Archive | Notes from the Field

Socialism could be fun…?

Olga Kravets, Bilkent University
a reconstructed living room
Having a keen interest in both everyday life and GDR (well, actually in the socialist past), I visited the “Dictatorship and Everyday Life in the GDR” exhibition while in Berlin in April 2007 (the exhibition is on until July, 29). Set up by the German Historical Museum, the exhibition aims to show “How the citizens of the GDR succeed in coping with their everyday life.” [link: Scroll down for Panoramic Pictures] The collection spreads across two floors and is arranged in themes – work and retirement policy, education and family policy, for example. The life of GDR citizens is represented largely through the official insignia, such as party membership cards, school/work uniforms, birth/school/pension certificates, work records, newspapers, posters and so on.…

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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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Ramadan Festivals in Turkey

Ozlem Sandikci and Sahver Omeraki (Bilkent University)
Photo 1: Stands shaped as Ottoman-style houses, selling everything from cheese to home-textile.
Across the Muslim world, there are numerous signs that Ramadan, a time of fasting, prayer and reflection, is transforming from a religious month to a cultural and commercial holiday. The spirit of capitalism is felt in practices ranging from the marketing of specialty items (e.g., fasting calendars, lanterns) emblazoned with company logos to the Ramadan feasts promoted by restaurants and hotels, the Ramadan greeting cards, the Ramadan sweepstakes, the Ramadan themed shopping malls and supermarkets, and the Ramadan festivals. It appears that Ramadan has taken on the commercial trappings of Christmas and Hanukah and is transforming from a religious ritual to a holiday marked by consumption.…

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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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Becoming HIV: disease as agency

Ellie Reynolds, University College London
The following is an exploration of the materiality and meaning of HIV positive semen for a group of gay men who engage in two behaviours: bugchasing and giftgiving. Bugchasing is the desire for, and active pursuit of, HIV infection; giftgiving is the attempt to infect others with HIV. Central to these behaviours is the ‘conversion’ ritual where HIV positive giftgivers attempt to infect HIV negative bugchasers. The bugchasers, during the ritual, are considered to be both feminine (in their behaviour and in the ‘bottom’ (insertee) role they take during sexual intercourse) and female (where maleness is defined as the ability to act upon and transform another).
Bugchasers are said to be ‘impregnated’ by the masculine and male giftgivers when they are infected.…

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African Memories

Marta Rosales ESCS and CEMME FCSH/UNL, Professor Filomena Silvano CEMME FCSH/UNL (scientific coordinator)
Domestic consumption practices, colonialism and transcontinental migration experiences of a group of Portuguese and Goan families.
This project aims the study of the domestic consumption practices of a restrict group of families of Portuguese and Goan origins that share a common biographical past: an inter-generational lived experience in Mozambique (during the colonial period) and a forced migration out of Africa to Portugal and Brazil after de Mozambican independence. Theoretically, the research intends the development of an approach that allows the integration of material culture and consumption studies to the discussion of a significant phenomenon that had a critical impact on the Portuguese recent social history – the forced migration of diverse social groups out of the Portuguese former African colonies.…

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Brazilian Jeans

Mylene Mizrahi


Here in Rio a very popular genre of party are the funk balls, that happens on weekend nights, most of the time in sport courts in clubs that are kind of decadent. Each of these parties gather thousands of youngsters, coming from their homes up on the hill, where the favela slums are localized. The girls and boys who take part care a great deal about their personal appearance, specially when they go out to dance. I have been studying these parties since 2002 with my principle focus being on their clothes.
What has become known as “ brazilian jeans” is a representative garment of the wardrobe of the girls who come to the funk balls, and in fact it was really a style that was created by them, because it was their appropriation of these jeans, and their wearing them to funk balls, that really gave them life.…

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Material Visualization of Sustainability

Christine Chastain, UCL

In the 1970s, in the small town of Falmouth, Mass., USA, an experimental, sustainable
community was formed called Alchemy. This project was funded by government grants
and allowed its members to explore such exotic concepts like hydroponic vegetable
growth, composting, contained, sustainable systems, etc. Members were so busy
and engaged that someone forgot to submit a government grant and the community
folded without the necessary financial backing.

good-works-greenhouse2.jpg good-works-baboo-fencing.jpg

Hilda and Earle bought one of the remaining dilapidated greenhouses from this
project and decided to revive the vision their own way. Both Hilda and Earle
are landscape architects and proud owners of the thriving business, Good Works.
They have managed to create a delectable visual feast of their sustainable lifestyle
aspirations using materials they either create, grow or that are indigenous
to the area of Cape Cod.…

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The Materiality of the Funeral of King Tupou IV of Tonga

Dr. Fanny Wonu Veys, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Metropolitan Museum of Art
In September 2006, I worked closely with the Tonga Traditions Committee, whose employees were recording the best they could all the events pertaining to the funeral of King Tupou IV. King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga, the fourth king in the modern dynasty of Tongan rulers died after forty-one years of reign on 10 September in a New Zealand hospital. Through genealogy, Tupou IV embodied the three royal lines of Tu’i Tonga, Tu’i Kanokupolo and Tu’i Takalaua.







Thursday 21 September 2006. Catholic schoolchildren bring
dozens of cakes for presentation
Monday 18 September 2006. People from Niuatoputapu prepare
to enter the palace grounds with barkcloth, fine mats, and a basket.
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Hoarding and Disposal in Tokyo

Fabio Gygi, PhD Student, Anthropology, University College London and University of Tokyo
My project is concerned with accumulation of things, attachment to things and with what psychiatrists call ‘hoarding’. My initial interest was whether by reformulating a psychiatric concern with deviance in terms of material culture, a broader understanding of the relationships people entertain with their possessions could be gained. Hoarding seemed to be an appropriate subject, because a) it required understanding of seemingly irrational behavior (feeling attached to things others consider as ‘rubbish’) and b) because recent anthropological concepts of ownership, possession and attachment and their influence on how we think about things, minds and selves could be put to the test (and put to the test they are…).
While hoarders in psychiatric literature are often described as ‘cannot throw things away’, my fieldwork among inhabitants of gomiyashiki in Tokyo (lit.…

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