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: