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:

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