Archive | From the news

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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The Beach – A Frontier of Nostalgia

by Duane Jethro

The beach is a place of waste and ruin. Rotting seaweed, stinking dead seals, cracked and crushed shells, deflated bluebottles, fat blobs of translucent jellyfish melting away in the sun. All the finished, broken things spewed out by the ocean.

In early January, estate agent, Penny Sparrow’s comments about Durban’s beaches surfaced in the muck and foam of social media. In a choppy Facebook post, she complained bitterly about black South Africans who swamped the city’s beaches over the festive season break. Allowing these “monkeys” access to the beach ‘invited huge dirt and trouble and discomfort to others’ she cawed. They only “pick drop and litter”. A mob of animalistic black bodies on the beach soiled Penny Sparrow’s romantic ideas of a pristine public space of white leisure.…

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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.…

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“We left when the bullets were falling like rain:” Syrian refugees’ illustrated stories

These items belonged to a family of four who spent a night in the mountains before arriving in El-Qaa in the northern region of the Bekaa Valley. Their new home was a makeshift tent on agricultural land. Rent was covered by working in the fields for the Lebanese farmer. The children grabbed the teddy bear and soft toy. The mother grabbed a box that she knew the torch was in. All the other items just happened to be in the same box. Even though some of it is useless, such as a TV remote, they could not bring themselves to discard it.

These items belonged to a family of four who spent a night in the mountains before arriving in El-Qaa in the northern region of the Bekaa Valley. Their new home was a makeshift tent on agricultural land. Rent was covered by working in the fields for the Lebanese farmer. The children grabbed the teddy bear and soft toy. The mother grabbed a box that she knew the torch was in. All the other items just happened to be in the same box. Even though some of it is useless, such as a TV remote, they could not bring themselves to discard it.

Earlier this year, artist George Butler spent several days in the refugees’ ‘tented settlements’ of northern Lebanon. His portraits of the people – and the often random possessions they brought with them when they fled their homes – tell their own poignant tales.…

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Gabriella Coleman on Anonymous

ColemanFlier v2

In March, Gabriella Coleman gave a talk at the UCL Centre for Digital Anthropology drawing on her research with the activist (non)collective Anonymous. Her talk, entitled Anonymous and the Craftiness of Craft and the Trickiness of Trickery, linked Anonymous activists to the anthropological archetype of the trickster, and developed the trope of craft – as an engaged, wholly material practice – as a way to enact trickery.

The talk can be watched by clicking on the following link, or the one above (I’m trying to figure out how to embed it into wordpress)

Gabriella Coleman, March 11, 2014

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Veiled Truths by Hossein Fatemi

"Mayha." Credit: Hossein Fatemi/Panos Pictures. Reposted from the New York Times.

“Mayha.” Credit: Hossein Fatemi/Panos Pictures. Reposted from the New York Times.

The New York Times recently ran this photo essay by the Iranian documentary photographer Hossein Fatemi of diverse women in Tehran posing behind veils of one sort or another, accompanied by a short commentary critiquing the imposition of the hijab on secular women there. While the piece ran in the “Review” (opinion) section of the Sunday print edition, it was featured online — without the commentary — as a “Fashion and Style” slideshow.

 

 

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Jacques Le Goff [1924-2014]

Born on January 1st 1924 in Toulon, historian Jacques Le Goff has died on 1 April in Paris aged 90. He took up a teaching position and eventually headed up the Paris based School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS). He was one of the main proponents of ‘New History’, inspiring a shift in historical research from an emphasis on political figureheads and mata-events to social memory and historical anthropology.

le GoffThroughout a long career in higher education and public broadcasting, Le Goff transformed views of the Middle Ages from a dark and backward time to a period that set the building blocks for modern Western civilisation.

Outside the lofty towers of academia, Le Goff hosted a weekly history programme on the public radio station France Culture.

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Unpacking the Cars and Sheds with Genevieve Bell

Unpacking Cars Intel Image

Intel’s resident cultural anthropologist, Dr. Genevieve Bell, was recently featured in an article, “Intel’s Sharp-Eyed Social Scientist” in the New York Times. The article traces some of the findings and insights from Bell’s 16 years at Intel, including a study of how people use technology in their car which will be of interest to material culture studies and STS scholars. Her video interview with Sydney Morning Herald, A Moment with Genevieve Bell, also features some of her recent work in Australia on people’s everyday relationships with sheds.

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What is a photograph

what is a photograph

 

The current exhibition at the International Center of Photography, New York, asks “What is a photograph?”

Organized by ICP Curator Carol Squiers, What Is a Photograph? explores the intense creative experimentation in photography that has occurred since the 1970s. Conceptual art introduced photography into contemporary art making, using the medium in ways that challenged it artistically, intellectually, and technically and broadened the notion of what a photograph could be in art. A new generation of artists began an equally rigorous but more aesthetically adventurous analysis, which probed photography itself—from the role of light, color, composition, to materiality and the subject.What Is a Photograph? brings together these artists, who reinvented photography.

 

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Agbogbloshie: the world’s largest e-waste dump – in pictures | Environment | theguardian.com

 

Adam Nasara, 25, uses Styropor, an insulating material from refrigerators, to light a fire

Adam Nasara, 25, uses Styropor, an insulating material from refrigerators, to light a fire

Agbogbloshie: the world’s largest e-waste dump – in pictures | Environment | theguardian.com.

 

Discarders of electronic goods expect them to be recycled properly. But almost all such devices contain toxic chemicals which, even if they are recyclable, make it expensive to do so. As a result, illegal dumping has become a lucrative business.

Photographer Kevin McElvaney documents Agbogbloshie, a former wetland in Accra, Ghana, which is home to the world’s largest e-waste dumping site. Boys and young men smash devices to get to the metals, especially copper. Injuries, such as burns, untreated wounds, eye damage, lung and back problems, go hand in hand with chronic nausea, anorexia, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems.

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