Information and Communication Technology and Wellbeing in the Merchant Marines

Annamaria Dall’Anese, PhD student, UCL Anthropology

If the informal use of the internet through personal devices on board merchant vessels encounters barriers due to patchy infrastructure and weather issues, then the formal provision of ICT-empowered telemedicine has brought to an end the era when the sea made the ship an entirely isolated environment. The ship in the age of ICT appears as Foucault described it: as a “heterotopia”; a place that is both isolated and penetrable. My interest in merchant marines was sparked by joining a cargo ship sailing from Australia to Singapore as a passenger/English teacher in 2009. The passage, though short, gave me the opportunity to discover the social life of these communities, and I became intrigued by the issue of connectivity at sea.…

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Notes from the Forest: Engaging with a hunter’s world of materials

Thorsten Gieser, Lecturer in Anthropology, Department of Kulturwissenschaft, University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany

gieser-field-dressing-roe-deer

A winter’s day, in a forest in central Germany. At dusk, more than fifty hunters and beaters stand around the ‘gallow’, a wooden structure with a long beam on which the dead bodies of hunted game are hung after they have been field dressed. A small group of hunters play their horns and the eerie melodies of ‘Sows dead!’ and ‘Halali!’ fill the air, accompanied by the occasional dog who howls along. It is the end of a hunting day. After several hours on the beater’s track, I feel exhausted and tired. My boots and my trousers are smeared with blood and mud. Although I washed my hands briefly in icy water, there is still dried blood under my fingernails and in the lines of my skin.

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#LondonVegans: Deliberating, sensing and practicing vegans in a non-vegan city

Zachary Hecht, UCL Digital Anthropology Msc Student

Why would somebody forgo juicy steaks, delicate smoked salmon, velvety goat cheese, and the many seemingly delicious foods people eat? Why would somebody choose to submit themselves to the inconvenience of not being able to eat outside of their home without some advanced planning? Why would they refuse to wear products widely seen as fashionable and insist on knowing what their hygiene products are made of?

Why would anybody be vegan?

The individuals I conducted fieldwork with—members of what I term the London Vegan Community—are regularly asked this very question by family, friends, and even strangers. In popular media, veganism is often framed as being trendy and undertaken for supposed health benefits. While many—certainly not all—of my participants discuss health as being a vital component of their veganism, and many first learned about veganism due to its increasing popularity, each of my participants assert that veganism is an “ethical choice”; for London Vegans, veganism is a “social justice movement.”

As I write, we find ourselves living in a time widely referred to as the Anthropocene.…

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Digital Materialities: Design and Anthropology, Edited by S. Pink, E. Ardevol, and D. Lanzeni

Zachary Hecht, UCL Digital Anthropology

 

I must admit, this review has been a long time coming. I was given Digital Materialities and asked to review it many months ago. I proceeded to read it immediately, but writing the review, well not so immediately. At the time, I had been in the process of exams and dissertation fieldwork. Several of the book’s chapters were very useful while I was working through concepts for my own work. Since reading this book, I have moved to another country and read several other books and articles. Yet, importantly, I had been given a hard copy of the book and it managed to make it across the ocean with me—sitting in my suitcase, underneath my belongings, until I finally got around to unpacking.…

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You Can’t Please all! Some observations on the controversy about the Bhupen Khakhar exhibition at Tate Modern, London

Dr. Cathrine Bublatzky, Anthropologist, Heidelberg University

Recently I visited the exhibition You can’t please them all – a retrospective of modern Indian painter Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003) at Tate Modern, London. The show, curated by Chris Dercon, former Tate Modern director, and Nada Raza (research curator), opened on June 1 2016 in London and will travel to the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin in November 2016. I came to know about the show due to reviews that circulated via social media prior to the opening, and which caused a serious controversy and protest against neo-colonial attitudes towards a still imagined ‘non-European other’ by art experts in India and Great Britan. With this post, I wish to provide some anthropological observations on the controversy which demonstrates a crucial claim for equality in the international art world.…

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Night-Time Wanderings and the Out-of-Place

As I walked home late one night last week, I came upon a scene that perhaps many of us are familiar with. In a dark corner of a quiet area there lay a pair of new looking shoes, laced up and stood together, as if worn by a phantom man (they were a man’s shoes). There was something jarring about the scene. The shoes were too clean to really “belong” on the street, but yet there was nobody in sight, and who goes home without their shoes? After a moment I walked on, of course, but the image stayed with me. I couldn’t help thinking about the circumstances in which those new shoes came to be on that dark street corner.…

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Occasional Paper 6: Destructivistas

Joel Cahen (2012, revised 2016)

With our present day awareness, the arts as we have known them up to now appear to us in general to be fakes fitted out with a tremendous affectation. Let us take leave of these piles of counterfeit objects on the altars, in the palaces, in the salons and the antique shops. They are an illusion with which, by human hand and by way of fraud, materials such as print, pieces of cloth, metals, clay or marble are loaded with false significance, so that, instead of just presenting their own material self, they take on the appearance of something else. Under the cloak of intellectual aim, the materials have been completely murdered and can no longer speak to us.

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Digital Ontologies

Hannah Knox, Department of Anthropology, UCL

Last year, someone made the observation at a workshop I was attending, that no single person knows how a contemporary computer works. The rapid development of computing over the past 70 years, the interconnectivity of the internet, and the layers of programming needed to make digital devices function, mean that digital technologies have gained a kind of distributed autonomy, divorced from the understanding or expertise of any individual person or group of experts. One response to this complexity has been to argue that if we want to understand digital technologies as material culture, we should not really concern ourselves with how these technologies come into being, but should simply look at how they, like other forms of material culture, are understood and deployed in everyday life.…

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Book Review: My Life with Things: The Consumer Diaries by Elizabeth Chin

Haidy Geismar, UCL Anthropology

My Life With Things: The Consumer Diaries by Elizabeth Chin, 2016. Duke University Press.

My Life with Things is an engaging, quirky, auto-ethnography detailing key moments of Elizabeth Chin’s life, focusing especially on her passionate relationship with commodities and processes of consumption (from shopping in thrift stores and on eBay through to her obsessions with home decoration). Narratives and diaries written over several years present Chin’s anxieties, desires, and needs as they are emerge in relation to shopping for clothes, for her home, and for her daughter. These are interspersed with a tracking of the personal and familial relationships of Karl Marx. The central argument, that the personal is political, that materiality matters, and that political economy is a sensorium of lived experience as well as a systemic process of the book builds upon Peter Stallybrass’ beautiful essay, Marx’s Coat (1998).…

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On Miniatures: a dialogue

In a new series of postings, we draw two research projects on miniatures together in dialogue:

Miniatures Matter

Jonathan Walz

Jonathan Walz is an anthropologist who practices archaeology in eastern Africa and the western Indian Ocean. This contribution arises from his long-term interest in representations of archaeology and Africa and previous explorations of miniatures, often overlooked by archaeologists more typically drawn to monuments. The tendency to miniaturize impacts the form and substance of practices, materials, and the eventual effects of things on humans in the endless entanglement of material, agency, subjectivity, memory, and affect. Postage stamps collapse of multiple symbols into proximity motivates metonymy and the exchanges and contests among bundled ideas rooted in the negotiated political landscape of the public and nation-state.

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