Archive | From the editors

Cyclone Pam – Support Vanuatu

Haidy Geismar, UCL

As I’m sure you are all aware, last week Vanuatu was devastated by Cyclone Pam, battering the country with winds of over 270 mph. The storm knocked out the country’s telecommunications and transport infrastructure and now, just a few days later, it is estimated that more then 70% of the population are left homeless, without adequate drinking water, and without food. The long term prospects for food security are also bad as most of the garden crops that people live off have been destroyed. President Baldwin Lonsdale has announced that the storm had “wiped out” recent development and that “everything” would have to be rebuilt.

Vanuatu is the place that I have worked as an anthropologist since 2000. The places I have worked – Port Vila, Malakula, Ambrym – via the networks set in place by the Vanuatu Cultural Centre have all been either badly damaged or destroyed.…

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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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Changes afoot at Material World Blog

Some of you more regular readers may have noticed that we’ve been posting less at material world blog of late. When Danny Miller and I started the blog in 2006 the blog was a way for me to keep my connection to the vibrant material culture group in the Anthropology Department at UCL where I had been a doctoral student as well as to connect UCL to the broader interest in material culture developing in the US. Since 2006 we have had a series of dedicated editors and editors-at-large, based all over the place, who have regularly provided content ranging from exhibition and book reviews through to notes from the field and good links. One of the things I’ve liked most about the site is that is its commitment to many voices and the space it has given to students and to scholars whose first language is not English to present their ideas.…

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Occasional Paper No 4: Properties and Social Imagination

Haidy Geismar, UCL Anthropology

We are pleased to announce the latest issue of our Occasional Paper Series as well as the relaunch of the site with new and improved design by our newest editor, Matt Hockenberry.

Properties and Social Imagination is a book length project that drew on explorations and experiments by students and staff working with UCL’s Ethnography Collections.

The project has drawn together Masters and PhD students, staff, and a team of scholars and artists based in the College for Creative Arts at Massey University. Our primary focus is UCL’s ethnographic collections and we have explored the dynamic ways in which the formal qualities of stone, wood and cloth create new cultural sensibilities and new collaborative research practices. Our projects instantiates the dynamism of collections-based research and presents a number of visual projects inspired by these processes, demonstrating that collections are not static but continually in motion.…

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Best of Material World: Digital Media

Since the Material World Blog began, the digital media landscape changed dramatically. In social media terms, we have moved from Friendster, MySpace and Orkut to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, with a range of other digital, mobile and social media becoming embedded within many people’s everyday lives around the world. These transformations resulted in an increasing number of posts that explored the changing relationships with digital media and made visible the materiality of the digital worlds. In my review of the best of digital media on Material World Blog, five key themes emerged.

(1) The first theme clusters around questions of place and materiality with the growth in digital media. These include Jean-François Blanchette’s wonderful post analysing bits and the software history  as well as Toby Wilkenson’s examination of the consequences of google earth for our relationship to place in a time of google earth. Graham H.…

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Best of Material World Blog: Landscape and Place

Patrick Laviolette (EHI, Tallinn University, hosts of EASA2014)

In terms of providing reflections on the material dimensions of place and landscape, here are some links to what I feel have been amongst the more provocative postings on the blog over the years. Many of the authors to the links below implicitly, or sometimes even explicitly ask: how do we depict our spatial experiences through the digital medium of blogging?

In Feb 2007, Graeme Were put up a piece simply entitled ‘Footpaths‘ by Kate Cameron-Daum. It is an eye-catching post which stirred my own curiosity on methods of walking, particularly in the countryside. Similarly, Peter Oakley’s observations at Tyntesfield house in A Roof with a View, reflects upon the postmodern condition of a heritage site standing below some scaffolding.…

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Best of Material World Blog: Museums, Exhibitions, Archives, Memorials

Since its inception, Material World has treated museums and archives not only as repositories of material culture, but as material culture–that is, material products as well as producers of culture and social memory. As institutions, they are sites of collection and exhibition, acts that have their own material and materializing dimensions.

Here are some of our favorite posts about museums, exhibitions, archives, and memorials:

Graeme Were reviews the Musée du Quai Branly a year after it opened.

Anna Weinrich examines two permanent museum exhibitions in Australia featuring Aboriginal culture and collections by a foundational anthropologist, testing out the new museology against the politics of Aboriginal voice.

Diana Young discusses her curatorial efforts to enliven museum collections in dialogue with Aboriginal artists.

Bethany Edmunds reviews two British exhibitions of Pacific material, reflecting on the role of language in framing both historic and contemporary art and material culture.…

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Material culture in Hungary and everywhere else

Daniel Miller, UCL

Krisztina Fehérváry 2013 Politics in Color and Concrete: socialist materialities and the middle class in Hungary. Indiana University Press

Léna Pellandini-Simányi  2014 Consumption Norms and Everyday Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan

Hungary is a good place to take stock of the current state of material culture studies. Because Hungary is simply a good emblem of `anywhere,’ in that it represents neither a vanguard nor a backwater, but works as simply another ordinary place. That is significant to me because the material culture studies that I guess I have always wanted to promote are precisely about this same ordinary whether as blue jeans, or domestic interiors.

Fehérváry’s exemplary scholarship, both historical and ethnographic, takes us through both socialist modernism and post-socialist consumer modernism in the development of contemporary Hungary.…

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Best of Material World Blog: On Making, Craft, and Unmaking

In this post, I link to the very best posts in our archive focused on making, doing and craft.

In Fixing, Things, Fixing Ourselves, Lydia Nicholas writes about Suguru, an open source material for extending the life of mass produced (or any other) artifacts.

In Plan B for a Nuclear Reactor, Paul Williams describes the transformation of a nuclear power plant into a heritage site.

Gabriella Coleman outlines her  theory of hackers, liberalism, and pleasure, which became an important part of her book, Coding Freedom.

Ian Ewart was an Anthropologist Looks at Engineering. 

Adam Drazin presents the Mechanical Postcard, an intervention into UCL Ethnography Collections by Mattijs Siljee, of Massey University, New Zealand.

And on the opposite side of making, unmaking, Helen Polson writes about how Death Bear Wants Your Unhappy Things.…

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