodity fetishism' (essentially the desire for consumable goods) by comparing the photographs with some films made by visual anthropologist Martin Hampton - entitled 'Possessed' - about obsessive hoarders. Admission for the evening is £5 and you can reserve your place by emailing - the exhibition as a whole runs until 7th June.

FRIDAY MAY 30TH - Telling tales

Tonight I'm off to another installment of the Storytelling event that I mentioned on last week's blog. At the Barbican, Dovie Thomason will be narrating Native American tales which explore the relationships between men and women, and women and their selves. Dovie has won awards for her storytelling and the manner in which she manages to "speak to listeners of today in the voices of the past". You can read more about her here. The event - 'Tales of Lakota Women' - begins at 19.30 in The Pit - tickets are £9, or £6 for students. For another example of what myths and stories can tell you about a culture, you might be interested to read more about the work of Professor Chris Knight, an anthropologist from the University of East London, who has written extensively about the importance of fairytales in society.

SATURDAY 31ST MAY - Webnography and the firelight

Following on from yesterday's storytelling spectacular, today I'll be pondering a new piece of research that suggests the recent explosion of social networking sites is a return to the hearth places of our ancestors. Just as, back in the old days, people gathered around the campfire to tell each other about their lives, today's communities increasingly use the internet to communicate similar messages - through facebook, myspace and the like. You can read the full text of anthropologist Jenny Ryan's research on her 'Virtual Campfire' website in which she discusses the interaction of these 'digital natives', and also look out for regular updates to her thinking on her blog, or as she calls it her 'webnography'. Interesting stuff...just don't burn your marshmallows.

SUNDAY 1ST JUNE - Feast of films

Another batch of films on today as part of the LIDF encore at Roxy Bar & Screen near London Bridge. First up is 'Beautiful Country' all about the toxic waste that's being illegally dumped in Italy’s beautiful Campania region. The film follows one man's quest to cut through the infamous Italian bureaucracy and change things around.
After that, in Session 2, is La Americana which follows a Bolivian woman who travels illegally to the USA to try and earn enough money to pay for her daughter's medical treatment. It's followed by Tehran Backyard - a look at the other end of life - as an elderly cleaning lady works to raise enough money to feed her large family. The screenings run from 15.00pm to 18.30 and a single ticket gets you into both sessions. Tickets are only £3, available in advance online at or on the door.

MONDAY 2ND JUNE - Anthropology in Wales

It's a while away but I thought I'd give a heads up for the Wales Anthropology Day 2008 that's being held later this month at the University of Wales, since you might like to get planning if you're interested in attending. It's a chance for those who might like to study anthropology at university to learn about the many different branches of the subject, and go along to workshops where anthropologists will talk about their work, ranging from 'bling culture', to life as a army marine and shamanism in indigenous society. There is also a film screening at the end of the day, going behind the scenes to discuss the merits of the recent, and very popular, TV series 'Tribe'. The event is free to attend - for more information you can Email, otherwise just fill in the booking form online and you're ready to head for the valleys!

TUESDAY 3RD JUNE - Boxing clever

Today I'm going to listen again to last week's Thinking Allowed on Radio 4 that continued its series of looks at urban environments. In discussion with ethnographer Loic Waquant, the programme examined the renowned Harlem district of New York City, and whether the way it is commonly described as a 'ghetto' stands up to closer scrutiny. Professor Waquant will also be talking about his research into boxing - for several years he was an amateur fighter - initially as a way of conducting ethnographic research in certain areas of Chicago. His lengthy (ten year!) study in and around the sport was an attempt to understand why so many young men loved the sport - ultimately he concluded it was "the sheer sensuous, aesthetic and moral experience of being embedded in that universe". You can read more about him here, as well as have a look at his book on boxing online here.

WEDNESDAY 4TH JUNE - Migrating to the Tate

Today I'll be popping along to an interesting looking exhibition of photography and film that's opening at Tate Britain in London. 'This is that Place' is a selection of work from Mitra Tabrizian, an Iranian-British artist who focuses on themes of nomadism, migration and homeland...both areas of study common to anthropology. Such spheres of society - where people are living on margins or 'faultlines', are often crucial for understanding the wider functioning of a community so it should be fascinating to see some of these works, many of which come from Tehran - a place more sterotyped than most in the mainstream media. The exhibition runs from today until mid-August, and is open daily. You might also be interested in this book of Tabrizian's work, and it's well worth checking out her website which has a fair amount of her work uploaded.

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