Author Archive | Haidy Geismar

New Radio Program: Objects of Desire

Every day this week, Radio Four will air “Objects of Desire” at 12.04, which explores some of the main concerns of Material Culture Studies:

This is the story of how the things we accumulate around us say more than we might imagine about who we are.

“The fate of the object,” said the French thinker Jean Baudrillard, “has been claimed by no-one.” Unless, of course, the object in question is the Mona Lisa or the Albert Jewel. In these programmes, Matthew Sweet will be looking at the other stuff. The cups. The spoons. The knick-knacks. The things we might keep, even if we don’t quite have the room for them.

Through the prism of what people have in their homes, Objects of Desire explores the work of sociologists and anthropologists like Pierre Bourdieu and Mary Douglas, and philosopher Gaston Bachelard, in order to understand the curious mixture of display, memory, emotion and chance that informs the objects we surround ourselves with.

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Bard Graduate Center Research Fellowships

Bard Graduate Center invites scholars from university, museum, and independent backgrounds with a PhD or equivalent professional experience to apply for funded research fellowships, to be held during the 2017–18 academic year. The theme for this period is “What is distance?” Applicants are asked to address in a cover letter how their projected work will bear on this question. The fellowships are intended to fund collections-based research at Bard Graduate Center or elsewhere in New York, as well as writing or reading projects in which being part of our dynamic research environment is intellectually valuable. Eligible disciplines and fields of study include—but are not limited to—art history, architecture and design history, economic and cultural history, history of technology, philosophy, anthropology, and archaeology.…

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Assistant Professor of Anthropology (tenure-track) in Visual/Media Anthropology

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ohio University invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Anthropology in cultural anthropology with specialization in visual and media anthropology. Geographical area is open. Ideal candidates will conduct research that is theoretically and ethnographically innovative and will be committed to excellence in undergraduate teaching. The successful candidate will be expected to teach upper-level courses in Ethnographic Methods and Anthropological Theory and their areas of expertise, as well as Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. The successful candidate will be expected to develop and strengthen program resources and opportunities relating to museum studies, including building connections with museum programs and institutions on campus and in the community. The position start date will be August 2017.
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Anthropology and Photography

Anthropology & Photography (ISSN 2397-1754) is a new open-access RAI publication series edited by the RAI Photography Committee. Emerging from the international conference of the same name organized by the RAI at the British Museum in 2014, the series will highlight and make available to the widest possible audience the best new work in the field.

We are eager to solicit new contributions from anthropologists and practitioners which could be visual, textual, or somewhere in between.

Guidelines for submission:

Texts should be on average 4-6,000 words, normally with anything up to 30 images. We are interested in the intersections of text and image, and the capacities of the visual to convey anthropological ideas or participate in anthropological debates. We are also interested in supporting publications that are primarily visually based and are interested in the potential of the anthropological photo-essay or extended documentary project.…

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Object Lessons: the story of material education in eight chapters

Press release:

Duration: September 16, 2016 – January 16, 2017
Opening: Thursday, September 15, 7 p.m.

Milanese Mosaic Pastes, Cabinet of Factory Products, c. 1800, Collection Technical Museum Vienna, Photo: A.-S. Lehmann / Jars From a Teaching Aid Kit On Paper Fabrication, Lehrmittel-Verlag F. Rausch c. 1920, Collection Werkbundarchiv, Photo: A. Herrmann
If you know how to fabricate a candle from fat or a pen from a fishbone, you can survive in prison. If you know how blood reacts to lemon juice, you can remove stains. If you know why polylactide is more sustainable than polyethylene, you can change the world.

Today, knowledge about materials, their origins, and processing is more valued and desired than ever before. At the same time, such knowledge is specialized, concealed, and the domain of experts.

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Connecting Materialities / Material Connectivities

International Symposium at the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS), LMU Munich, 9–11 February 2017

Convened by


Call for Papers Deadline: 31 October 2016

This symposium aims at collectively thinking through connectivity and materiality. Our starting point is simple: things that move and thereby connect or, the other way round, connections made through things are central to anthropology’s concerns. From the Kula Ring to the journeys of museum objects, from the travels of empire-founding Buddha statues to the logics and logistics of shipping containers, connectivity and materiality are interwoven in various but particular ways. Somewhat akin to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, we take connectivity and materiality not as defined properties of some-thing but as two interrelated modes in which an entity is, or rather is becoming, in a world.…

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Things that Make Us

Via The Institute of Making

Zoe Laughlin of UCL’s Institute of Making has a new podcast, Things That Make Us. Following the model of Desert Island Discs, each week, Laughlin interviews someone asking them to chose five things that they feel have shaped and moulded their lives and practice. The first two weeks interview the artist, Cornelia Parker, and food critic and journalist, Jay Rayner.

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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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