Saturday, September 17, 2011


Calling all sport fans! Do you have objects from your past that hold special memories? Then share your stories with the world!

In anticipation of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the RAI's Education Department has launched an oral histories project called Blast from the Past: connecting people through material objects related to sports, games and play.

The Blast from the Past project aims to:

• promote public engagement with the RAI’s Education Outreach Programme

• provide a platform for people to share stories in relation to sport, games and play and become actively involved in anthropology

• initiate activities and events in relation to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics

• explore the connections between identity, sport and material culture through the use of digital media


Oral histories are living memories, experiences and life events that are gathered through interviews and conversations which are often subsequently shared with relatives, community members or outsiders. Anthropologists use oral histories to try and understand how individuals make sense of their world. They also use oral histories to find out about cultural traditions that have been past down orally through generations. Because we are unable to provide interviewers for this project we have compiled a list of questions which may assist you in framing your narratives:

- What is the story of the object and your relationship to the object

- Why is this object meaningful to you or your family

- How does the object connect to sport, play, or games


Anthropology of Sport is the cross-cultural and biological understanding of sport in …history and the contemporary world (Blanchard 1995). It analyses the socioeconomic, political and cultural dimensions of sport and how sport influences the lives of individuals and communities around the world.

Anthropologists have always been interested in sport and games, their research encompassing everything from cock-fighting to cricket. Evarard ImThurn, an anthropologist of the 19th century studying games in South America, noted that some of the simplest and earliest forms of games were those where children imitated their elders.Im Thurn defined a game as a pleasurable exercise involving any part of the mind or body that led to the development of embodied knowledge (1901).

Play is often defined in very similar terms as Im Thurn’s definition of games- as taking part in a recreational activity for enjoyment or for a practical purpose. Play is voluntary and is part of a creative process. According to Huizinga (1955) play goes beyond being a purely biological activity. “It is a significant function-that is to say there is some sense to it. In play there is something ‘at play’ which transcends the immediate sense of life and imparts meaning to the action.” For Huizinga play always has a meaning.

Analysing games and play in a contemporary North American context, the Association for the Study of Play (TASP), describes the importance of play in relation to identity and childhood development: “Play is an essential tool for social, cognitive, and physical competence as well as identity development, but research has shown that societal trends have marginalized play…under heightened scrutiny and pressure to respond to the current climate of accountability, economic uncertainty, technologically enhanced learning, changing demographics of students and multiple other factors”. This project hopefully will help us re-visit our attitude to play and stimulate new forms of creative activity.

Blast from the Past considers games, sports and play to be integrated and mutually cohesive elements. We are interested in any material object associated with individual play, group games or institutionalised sport. In terms of games however, we are excluding non-physical games such as online games, board games any video games.


Signed baseballs, medals, autographs, old posters, old sport equipment, vintage photos, game pieces, sport kits, jerseys, uniforms, old sport venues, pom poms, flags, souvenirs, old prosthetics, mascots, lyrics, slogans, banners, books, magazines, cards. This list is not exhaustive and we encourage you to come up with new ideas. * Please only include material objects related to sports, games and play that are of a physical nature*

We are asking people to dig through their attics, family trunks and wardrobes to find objects (sport kits, souvenirs, photos, medals or magazines) that capture special memories related to sport, games and play. Send us a video of you speaking about your object or write a story and send us a photo!

Anyone interested in anthropology, history and sport.

You can submit your story either of two ways:

1) Take a photo of the object and write your story down in the application form

2) Tell your story of the object through a short video clip


• This project is open to anyone (16 years old and above)

• All applicants must fill in the registration form which can be found on the following website:

**Participants must complete a separate form for each of their submissions**

• If you are submitting a photo of your object, please try and take a high resolution image and submit either a JPEG, TIFF or BITmap and sized less than 10MB.

• If you are submitting a video, please keep the video of maximum 1 min and 30 seconds in length. The video can be taken by any digital device, including mobile phones and cameras.

• The RAI is not responsible for any late, misrouted, lost or damaged entries.


- The Royal Anthropological Institute will publish the photos on our Discover Anthropology website, Flickr and YouTube channel and other RAI satellite websites.

- Early submissions will be exhibited at the RAI’s Sport Cultures event on November 5th as part ESRC Festival of Social Science.


For further enquiries and to request printed publicity, please contact the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Education Officer Nafisa Fera at or 020 7387 0455.
CC photo credits from megaphone downwards: Felipe Bachomo, Tom Browne, Brad K, Generic Face, Frederic Fhumbert

Friday, August 05, 2011

Diary for August 2011

Dear Readers,
I hope you are having a wonderful August and have had the opportunity to experience some of the outdoor events and activities that have been listed on the blog. In anticipation of this upcoming school year we are including a new section of teaching and learning resources to encourage discovery of anthropological topics through film, photos, ethnographies and more! Hope you enjoy the new material! 

As part of the growing interest in getting involved in the Anthropology A-level in Britain, the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Education Department is putting a call out to Anthropologists who are interested in going into schools and 6th Form Colleges and discussing their ethnographic research or their career. We are looking for anthropologists who are able to communicate to high school students in an engaging and thoughtful manner and who are able to bring their research to life. The RAI will compile a list of these anthropologists and put them on our Discover Anthropology website. If you are an anthropologist based in England and are interested in being added to the list, please email Nafisa Fera at with a brief description of your biography (50-100 words max) and research interests, your email and a high definition JPEG of yourself. Deadline for submissions is September 2nd 2011.

Zina Ramzi Abdul-Nour is an artist whose work explores the notion of cultural identity through architecture, nature and the decorative arts. Her work has been exhibited in Dubai, Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, the U.S. and now in London. Running until the 27th of August at the Barbican Library is her exhibition called Pomegranates. The exhibition uses mixed media to explore the similarities and differences between Middle Eastern and Western culture. The exhibition is free.

For the first time in 2012 there will be an international film festival dedicated solely to student films from around the world. The London based International Student Film Festival will help young film makers have a platform for showcasing their work and becoming involved in the industry. The festival will take place in London from the 2nd to the 3rd of February. The call for film submissions is now open. For more information on the festival and submitting your films visit this website.

Today between 2-2:45pm and 3-3:45pm is your chance to join Horniman Museum staff, attendees and Crishna Budhu to take part in mass participation dances which incorporate movements of Classical Kathak Dance from northern India and Bollywood dance steps. The workshops are free and take place in the Gallery Square.

The American Anthropological Association has put out a call for their annual photography contest. The contest aims to encourage members of the AAA to share their field experiences and demonstrate the variety of work that anthropologist do through photography. This year members will be able to vote on the winning photos and the selected photos will be displayed during the next annual meeting. The top photos will also be published in their Anthropology News. For more information and contest guidelines take a look here.

I've decided to take the train to Paris and spend the weekend eating great baguettes and cheese while exploring the fantastic Musee de Quai Branly. Running until the 2nd of October is a wonderful new exhibition showing more than 160 objects from the National Heritage of Guatemala. The objects include ceramics, semi previous stones, funerary objects and ornaments, combining to show the development of the Mayan civilisation. Take a look here  for a short preview of the exhibition.

Today marks the beginning of the 21st birthday of Gay Pride in Manchester. Over the next ten days there will be a fantastic array of film, talks, art installations, parades to celebrate lesbian, gay and transgender life. The centerpiece will be the parade which will take place on Saturday the 27th of August from 13:00pm. Thousands of people attended Manchester pride and since 2003, the Festival has raised £895,000 for local LGBT and HIV organisations. Click here for more information about events and activities.

On the 23rd of August 1791 enslaved Africans of Saint Dominigue (what is now Haiti) rose up against their oppressors. In observance of this date and to honour UNESCO's designation of the date as Slavery Remembrance Day, National Museums of Liverpool together with individuals from Liverpool's Black community, Liverpool City Council, Culture Company and Mersey Partnership bring together talks, events and activities in commemoration of this event. Over the next two days there will be the chance to hear a memorial lecture from Dr. Maulana Karenga, take part in the Walk of Remembrance and more! Take a look at this website for a detailed itinerary.

Every year the Notting Hill Carnival in London attracts hundreds of visitors from all over the world to celebrate in one of Europe's biggest outdoor celebration of music,dance, masks and Caribbean culture. The festival begins on Sunday but the main parade will be held on Monday. Enjoy some jerk chicken, fried plantain while listening to everything from Calypso to R&B. The festival is free. For more information visit the Carnival's website.

The Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) is hosting its 31st Film Festival alongside the People Over Sea symposium organised by the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews. The Film Festival will run alongside the academic conference exploring social and cultural aspects of the North Sea and the North Atlantic. Several themes of the conference include: the wealth of oceans, lines of seafaring, water crafts and narratives related to life at sea. For more information and registration prices visit this website.



Delegates from the Haida First Nations have formed an International Research Network with staff from the Pitt Rivers Museum and the British Museum. In 2009, 21 Haida First Nations delegates came to the UK to re-encounter some of their ancestral material culture and work with museum collections alongside giving talks, performances, carving and weaving demonstrations. The Haida Project "seeks to understand the importance and role of historic collections for source communities and to improve access to collections". The Project is a unique case study in debates concerning repatriation and museum collections. Take a look at this great film about the Haida Project.

The National Film Board of Canada has launched a fantastic website which allows users to view their archive and contemporary films for free online. The website has different channels including the world, hot topics, aboriginal peoples, history and more. There are some great anthropological films such as Through These Eyes which takes a critical look at a curriculum project in the 1970s that produced The Nestlik Film Series. Take a look at some fantastic films on the NFB's channel.

The London Anthropology Day 2011 which was held at the British Museum on July 14th was a great success with over 350 attendees and 20 participating universities from England, Ireland and Wales. The event was organised by the Royal Anthropological Institute's Education Department in collaboration with the British Museum and participating universities. Photos of the event are now online. Take a look at some great portaits of student participants and more!

Anthropologist Kaori O'Connor has published a new book called 'Lycra: How A Fiber Shaped America'. Based on extensive longitudinal fieldwork and in-depth research of archival materials, Kaori demonstrates the way in which this man-made super fiber influenced women of the Baby boomer generation ideas concerning body image and wellness. Click here to download a podcast of Kaori speaking about her book.

How does Facebook affect the lives of its users? Anthropologist Daniel Miller's new book 'Tales from Facebook' explores the ways in which Facebook is affecting the lives of a group people in Trinidad. The book looks at how this social networking site has substantially influenced the social interactions in their day to day life. For example, the book shows how Facebook has been instrumental in cultivating romantic relationships as well as breaking up a marriage. To find out more, take a look at this YouTube video where Miller talks about the book.

Photo Credits: Manchester Pride-Man Alive, Notting Hill Carnival-L-Plate,

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Lucy's Diary July 2011

Happy (sunny) days one and all! I've got post mid-summer fever and that annual itch to get out and about in the sun while he's got his hat on, so I channelled mostly all things bright and beautiful to do out on beaches, streets and with hands and feet plus a bit of politics and the odd indoor activity to keep the variety of life. Plenty to do to be involved, get active and make the most of what it is to be human and alive in this sunny realm. Wishing you all a top summer, whatever and wherever you may be!

South Yorkshire:

Yorkshire Sculpture Park:
Jaume Plensa: until 22ndJanuary 2012

Sculptural depiction of human bodies resonant with symbolic power and meaning has long occupied a discrete space within studies of the anthropology of art and material cultures. Specific address to non-European forms was made by William H. Davenport (2005) in the Santa Cruz Islands and Susan Preston-Bliers (1995) in addressing sculpting of figures as well as masks in Vodun cultures across Central and East Africa. Others have chosen to migrate anthropological interest into a practice of making bodily forms in order to explore human experience. Of these, Malvina Hoffman made an ‘Anthropological Series’ depicting everyday life activities from diverse cultures for exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in 1930. A current, more philosophical approach, striving to convey what is essential to the existence, experience and relation to the world of humanity, is communicated in the work of former anthropologist Anthony Gormley.

An example of this last approach can be found in an encounter with bodies (and heads) large, small, scattered and clustered currently found meditating upon existence in the Sculpture Park. Jaume Plensa’s work encourages physical and sensory interaction with bodies whose contemplative, pensive nature reflexively provokes the same within the viewer; addressing our situation in the world just as we look at theirs. All of the figures are beguiling and beautiful, interpersonally connective and irresistible; inviting you to spend time with them and affective as with the best of Gormley’s work such as ‘Field for the British Isles’. Some of the bodies are literally inscribed with alphabets, on one set an eclectic mix from global languages; reflective of ongoing ideas of embodiment including those of Marcel Mauss (1934) and Thomas J. Csordas (1990) as well as Judith Butler (1990) adding bodily inscriptions of which the physical markings on these sculptures are evocative.

North East:

Gateshead Central Library: until 20th August
‘Car Boot Sales and Charity Shops’

copyright: Sharon Wilson
Photographic exhibition featuring photographic work describing the faces and spaces of the ‘alternative economies’ of selling on unwanted goods and possessions. Amongst the practitioners on show are Sharon Wilson who looks at performance and theatre within a particular car boot fair, Susan Swindells’ socio-cultural take on north-eastern charity shops and Karen Johnson’s look at the description of lives laid out on car-boot tables.

In addition to the wider view taken on photographic practice by Susan Sontag (1979) and later, Goeff Dyer (2005) attention paid to the uses, abuses and practices associated with using photography as an ethnographic communicating social and cultural information is deftly provided by Christopher Pinney (2010) and Sarah Pink (2001) amongst others.

To supplement a visit to the exhibition or to the real, live glory of a car-bootery, a few anthropological observations on alternative social and economic spaces can be brought to bear. While Nigel Rapport’s (1992) brush with car boots and other village affairs informed him about affect and interaction within a small community, N.Gregson and L Crewe (1997, 2005) looked at the purchase of goods in terms of performance and as spectacle; the art of engaging in car-boot transactions as a particular form of knowledge. Martin and Sunley (2001) describe the buying space as in terms of a marginality dismissed by the mainstream market as the balance is weighted less toward pure profit motives and more toward sociality within the selling act. Either way, if you make it to a real car-boot this summer, make sure you bring at least one dodgy jumper/LP/lamp/old boardgame back as well as the ethnographic observations.

Green Lane Masjid: 22-24th July
‘Flourish. Thrive. Succeed: Overcoming the challenges and seizing the opportunities for Muslims living in the West’

A conference seeking to explore aspects of Islamic experience and practice within the Western context. This free conference aims to provide a forum to consider and engage with current debates regarding the challenges and opportunities within shared societal space with a view toward making positive and productive contributions within wider society.

Nationwide Events:

Amnesty International Events:

Anthropology is responding to the proliferation of conflict and injustice at local and global levels through the study of violence. David Riches’ ‘Anthropology of Violence’ (1986) looked at the practical and symbolic ends and role of agency within conflictual spaces. A self-professed alternative concerning anthropology of power is supplied by Nigel Rapport (2003) exploring bodies in relation to environment, total institutions and the death of power.

The individual as an agentive force in opposition to political, social and cultural oppression informs Amnesty’s work. Actions and engagement by supporters is a key aspect of involvement in the campaign, especially this year as it’s the 50th anniversary of organisation and there are plenty of events to celebrate and have a knees-up to ensure that conscience isn’t all hard work. Summer events range from tea- to beer-drinking, dancing and film screenings. Political pleasure-seekers can seek out those local to them on the site above plus get more details on the following selection:

Human Rights Action Centre, London: all films £5

11th July: ‘El Problema: Testimony of the Saharawi People’ (dir. Jordi Ferrer, Pablo Vidal)
A documentary developed from on-the-ground collection of testimonies and documents telling the story of Saharawi’s forced displacement from their lands in the Western Sahara by Moroccan government land appropriation.

13th July: ‘500 Years Later’ (dir. Owen ‘Alik Shahadah)
A film tracing the effects and struggles associated with the ongoing pan-African and Diasporic fight for self-determination necessitated by colonial and slave histories and resultant displacements. A multi-sited documentary spanning five continents, this overview of a wide issue brings sharply into focus the phenomena of African holocaust.

ABP Autgoraph Film Season:
Films throughout July addressing issues of racism, sexuality and religion from around the world. The first of three session kicks off with:

20th July: ‘Possessed by Demons’ and ‘Difficult Love’ (dir. Zanele Muholi) Films concerning the problems facing lesbians in South Africa and discussion around the current situation for the LGBT community led by the film-maker in live-link from Cape Town.


16th July:St John's Church Rooms, Mostyn Street, Llandudno ‘Palestine and the Arab Spring’
Half-day event with 3 speakers and panel discussion, exhibition and lunch.

16th July:Sefton Park, Liverpool ‘Amnestea in the Park’
What it says on the tin-a tea party in the park.

23rd July: The Riviera International Centre,Torquay ‘Freedom is Coming: Summer Concert’
An evening of music and performance with the Big Noise Chorus and Stagecoach Arts Theatre plus a talk by former Chair of Amnesty, Tom Hedley.

1st August:St.Mary’s University College, Belfast ‘When They Are All Free’
A journalistic panel debating the manner and risks taken in journalistic endeavours in telling stories from spaces of conflict otherwise unknown. Interesting to attend for the parallels and divergence with ethnographic motivations and ethics in similar spaces.


Summer is the time of the riotous release of social tensions and challenge to order and civility in what Bakhtin (1968) termed ‘carnivalesque’ activity. Today, one such form is in the carnivals found all across the UK. In addition to the huge number that can be found to attend, including Bristol, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Derby, Brighton, Acton, Balham and Tooting in July. Also, the fantastic extravaganza that is Notting Hill, Leeds and Birmingham next month, there are ways to get involved beforehand. Workshops to make costumes and learn dance include the following for adults as well as young people:

 The Scrapstore, Hull Play Resource Centre is hosting a rolling programme of low-cost costume making. Email:

Spark, Stockton are doing costume and props in workshops on the 9th, 16th and 23rd July. Email:

Derby has calypso drumming every Saturday and carnival dancing every Wednesday. For information see: or

Insight into wider African masking and masquerade practice can be found in the photographic work of Phyllis Galembo (2010) whose Pende examples find an ethnographic counterpart in Z. S. Strother (1999) who backgrounds the meaning, production and evolution through reinvention of masking in response to social and cultural change.

On the Beach:

A feature of more traditional beach life in the UK, though in decline, can still be found in Punch and Judy shows. Practitioners and Professors of the show ply their trade providing the sort of play of social and cultural life described in Clifford Geertz (1973) descriptions of Balinese shadow-puppetry and the role of the performative in theatre described by Victor Turner (1992). Performances can be seen throughout the summer on Southend, Weymouth, Clacton, Exmouth and Paignton beaches. Also, inland at Basingstoke park on 31st July and in Lincoln city centre on 30th July.
Details on individual events visit

And, just for fun, if you fancy making your own Punch and Judy spoon-puppet for £1, go to Herne Bay Museum and Gallery. Go to


Southbank Centre Hip Hop Festival:14 – 17 July
Intelligent Movement – A Celebration of Hip Hop Culture

Hip Hop takes the space of the Southbank with three days of Dj battles, performance, workshops and parties dedicated to the genre. Free and paid dance workshops from breaking to funk, locking and popping, music nights and parties-but get in quick to book the free ones, all on Sunday 17th. Talks around influences on and by rap/hip hop cultural will form one element of a larger conversation encompassing traditions and innovations in use of beat, rhyme and rhythm in music, spoken word, and dance.

To check into anthropological research on hip hop culture and its global migrations, translations, and transformations H.Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim, Alastair Pennycook (2009) and James Peterson (2001) look at it from an Islamic perspective. Whereas Greg Dimitriadis (2009) considers the role of ‘tha cipha’ as a speech event in hip hop as one of the established forms of language within genre, its transglobal usage, and how that relates to performing identity and culture true to hip hop; wherever it may travel.

Wellcome Collection: 15-16th July
‘Unclean Beings’

Connected to the ‘Dirt’ exhibition at the Institute written about here previously, these two days explore the subject further. ‘Dirty Stories’ on the 15th tells stories of the myths and metaphors encompassing life, death and dirt by the Crick Crack Club with drinks, conversation and a viewing of the show.

The 16th provides talks and discussions on the resonance of dirt in historic and modern contexts sex work in Victorian Britain to Indonesia, the caste system in India and religious ideas of cleanliness. Including appearances by TED’s Elizabeth Pisani and Belle de Jour.

International Day Against Stoning:
London Action: 10th July

‘Stone-in’ acts will performed from 2pm at Trafalgar Square on the 10th July and then along the route of procession as part of an international protest. Stimulated by the death by stoning of Maryam Ayoubi in Iran and currently campaigning against the imprisonment of Sakineh Mohammed Ashtiani and lawyer Sajjad Houtan Kian who defended Sakineh and another woman against stoning sentences, demo’s seek to highlight issues both within Iran and the wider geo-political stage in debates regarding adoption or allowance of Sharia Law. An active participant in organizing this event is Maryam Namazie whose ‘One Law for All’ campaign addresses issues including apostasy, secular law and how debate regarding Sharia law has been used by far-right groups currently gaining greater power and political inclusion across Europe. A diary of her appearances can be found at:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lucy Special: Open City beams into the 12th International RAI Festival of Ethnographic Film 24-25th June

Still from the work of Melissa Llewelyn-Davies
I see from the brochure of the forthcoming RAI film festival that an interesting conversation is ongoing between the Open City and RAI film fests. The conversation takes the form of a screening exchange, reflective of wider interest both within and without the discipline regarding the identity, place and situation of ethnographic film within the documentary genre. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops.

The RAI showed films at the Open City this weekend and, in exchange, the Open City adds extra flavour to the RAI festival pot in the form of Open City screenings. On the 24th (2-7pm) the ‘Gypsies In Film’ includes the ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ which should provoke some interesting debate/discussion from an anthropologically-minded audience. The 25th brings ‘The Maasai Saga (1974-1994)’ considering the body of work produced by director Melissa Llewelyn-Davies with the Maasai people and including a session in conversation with her. Two very different offerings from this other gem of a documentary film fest but ones that serve to add even more variety to that on offer on the regular festival schedule, considered in previous postings. The festival is being held at various venues at University College London between 23rd-26th June and details on screenings and bookings can be found at

Friday, June 10, 2011

June Diary 2011

Hi everyone, as it’s the cusp of the summer-at least in pagan terms-I thought I’d look at what is best and brightest to bring in the sun as well as topical events occurring around the country. Next month, we’ll go for a full-on school’s out bonanza so send in your end-of-term/last-blast-before-going-on-holiday-type stuff to the usual address!


National Portrait Gallery :

‘Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer 1908-1974’: until 19th June

Taking the breeze in old Havana:
copyright Ida Kar
The first photographer to have retrospective installation at Whitechapel art Gallery in 1960, little-known Ida provided a fairly singular female presence within the creative avant-garde. She was a key player in migrating perceptions of photography into the fine art canon and portrayed major literary and artistic figures from 50’s and 60’s including Henry Moore, Georges Braque and Jean-Paul Sartre. However, in addition to the opportunity to see these figures in the flesh, is the chance to see their environs; the spaces from which the created or thought. This approach applied equally to her in everyday life (as with the Havana image above) providing a view on cultural life post-war. This is a paid exhibition but a bit of a bargain at only £2 with student ID or £3 without. Call 020 7907 7079 (transaction fee applies) or visit the above site.

Victoria and Albert Museum:

‘Figures and Fictions: Ethnographic Photography from the Global South’:
Conference (24-25th June) and exhibition (until 17th July)

'Balabwa' from 'Real Beauties' series
by Jodi Bieber 2008 
Elizabeth Edwards, major and prolific contributor to the understanding and readings of imagery past and present from an anthropological perspective, joins speakers including artists and curators in considering the influence of South African photographers across disciplinary fields. The exhibition displays work that seeks to describe the complex relationships involved in communicating personal and national identity-an enduring concern within South Africa pre- and post-Apartheid. The common theme of subjectivity, power relationship between those behind and in front of the lens, and the consequent presentation of identity is explored. An additional element within this equation comes from a direct confrontation with the use of photography as part of the colonial project in addition to, or as associated with, the anthropological gaze employed in historical ethnographic work carried out in the country and the negotiations and responses described in the current artwork displayed. The themes being explored in this exhibition echo, to an extent, those considered by Christopher Pinney, who writes extensively on camera as artificial ‘eye’ and the uses and abuses of photography as part of ethnographic and colonial endeavour.

Open City:
Prince Charles screening of ‘Shoah’: 18th June

Contact Michael Stewart on 020 7679 8637 or 07989 401038

Screened at the Prince Charles Cinema as part of Open City festival, the epic 9-hour ‘Shoah’ is being accompanied by a Q and A with director Claude Lanzmann. Relying entirely on footage shot at sites of crimes and interviews with survivors it is the documentary tour-de-force, testifying to the premise of getting information from those present, interested or involved in events. Again, this is a ticketed event but it is reduced to £25 for students, otherwise £35. A bonus is that if you have an NUS card and Open City ticket, you can get annual membership to the Prince Charles for £2.50 enabling bargainous cinema entry for a good while to come. Plus, if want ot get in some reading on the subject before going, check out Michael Mack ‘Anthropology as Memory: Elias Canetti’s and Franz Baermann Steiner’s Response to the Shoah’ (Niemeyer: 2003)

British Museum:
Room 91 ‘Baskets and belonging Indigenous Australian histories’: until 11 September

As part of the Australia season, the British Museum is displaying a roomful of hand-woven baskets next-door to that of the contemporary output of graphic artists from across the country. This creates a nice tie-in between arts and crafts, especially as Aboriginal artists are also well-represented in the contemporary arts so not confined to representation in relation solely to traditional crafting.

In a room arrayed with varieties of styles, fashions and purposes of woven carrying devices, the representation of methods and variation across the diverse regional Aboriginal group add up to a compact survey of both their individual and related material cultures as well as histories and experience. The practice of basketry appears to have been maintained despite the cultural disruption imposed by colonisers. The exhibition contains examples from the historic to the present which equally demonstrate adaptive usage of available materials. The examples I found most arresting were, in fact, the recent examples, objects whose ‘social life’ was intimately involved in their being woven with the ‘ghost nets’ cut loose from fishing boats and what these mean to communities. As these nets are left to drift in the sea, they pointlessly trap and kill sealife. For the locals, this means that salvage is seen by locals as necessary for protecting local environments and their reuse as transformative of something that has become harmful back to being purposive. The resulting bags reflect ongoing traditions in style and decorative flair, adding new elements in the nature and colours of the material, as other materials and substances have once introduced to the cultural space. An interesting interaction with colonisation arises, for example, with the synthetic dyes used by missionaries becoming incorporated, displacing earlier natural dying techniques. These incorporations, as well as changing uses and purposes for production add to the creation of new forms of object related to a tradition. The baskets reveal other information related to historic modes of living and relation across groups; their individuality yet interconnectivity and the familial, personal and spiritual connectivity and meaning of decorative markings. The exhibition provides welcome illumination and insight into a culture too often pigeon-holed or simply overlooked, revealing a rich and varied material cultural which remains not only alive and kicking but also regenerating.

Barbican Hall:

‘A Night In Tahrir Square’ El-Tanbura:22nd July 7.30pm

Veteran Egyptian band El-Tanbura who have been likened in essence to the Buena Vista Social Club for their preservation of older sounds and presence of older members, are recreating the sounds, sensation and atmosphere of f the revolutionary popular occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. I’ve seen them playing in the Egyptian rooms in the British Museum and, in addition to fine musicianship and renditions of the Egyptian soundscape, the performance had added magic by way of their use of a now-defunct, ancient instrument, a Pharonic lyre called the simsimiyya, an example of which they donated to the Petrie Museum at UCL. This performance is a reflection on and continuation of their performance presence at the Square during the demonstrations, helping with other poets and musicians to break down fear and constraints from years of political opporession. Footage of this can be seen at Although this event’s tickets start at £12.50 and I try to put only low- or no-cost things on here, it would be a great opportunity to see and feel an element of that historic event and I reckon it might sell-out which is why I’m putting it on in advance. I really hope to be able to make it so hopefully, see you there! In the meantime, the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ provoked some interesting commentary and analysis; for an anthropological perspective look at Saba Mahmood’s contributions throughout the period on, and the discussion at the American University in Cairo conference in it’s aftermath regarding Western perception and Orientalisation of the revolution


Refugee Week: 20-26th June

Infra-red Congo
 (copyright John Baily)
There is deluge of stuff happening across the country for Refugee Week, seeking to think, express, activate, experiment, reflect and celebrate what is to be seeking and finding refuge both in the UK and the places from which individuals come. There are creative meditations and expressions, discussions, cultural presentations and discussions, as well as educational and experiential activities reflecting and exploring self, group/cultural identity and situation within different environmental contexts. Highlighting the experiences, challenges, risks and successes of those seeking, awaiting and finding refuge and asylum in the UK, Refugee Week provides invaluable country-wide focus and forums for direct interaction, encounter and presentation of issues and experience of those seeking a place to be.

The Week’s events provide a good opportunity not only to gain insight and contact with the lived, everyday reality of migration, movement and displacement of involved individuals but those they work or gather with in grassroots support and activist groups to voluntary (or Third) and public sector organisations. The few examples offered here demonstrate a range of such opportunities to connect with an area of significant anthropological interest and activity. There are lots more to find on the site above. All those listed and most on offer are free entry. Anthropologists engaged in looking at migrant and refugee experience include Christopher McDowell who focuses on international experience from the political anthropological perspective. Also, Liisa.H.Malkki captured vividly a specific refugee experience which can give an insight into more general sensations of displacement and identity association in ‘Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory and National Cosmology Among Hutu Refugees In Tanzania’ (Chicago:1995)


Lloyds’ CafĂ© Bar hosts ‘Sanctuary Sunday’: 26th June 3-7pm

Bradford, dubbed ‘City of Sanctuary’, is culminating the week with an event exploring Congalese experience as expressed in artistic and cultural heritage and affected by the adverse conditions and experiences imposed by colonialism, commercial and industrial activity.


Beswick Library ‘The Distance We Have Travelled’: until 29th June

An exhibition exploring identity and sense of place with reference to West African identity and origin.

Levenshulme Library ‘Romani’: 13th June 6pm

Members of the local Gypsy/Romani community share their life and cultural experiences in a live dialogue.


Sighthill Community Centre 11th June 7pm onwards

Music Evening with Scotlanka: An intriguing mix of traditional music from Sri

Lanka and Scotland demonstrating a literal harmony of cultures plus Sri Lankan refreshments.


Nottingham Photographers Hub ‘Seeking Stories’: 14-30th June

Artworks created by artists seeking or who have found asylum in the UK which use photography, painting, video and poetry describe viewpoints and interests of a diverse, global group. Private view on 17th June with world music and spoken word entertainments and refreshments.


Clayport Library ‘Spinning Stories’: 17th June 10.30am-3.30pm

An exploration of identity through the creation of woven tapestry.


Paisley Museum: 17th June-17th July

‘Life After Iraq’: Exploring the displacement and lives of Iraqi refugees in Syria with reference to those who have settled in Scotland. Photography by Angerla Catlin, writing by Billy Briggs.


Human Rights Action Centre: 18th June 7-10pm

‘Celebrating Sanctuary in Hackney’

An evening of poetry, discussion, film, information and music with poet and performer Michael Rosen, speakers from Refugee Communities and Medical Justice, live music from the ‘Travelling Irons’ and a premiere of the film “Fit to Fly”. Also appearing is anthropologist, author and human rights campaigner Dr. Linda Rabben, author of ‘Give Refugee to the Stranger: The Past, Present and Future of Sanctuary’.


University of Manchester School of Social Sciences

‘Discover Social Anthropology’: 30th June

This is a departmental open day to enable teachers and 6th form students to discover what social anthropology and its new A-level is all about and can mean for their teaching/studies. For further details on the activities throughout the day and associated events go the above address and get thee to Manchester for a right good educating ;)

Other cultural doings:


Mela 2011: 12th June 10am-8pm

If you’re anywhere close to Bradford this Sunday, it’s well worth catching the mother of all European Mela’s. Literally the first in Europe and going strong after 23 years, the Mela offers a fine palette of entertainments, reflecting the original operation of mela’s as temporary, religious festival-orientated hubs trade, cultural and spiritual activity. The form started here concentrates on the cultural and trade aspects of that mix. Entertainments demonstrate the maintenance of strong South Asian/Indian sub-continent roots through artist’s local and global delivering contemporary and traditional, bhangra and Bollywood reflecting both the roots and extensions and interactions of music and dance forms throughout time and space from both ‘home’ and local cultures. This is further mixed up by broader strands of world music, street theatre, and a good dose of straight dance acts. Essentially, as well as having a good day out, it’s a good space in which to get a flavour of a South Asian community in contemporary Britain, across it’s many generations of settlement, and it’s cultural interactions within a city that has a long history of cultural diversity. As to the trading aspect, alongside the chance to dance and feeding the soul, a whole world of stalls feed the belly with Asian snack/curry food offerings. To fully engage in the trading, you can get in a bit of haggling and buy a new outfit (or the makings of one) and get saturated by colours and shiny stuff in the tented draperies of the clothing stalls. The whole space is a great one to reflect on the many and various forms of hijab on offer (amongst much else) and their meanings for wearers that Emma Tarlo wrote about in ‘Visibly Muslim’ (2010). Ultimately, if you get there for anthropological interest or good times, I hope you’ll find as I have for many years all the fun of the mela-see you down the front!


Summer Solstice Celebration: 20-21st June

Apparently, Winston Churchill was a Druid, according to Simon Strickland ( I’m not sure that his current counterpart David Cameron will be amongst the contemporary Druidery gathering at the henge, but it will be a significant moment nonetheless as it may be the last time access is allowed. Despite thousands of years of annual activity to welcome back the sun, too many rowdy revelers (in good pagan style) are threatening the integrity of the site so this year’s celebration may well be monumental in more ways than one. To catch one of the last vestigial traces of Britain’s historic pagan culture, get down between around 7pm on 20th to around midday on the 21st. Anthropologists considering the Druidic tradition from the largely discredited 19th century Margaret Murray to the more recent Stuart Piggott and Susan Greenwood who considers the modern magico-pagan panoply in ‘Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: An Anthropology’ (2000). The Jenny Blain and Robert Wallis’ 2007 investigation, ‘Sacred Sites-Contested Rites/Rights: Pagan Engagements with Archeological Monumnets’, considers British neo-paganism and contested sites of activity; speaking directly to this potential, final sealing of the Stonehenge site.