Some thoughts about the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Haidy Geismar, UCL

I recently spent an afternoon at the site of the former twin towers, where now there lies, imprinted on the foundations, one of the largest memorials I have visited, and underneath that a cavernous museum, both dedicated to memorializing the events of September 11, 2001. This review has emerged out that experience and from a conversation with Harvey Molotch who recently wrote a review of the 911 museum at Public Books. Called “How the 9/11 Museum Gets Us” Molotch reflects on the affective qualities of the museum, pulling together a powerfully christian iconography, personalizing the experience by exploring the victims in material detail through their possessions, and whitewashing historical context.

Photography was not allowed inside the main exhibit so the images I present show the memorial, and the outer areas  of the museum which allow the visitor to traverse the spectral foundations in the former basement of the building, punctuated by large remnants of the day, such as the Vesey street stairs, one of the few pieces of architecture left in one piece which has been relocated here through to fire trucks and steel girders.…

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Ain’t no Jaguars in Ghana’s urban jungle: luxury and the postcolonial bizarre

Osu Accra

Sipping my morning coffee in the corrosive speech of Bernard Avle, the radio host of Accra’s Citi FM Breakfast Show – a deliciously satirical commentary on salient socio-economic issues in Ghana –, I find my daily dose of morning chuckling interrupted by the conversational attempts of a friendly French tourist (hereafter Mister F). Having recently arrived in Accra with a defective mobile phone, Mister F paid an obligatory visit to the Vodafone center in Osu – a rich district in central Accra organized around the aptly-named Oxford Street, bordered by air-conditioned shops and expensive restaurants. Complaining of his dislike for Osu, Mister F describes the exotic vision of Jaguars swishing past shaky street shacks; puzzled eyebrows, offended smile, he bitterly whispers: “Two Jaguars driving by, it’s just a bit, a bit, bizarre, isn’t it?”

Isn’t it indeed.…

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The Story of Seething & being a little bit Stupid

David Jeevendrampillai, UCL Anthropology

Image 1: The Story of Seething Exhibition. Jan - May 2015. UCL Anthropology (Photo Credit: Timothy Carroll).

Image 1: The Story of Seething Exhibition. Jan – May 2015. UCL Anthropology (Photo Credit: Timothy Carroll).

UCL promotes itself as a leading global university and frequently ranks amongst the top institutions in the world; it also houses the UK’s largest Anthropology department. The department has an international reputation as a leader in Anthropological research with a particular history and strength in material culture studies. Upon entering the department’s central London campus one is greeted by a reception replete with well-lit display cases which house exhibitions of current UCL research and items from the extensive and rich Ethnographic Collection.

In the final months of writing my PhD I was invited to organise an exhibition using the three main cabinets in the foyer of the department.…

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Unleashing the Chaîne Opératoire: Students’ experimentation with an old methodology.

Ludovic Coupaye, UCL Anthropology

Over the last five years, undergraduate and postgraduate students enrolled in the course emphatically called “Transforming and Creating Worlds: Anthropological Perspectives on Techniques and Technology” have been given as a short assignment the recording of a short task of their choice and present it in the form of a Chaîne Opératoire.

Originally developed by French anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan, in the tradition of Marcel Mauss, and further developed by ethnographers such as Pierre Lemonnier, the Chaîne Opératoire is, ironically enough, more used by archaeologists (who, by definition, cannot see people doing things) than by anthropologists, who, per definition see people doing and making things and are supposed to participate themselves. In this assignment, students have re-appropriated this methodology as form of ethnographic and interpretative experiment.…

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Occasional Paper 5: Mr Coperthwaite – a life in the Maine Woods

Anna Grimshaw, Emory University

Bill with magnifying glass

In 1960, Bill Coperthwaite bought 300 acres of wilderness in Machiasport, Maine.

Influenced by the poetry of Emily Dickinson and by the back to the land movement of Scott and Helen Nearing, Bill Coperthwaite was committed to what he called“a handmade life.”   For over fifty years until his death in 2013, he lived and worked in the forest. He was a builder of yurts, and a maker of spoons, bowls and chairs.

I met Bill Coperthwaite not long after I bought a house in Machiasport.   He was, of course, well-known to local people, many of whom affectionately recalled childhood adventures of exploring and working in the woods with Bill.   But he was also something of an international figure, drawing visitors to Dickinson’s Reach from different parts of the world.…

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Landmarks: a review

Christopher Tilley, Department of Anthropology, University College London (


Robert Macfarlane Landmarks (2015) London: Hamish Hamilton, 387pp. £20.00 rrp

This is the fifth book by Macfarlane about British landscapes. The ‘landmarks’ of the title are not what one might expect: they are words. The book is about the power of words in place making. This reminds us that landscapes may be material topographic realities but they are simultaneously constituted in the mind. Traditionally, in academic debates, landscapes have been regarded as either reductively shaping the manner in which people think or blank slates on which people inscribe the way in which they think in more or less any way they like. In this respect their material topographies become mere backdrops to an understanding of the manner in which they are understood.…

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The No-Person

Over the past few weeks I have been working closely with London’s homeless community for my PhD fieldwork. As part of my role at the day centre where I conduct much of my research I have helped a number of people fill out the ubiquitous Job Seeker’s Allowance form – herein referred to as the JSA. The JSA is a standardised government form that applies not just to the homeless, but to anybody who is seeking financial support in the interim between jobs. At first glance then, there is nothing special about the JSA as a bureaucratic document. Filling out the JSA takes about twenty minutes and is generally done online. For the vast majority of people, filling out such a form would be, at the worst, extremely boring.…

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Social Museum Seoul: Review

Jane Yoonjeong Rhee, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL


“The Social Museum is a democratic space of civil society that envisions a neutral zone of values. We begin a chapter jointly to sympathise with our shared time, space, values, heritage, and the sense of indebtedness to the society.” (Translated from the Exhibition Text)

Social Museum is an annual conference that takes the museum as its conceptual parameters to capture and re-evaluate the urgencies in our society. The project is funded by Seoul City Hall and is part of the research program for the governmental plan of building Seoul Innovation Park in the centre of Seoul. In partnership with Seoul City Hall (Seoul Metropolitan Government), the development of the overall idea and the materialization of the event were led by the art director of Takeout Drawing & Museum, an alternative cafe-museum space located in Seoul.…

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Knyttan and the question of design autonomy

Lydia Maria Arantes | Visiting Researcher, Anthropology, UCL source: ]


Have you ever wanted to design your own scarf, jumper or even tie, but can’t knit?‘ read the first sentence on the Somerset House website introducting Knyttan – Factory of the Future , currently based in the New Wing. Despite already knowing how to knit, I was nonetheless interested to what extent visitors of Knyttan would be granted involvement in the design process. Having been doing research on (hand) knitting for the past few years, I was obviously curious about this unusual combination of industrial production and individuality, and visited the Factory of the Future on February 28th 2015 to find out for myself.

Upon entering the room, I was immediately drawn to the garments laid out on the shelves and hung on the wall.…

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Sawdust and Threads

Laurie Ingram, Material And Visual Culture, UCL


Sawdust and Threads is a residency and exhibitions programms that takes de-accessioned museum objects as its material. Artist Caroline Wright has undertaken residencies at three different museum collections and selected objects that have been de-accessioned. For Sawdust and Threads, Caroline has made detailed drawings of each of these objects that are then carefully and painstakingly deconstructed. The drawings as well as the objects from the different collections accompany the artist in the space where the process of deconstruction unfolds. The project poses questions around the nature of museum collections. Who owns these objects and how is the value of an object defined? Is value being removed or re-ascribed during this process of deconstruction?

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