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 (c.tilley@ucl.ac.uk)

 

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

 

http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/knyttan-factory-of-the-future source: www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/knyttan-factory-of-the-future ]

 

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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Digital Politics in Mongolia

Lauren Bonilla, Rebekah Plueckhahn, Rebecca Empson, Department of Anthropology, University College London

This post is written by researchers on an ERC-funded project entitled ‘Emerging Subjects of the New Economy: Tracing Economic Growth in Mongolia’ based at the Department of Anthropology, University College London.

Our project focuses on the mineral-rich country of Mongolia, once heralded as the world’s fastest growing economy but now experiencing sharp economic slowdown. We trace the kinds of subjects and activities that are emerging out of this economy of flux – when promises of economic growth are continually referenced but never seem to materialize; when people are forced to live with the rhetoric of hope and potential which everyday reality never approximates – leading to alternative experiences and imaginaries.…

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Collecting Collections and digital ways of knowing

Haidy Geismar, UCL

Talpa sp, Mole, Adult, Z2754 UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, © 2014 UCL. CC BY-NC-SA license.

Talpa sp, Mole, Adult, Z2754
UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, © 2014 UCL. CC BY-NC-SA license.

 

Last term I taught parallel undergraduate and Masters seminars exploring the creation of knowledge systems in museums and the effects of shifts towards the digital on the organization of knowledge and museum epistemologies. All the students had to create a project that digitally presented a series of objects, drawn from across UCL Museums and Collections and created a new digital collection environment. The project aimed not to create an online exhibition but to think about the potentials, and limitations, of digital representation and modes of organization for creating knowledge about both specific objects and from the collecting together of different objects. The undergraduates had to digitally collect 5 objects using an open source platform supported and hosted by UCL (My Portfolio, built on Mahara).…

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Mimesis as Infection: Charlie Hebdo seen from the Indian Archive

Christopher Pinney, UCL Anthropology

 

The recent events in Paris have focused attention on the complex relationship between different varieties of Islam and the image. Historians will rightly point to a French tradition of anti-clerical satire that reaches back to Diderot’s Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage of 1771, and which provides a frame through which Charlie Hebdo’s provocations make sense. I’ve taught Diderot’s brilliant critique of Christian missionary hypocrisy in an imaginary Tahiti over several years and remain fascinated how one needs to continually remind oneself that this is fiction, a mere “supplement”. Diderot’s central Tahitian character, Orou, is a powerful vindication of Diderot’s “foisting” technique in which he “takes over Bougainville’s Voyage shamelessly rewriting and falsifying it” inserting “speeches and arguments that for the ‘enlightened’ reader, seem to cry out so urgently to be spoken”.…

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