Author Archive | Haidy Geismar

Oval Wall Hanging Commemorating the Coronation of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and Queen Halavalu Mata’aho

Dr Jenny Newell, Curator, Oceania (Polynesia), Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum
Tongan wall hanging.jpgTonga, 1967, 39 x 29 cm. Donated by Noelle Sandwith Oc,1994,01.64
This wall hanging was made in Tonga to commemorate the royal coronation on 4 July 1967. I selected this object partly as a commemoration of my own; King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV died on 10 September 2006. I also chose it because I like its quirky, fundamentally Tongan conjunction of materials: a plaited pandanus leaf backing, decorated barkcloth surface, finished with a postcard pasted in the centre. The object’s home-made quality and use of everyday materials lends an intimate aspect and conveys, more effectively than mass-produced royal merchandise of the sort we see in souvenir shops in Britain, a fond, individualised attachment to the royal couple.…

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Material Culture studies at the American Anthropological Association

Daniel Miller, Anthropology UCL
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A Congress of different cultures: the General Assembly of the United Nations (in lieu of a conference photograph from the AAA)

Last week I attended the annual meetings of the AAA held at San Jose. I went along with a group of students, staff and ex-students from University College London to present a panel concerned with studies inside and outside the home. As usual we are fairly up-front in presenting ourselves under the auspices of ‘material culture studies’. But while this term seems to have established itself as fully as one could wish outside of the US, in the anthropology of places as diverse as Australia through to Brazil, US anthropology continues to exhibit some reticence with respect both to the terminology and its associated conceptualisations.…

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Hornsleth: identity cards, ethics, and ‘art’

I read about this on the BBC this week and felt so uncomfortable I thought it was worth a post here:
The Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth has drawn criticism from the Ugandan government from intervening in the state project to get everyone to have identity cards. He has offered pigs and goats to the inhabitants of one particular village in exchange for them taking his name in this process.
Storm over pig-for-name artist
At first I thought this was a provocative and interesting intervention into the issue of forcing citizens to conform to state regulated identity practices and materialities. Carrying federally recognized id cards is taken for granted in the USA but remains a contentious issues in the UK.
Then I went to the artist’s website (www.hornsleth.com/).…

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The Lost Museum

Museums on the web are, in general, rather disappointing. At worst a selection of digital images with directions for how to get to the institution, at their best, they use the potentials of the internet to create new online visitor constituent (see the Brooklyn Museum’s Myspace page for instance, www.myspace.com/brooklynmuseum.
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Possibly one of the best ‘virtual’ museums, The Lost Museum is a digital recreation of P.T Barnum’s American Museum in New York, which burned to the ground in 1865. Visitors are encouraged by the man himself to solve the mystery of the fire. You can explore the museum in three-dimensions with innovative use of image, film and sound, search archival material, maintain personal files on the case, and engage with specific objects.…

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Museum + Anthropology = Blog, and Other Online Phenomena

Haidy Geismar, NYU
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Map showing the location of the last 100 viewers of Materialworldblog, source www.statcounter.com
Alongside this site, there are several recent additions to the Museum/Anthropology blogosphere which are definitely worth checking out (any other good links, please add to the comments below!).
museumanthropology.blogspot.com
The bi-annual journal, Museum Anthropology, now has it’s own blog, which will be used increasingly to supplement materials published in the journal. The blog offers a forum in which articles published in the journal can be discussed formally as a form of post-publication peer-review. It will also dynamically post notifications of current exhibitions, symposium, book releases and other relevant material. Scholars interested in the fields of museum studies and material culture studies are urged to submit announcements and other materials of interest to the community.…

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The Death of Taste

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The Death of Taste, ICA, London November 23-24 2006, examines the work of making, styling and fashioning taste within the context of increasingly speeded-up fashion trends and the constant plundering of the recent past. It combines academics from the fields of material culture, sociology and fashion history with leading figures of the fashion industry.’
The event is organised by the Alistair O’ Neill and Dr. Joanne Entwistle, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, UK and Prof. Alison Clarke, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria.
For more information see www.ica.org.uk

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Freud’s Therapeutic Boxsprings

The Couch: Thinking in Repose, Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, Austria, Exhibition Review 5 May – 5 November 2006
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Martina Grunewald, PhD candidate in Design History and Material Culture, University of Applied Arts, Vienna
On Sunday, 5 November 2006, the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna closed the doors to “The Couch: Thinking in Repose,” a special exhibition commemorating Freud’s 150th anniversary this year. Using a cross-disciplinary approach, curator Lydia Marinelli focused on literature, art, science, and design from the mid-nineteenth century until today in an illuminating exploration of the most intimate and complex relationship between neurology and—well—a divan conspicuous by its own absence. The exhibition encompassed paintings, sculpture, photographs, books, furniture, china, and tableware as well as interviews and music. The original psychoanalytic couch, however, was missing.…

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Materialising Democracy

Mukulika Banerjee, Anthropology, UCL
This week, reportage of the mid term US elections seems to devote almost equal coverage to the Democrat re-capture of the Congress and the close race to finish in the Senate as it did to malfunctioning electronic voting machines. Indiana and Ohio were singled out for the most unreliable machines and Florida was reported to have reverted to paper ballots. Thus, who people voted for seems to be hinge crucially on how, literally, they cast their vote. The materiality of the voting process, namely ballot boxes, counting procedures, polling stations do not usually feature in election analysis, but when they do, we can assume that something is either wrong or novel. In the case of the US elections, it was both.…

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Clifford Geertz (1926-2006)

Daniel Miller, Anthropology UCL
My impression is that students coming into anthropology today, at least in Britain, are not necessarily expecting to read very much of the writings of Clifford Geertz, compared to my time as a student. But his death on Monday should remind us of just how much a loss that is. I have spent my academic life enamoured of fieldwork and ethnography and I suspect the single biggest influence on this was the sheer pleasure of reading Geertz. As far as I know he never would have described himself as particularly associated with material culture per se, (please comment if you know otherwise) but he was the quintessential cultural anthropologist, and his work shows how much that American tradition of cultural anthropology, (to some degree as opposed to European social anthropology) provided in its heyday an almost seamless acceptance of the materiality of peoples lives and the need to give due credit to the form of cultural order and life.…

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