Author Archive | William Thomson

MATTER IN PLACE – Aotearoa/South Pacific forum for social matters

9 November 2007 1:30 – 6:30 Museum Building Theatrettre 10A02
Entrace D, Buckle Street, Te Aro, Wellington
The School of Visual & Material Culture at Massey University is flagging its recent postgraduate developments and future research initiative – MATTER: the New Zealand Centre for Material Culture Studies – by hosting an interdisciplinary discussion forum that is national in scope. SVMC is inviting guest speakers in the various fields of visual and material culture to help contextualise the current nature of research and teaching in this area within a context that is relevant to New Zealand/Aotearoa and the South Pacific.
The event is in the format of an afternoon forum with panel addresses by 5 scholars working in HE institutions within New Zealand plus 1 from Australia.…

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The Serbian Gift

Ivana Bajic, Anthropology, UCL
The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me.
-(Emerson 1906: 291)

This paper is based on a twelve months ethnographic research of material culture of post-1990 Serbian migration from Belgrade to Western Europe, North America and Australia. The ethnographic material seems superficially symmetrical in a sense that I was looking at the same material culture genres — homes, gifts and communication – on both sides of this migration, sometimes matching specific migrants in London and their parents in Belgrade. However, the data reveals a certain asymmetry between the two sides of migration. Contrary to what development studies on Serbian remittances suggest*, this asymmetry consists in parents’ conscious efforts to be the givers, even if that entails vicarious sacrifices on their behalf, and in children’s, again, conscious efforts not to be the recipients of their parents’ sacrifice, even if that involves minimum efforts on their side.…

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“Consumer Culture” by Roberta Sassatelli

Daniel Miller, Anthropology, UCL
cultbooksmall.jpgIn teaching courses about consumption, the nearest thing I have employed to textbooks are materials that were written over a decade ago. I used Acknowledging Consumption, my own edited survey of disciplinary perspectives and Don Slater’s Consumer Culture and Modernity a summary of more sociological debates. None of the many books that have emerged since then seemed to me very satisfactory as replacement textbook materials. Indeed I think many of these give the very term textbook a bad name. You feel they are written under pressure from publishers, an excuse for a relatively superficial and simplifying encounter with the material. Something done on the side in between the authors real research. Or alternatively they are used to make some particular point, promoting the authors own research under the guise of a textbook.…

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Ten Canoes

Sabra Thorner, NYU Anthropology PhD
The feature film Ten Canoes (2006, dir. Rolf De Heer) takes as its starting point archival photographs taken by anthropologist-photographer Donald Thomson in the late 1930s in Arnhem Land. The construction of a feature film from still photographs raises important questions: Does its inspiration in archival photographs make the film more authoritative as a document of history or of scientific evidence? Does the feature film bring the photographs to life, or rather does it conflate important differences of visual image production and consumption between Thomson’s time and now?
Goose egg hunters poling themselves through the reedier parts of the Arafura Swamp, April 1937. Nngulmarmar is in the leading canoe, left of him is Marakywara and behind him is Djaari.

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A Consolidated Materiality for the New Harlem Renaissance?

Dasha A. Chapman, NYU, Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program

Basil Alkazzi, British, b. 1938
Sea of Spirit Dreams, III, 1997

There has been talk of a New Harlem Renaissance. the speak is filled with hope – a new Harlem, a revived Harlem, Harlem’s second-coming – and real-life happenings – businesses, arts, culinary attractions. I recently visited one site of this proclaimed re-birth: the Museum of Art in Origins (MoAAO) on 162nd Street.
Opened in November, 2005, the Museum is housed in Professor George Preston’s brownstone in Jumel Terrace on Sugar Hill. As the most affluent part of Harlem, Sugar Hill has been known for its residents: well-known African-American artists and intellectuals like Duke Ellington and W.E.B. DuBois. This history is what has provides the neighborhood its grounding – and its cachet – for this second Renaissance.…

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Bones of Contention

Jan Geisbusch, PhD, University College London

Badge with a contact relic of St Pio of Pietrelcina (ca. 2002)

Historically, the conjunction of matter and the sacred has often been a source of unease for Christian thought (and other religions, obviously, though this is outside my research). Speaking of the Eucharist and the mediating role of medieval clergy, Hegel stated: “The Holy as a mere thing has the character of externality; thus it is capable of being taken possession of by another to my exclusion; it may come into an alien hand, since the process of appropriating it is not one that takes place in Spirit, but is conditioned by its quality as an external object. The highest of human blessings is in the hand of others.” Beyond the Eucharist, Brown (1982) also saw this as an apt characterisation (though without the disapproval) of sacred matter in general and of relics in particular.…

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Using Film to Move a Totem Pole

Sandra Rozental, New York University

In 2003, Gil Cardinal directed Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole, a film documenting the Haisla people’s pilgrimage to Stockholm to concretize negotiations for the return of an object that, despite its absence from the community since the nineteenth century when it was illegally sold to a collector, has remained present in the community through memory and stories. The film raises issues of ownership and meaning by showing, through interviews and other footage, the different points of view expressed both by community members, and the museum in Stockholm’s staff. However, the film ends with the Totem pole still on display in Sweden, after the community has made an exact replica for the museum. CLICK for Photos
There is little hope for the original’s successful repatriation because of different ideas about the role of heritage and objects: for the museum, the issue at stake is preservation, whereas for the community, tradition and community norms need to be respected and the pole left to decay naturally according to custom.…

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An Anthropology of the Road

Dimitris Dalakoglou PhD candidate – UCL
A road in Albania, February 2006. The pavement and the roadbed are partly under construction, the yellow bulldozer in the front was going to the road-works. The local informant who was driving the car apologized: ‘Excuse me but this road, here, is only for the [horse-drawn] cart of the uncle in front’.
When I first went to conduct fieldwork in Albania my idea was not to study roads but rather the things that travel on them. Especially my PhD was to be about the material culture of Albanian migration. The possessions people take back and forth between the location of their migratory destination, and the place of their birth. A major part of my thesis will still be concerned with the house and home as part of a larger study of transnationalism, migration and material culture.…

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Indigo: A Blue to Dye For

Danny Miller, Anthropology, UCL
Indigo installation by Shihoko Fukumoto. The museum attendant informed me that they had all been asked to wear blue denim jeans for the duration of the exhibition.
A major exhibition on Indigo is coming to an end at the Whitworth gallery in Manchester on 15 April 2007 , but then moves to Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery 19 May – 1 September 2007 and then Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and Hove Museum & Art Gallery 29 September 2007 – 6 January 2008. The exhibition seemed to me to be clearly inspired by the classic text on Indigo by Jenny Balfour-Paul and published by the British Museum which I would strongly recommend to anyone with an interest in the topic.…

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The Pleasures of the Used Text: Revealing Traces of Consumption

Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder
usedtxt1.jpgSmall, inexpensive, and well-designed, Peter Pauper Press books fit fetchingly into a suitcoat pocket or evening bag. With dependably colorful, decorative dust jackets and entertaining, easily digestible content, few books could be as cheering to give and receive. Perhaps this is why so many found their way into US upper-middle class (and striving) den bookshelves and kitchen cupboards in the 1950s and 1960s. Peter Pauper’s attractively printed cookbooks, poetry volumes and lifestyle hints now recirculate through libraries, discerning used bookstores and as collectibles on eBay. Tantalizing traces of consumption linger in these used books – some apparently stored, tight and unopened, in a bedside table, forlornly filed away in an attic trunk, or boxed and forgotten in a basement bin, while others indicate heavy use, as cherished recipe book, favorite collection of poems, or crucial guide to concocting cocktails.…

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