Arthur C. Danto, a provocative and influential philosopher and critic who championed Andy Warhol and other avant-garde artists and upended the study of art history by declaring that the history of art was over, has died. He was 89. Danto, an art critic for the Nation magazine from 1984 to 2009 and a professor emeritus at Columbia University, died of heart failure Friday at his Manhattan apartment, his daughter Ginger Danto said. An academically trained philosopher, Danto became as central to debates about art in the 1960s and after as critic Clement Greenberg had been during the previous generation. Danto was initially troubled, then inspired by the rise of pop art and how artists such as Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein could transform a comic strip or a soup can into something displayed in a museum, a work of “art.” Starting in the ’60s, he wrote hundreds of essays that often returned to the most philosophical question: What exactly is art? Danto liked to begin with a signature event in his lifetime — a 1964 show at New York’s Stable Gallery that featured Warhol’s now-iconic reproductions of Brillo boxes.
Read the rest of the LA Times Obituary: Arthur C. Danto dies at 89; .
A number of prominent anthropologists have passed away in recent weeks, perhaps most notably, George W. Stocking [July 13th, aged 85], Keith Basso [Aug. 4th, aged 73] and Igor Kopytoff on August 9th.
With his major contribution ‘The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process’, in Arjun Appadurai’s groundbreaking The Social Life of Things (CUP, 1986) Kopytoff in particular deserves special recognition on this blog. Based at the University of Pennsylvania for over 50 years, his field research as an Africanist was truly wide ranging, with interests in economic anthropology, cultural property, religion and political culture. He was a Consulting Curator in the African Section of the University’s Museum.
Amongst his numerous achievements and accolades, he acted as a Consultant to President Kennedy’s Task Force on the Congo in 1961; was Associate Editor of American Anthropologist from 1966‑70; and was Visiting Professor at the University of Montreal over the year 1983‑84.
An obituary by Allison Steele has appeared in the online digital newspaper Philly.com.
Being Between: Thinking with Peter Loizos’ Legacy
Dr Rebecca Bryant
Friday 8 March 2013 at 6.30 p.m. London School of Economics
European Institute, Lecture Room 1, Ground floor, Tower 1, Clements’ Inn, London WC2A 2AE
Chaired by Dr Jonathan Parry, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, and Peter Loizos’ colleague and friend.
Throughout his career, Peter Loizos articulated discomfort with his role as a Cypriot ‘insider’ who was expected, as an anthropologist, to behave like an ‘outsider’. He expressed this in numerous ways, from his sensitive photographic and cinematographic studies, which aimed primarily to document a time and place that would soon be lost, to later essays and interviews in which he discussed the limits of engagement with and disengagement from the field. Early on, the division of the island and the displacement of his kin shaped the direction of his research and writing, as he struggled to represent what he had witnessed. At the beginning of The Heart Grown Bitter, Loizos’s second book, he says that the work has two aims: to record the experience of displacement and ‘to commemorate the village of Argaki and its people.’ He also explains that the writing is in a more personal tone, ‘because the formal impersonality of The Greek Gift [his first book] seemed inappropriate for the subject matter of this book.’ In other words, the conventions of anthropological writing were inadequate to represent tragedy.
Here Aaron Swartz and Taryn Simon discuss a collaboration that they undertook for the New Museum last year in which they created a visualization showing the cultural specificity and partiality of google image search.The piece was called Image Atlas.
Editor’s note: the vimeo clip no longer seems to be loading directly from the site in this posting but you can watch the clip here:
Originally published in the SocialistWorker.org on October 2, 2012
Neil Smith: A Passionate Scholar and Socialist
Bill Roberts, a founding member of the ISO, and Hector Agredano, a doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center, remember the life of a determined activist.
Neil Smith, the renowned scholar, beloved teacher and devoted activist, died on September 29 at the age of 58.
Neil is best known for his academic work. He was a professor of anthropology and geography at City University of New York. In particular, his writings on the patterns of social development in cities–drawing on history, economics, political and social theory, and ecological studies–are among the most prominent left- wing views on the subject.
But Neil will also be remembered as a committed socialist and activist. He came to the U.S. from his native Scotland in early 1977 to complete his graduate studies with David Harvey at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He wasted no time becoming an activist on campus, helping to establish the Graduate Representative Organization.
In 1978, Neil joined the International Socialist Organization (ISO), then only newly formed, and helped to build a campus chapter at John Hopkins of a dozen committed socialists. Neil became a frequent contributor to Socialist Worker, then a monthly
newspaper. One memorable article of his in 1981, titled ”It’s Right to Rebel,” put the London urban riots of that summer in the context of the severe economic recession and the hopelessness it produced.
As Kathy Ogren, a fellow student at the time and now a recognized scholar in her own right, remembered, Neil was “a great popularizer of Marxist ideas…and a good
listener to a person’s evolving political consciousness. He could help one sort out the connections between personal and structural questions and conditions.”
Though Neil left the ISO in 1984, his comrades and students remember the humor and fearlessness he brought to his political organizing. “Neil was one of the most
creative thinkers I’ve ever met,” Ogren said. “He saw connections, applied his prodigious energy to researching an answer, and then found innovative ways to write or speak about what he had learned.”
As a scholar, Neil’s intellect was evident from early in his academic career. In 1979, he wrote an influential article titled “Toward a Theory of Gentrification: A Back to the City Movement by Capital, not People.” More than scholarly research, this was a political intervention in the field of urban geography at a time when questions on urban decay and
ghettoization were riddled with inconsistent theories and contradictory research.
His most important theoretical contribution to the understanding of the geography of capitalism is outlined in Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and
the Production of Space. Here, Neil laid out a coherent explanation for the unevenness and distortion of economic development, specifically in urban areas, because of investment and disinvestment in the built environment by capital markets.
Inspired by insights from Lenin and Trotsky, Neil’s thesis is based on the contradictions of capitalism outlined by Karl Marx in Capital. However, in applying these ideas, he helped to anchor disparate theories from disciplines that often remain separated in the
Neil would expand on these theories to develop analyses on the commodification of nature under capitalism, politics in the study of geography, and U.S. imperialism. One of his most celebrated books, American Empire: Roosevelt’s Geographer and the Prelude to
Globalization–for which he received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography for 2002–traces American military interventionism through the age of globalization. The book would prove prophetic when, one year later, the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq.
Upon his arrival at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, Smith’s scholarship and sharp politics attracted a crowd of activists, intellectuals and radicals of all stripes to his courses. From seasoned anti-gentrification activists of Washington, D.C., to peasant organizers from Costa Rica, and the curious from everywhere in between, they all found a seat at the table. His classes were lively with dissension and debate, and it was alright to be political; in fact, it was encouraged.
During the last years of his life, one of Neil’s main concerns was that radicals and revolutionaries were losing hope. He was frustrated that it was easier for radicals to imagine an environmental apocalypse than a triumphant revolutionary movement against capitalism. During class and in meetings, he would raise the concern that one of the victims of the ruling class offensive had been the utopian imagination of the left.
This was one of the most inspiring things about Neil– he never gave up hope. And when the Occupy movement burst on the scene last fall, he welcomed it with open arms. Class discussion would turn into strategy debates–he encouraged students to participate, and
would hold class at the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park or cancel them to allow us to participate in major demonstrations.
Neil leaves a lasting legacy of scholarship and dedication to geography and to Marxism. As a socialist, he always placed himself in the revolutionary tradition–he spent his last years trying to raise revolution to the agenda in people’s imagination and political frontiers. He left us too soon and will be sorely missed by friends, colleagues, students and loved ones.
Neil Smith, Â¡presente!
He is survived by his wife, Marlene, his daughter, Julia, and sons Andy and Joss, and by seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
The well known Belgian ethnographic film-maker Luc de Heusch started his career as a poet who was part of the CoBrA group (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). He later fell under the influence of Claude Lévi-Strauss as well as Marcel Griaule and Jean Rouch. He was professor of anthropology at the Free University of Brussels, where he taught for nearly forty years from (1955-1992).
Strongly anti-colonialist in his political views, he directed the ‘Laboratory of Belief Systems & African Thought’. From 1987 to 1991 he was president of the scientific council for the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren near Brussels and was also president of the Henri Storck Foundation. It is as a film assistant to H. Storck in the late 1940s that he learnt to make ethnographic documentaries.
Along with his good friend Jean Rouch, de Heusch was one of the most prominent advocates of visual anthropology, especially in his role as deputy secretary general of CIFE (the International Committee on Ethnographic Film - which, at the instigation of Edgar Morin, became CIFES in 1958 with the addition of the adjective ‘sociological’). It was Morin who wrote the preface to de Heusch’s groundbreaking UNESCO publication Cinema and Social Sciences: A Survey of Ethnographic and Sociological Film.
Luc de Heusch was elected as a member of Belgium’s Royal Academies for Science & the Arts.
Fête chez les Hamba (1955), Les gestes du repas (1958), Les amis du plaisir (1961), Jeudi on chantera comme dimanche (1967), Tracking the pale fox (1984), Quand j’étais Belge (1999).
1958. Essais sur le symbolisme de l’inceste royal en Afrique, Brussels: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.
1962. The Cinema and Social Science. A Survey of Ethnographic and Sociological Films. Paris: UNESCO.
1966. Le Rwanda et la civilisation interlacustre. Études d’anthropologie historique et structurale. Brussels: Université Libre de Bruxelles.
1981. Why Marry Her? Society and Symbolic Structures (trans. by J. Lloyd). Cambridge: Univ. Press.
1982. The Drunken King, or, The Origin of the State (trans by R. Willis). Bloomington: Indiana.
1982. Rois nés d’un cœur de vache. Mythes et rites bantous II. Paris: Gallimard, Coll. Les Essais.
1985. Sacrifice in Africa: A Structuralist Approach (trans. by L. O’Brien & A. Morton). Manchester: Univ. Press.
1987. Ecrits sur la royauté sacrée. Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.
2002. Du pouvoir: Anthropologie politique des sociétés d’Afrique centrale. Nanterre: Société d’ethnologie.
William L. Rathje (PhD Harvard 1971), professor emeritus of archaeology at the University of Arizona, studied rubbish as an insight into human behaviour. “The only way to know a person is by what they throw away”, he has repeatedly said. Jeff Harrison has written a comprehensive tribute for Univ. of Arizona News (see here).
When I was an undergraduate the Bruntland Report Our Common Future (1987, OUP) was high on the reading list of many courses and most of the world’s leaders had just come back from the Rio Summit. Agenda 21 was on everyone’s lips. It was a time when many of us really felt, perhaps naively, that global attitudes towards pollution and waste were actually changing.
At the time, one of my friends was doing his dissertation on junk mail and he proudly carried around one of his library finds, Rathje’s books, something with ‘Garbology’ in the title. I remember thinking, embarrassingly now, what a load of populist crap. But then one day I eventually picked it up and read a few passages. It was simply inspirational. That, combined with a few conversations with people wiser than I was, had converted me away from the populist crap thesis. If our attitudes towards waste really were to change, didn’t we need more hard core scientists who could nevertheless still convey complex ideas to the average lay-person.
The world of material culture studies has recently lost one such person. One of its most innovative pioneers. In 1990, Rathje was granted the Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology given by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which cited “his innovative contributions to public understanding of science and its societal impacts by demonstrating with his creative ‘Garbage Project’ how the scientific method can document problems and identify solutions.” He equally won the AAA’s 1992 Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology.
In addition to his numerous articles, chapters, reviews and books, Rathje has only this year finished editing a monumental two volume Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste published by Sage.
Garbologist Bill Rathje at Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island
Sadly, on Friday night March 2nd, Peter Loizos died in London. He is survived by his wife Gill and three children. Professor Emeritus of anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Peter worked there from 1969 to 2002 and headed the department for a time. During the past six years he returned to teaching at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where he was an inspiration to numerous anthropology and film students until last year. He carried out long term research in Cyprus since the 1960s, made 4 films, edited many volumes and wrote several monographs.
Amongst his important contributions, readers of this blog will be familiar with the book Innovation in Ethnographic Film: From Innocence to Self-consciousness, 1955-1985. Chicago: Univ. Press.
Other key publications include:
Loizos, P. 2008. Iron in the Soul: Displacement, Livelihood and Health in Cyprus. Oxford: Berghahn Books.
Loizos, P. and Heady, P, (eds.) 1999. Conceiving Persons: Ethnographies of Procreation, Fertility and Growth. London: LSE Monographs on Social Anthropology/Athlone Press.
Loizos, P. & Euthymios Papataxiarchēs 1991. Contested Identities: Gender and Kinship in Modern Greece. Princeton: Univ. Press.
Loizos, P. 1975. The Greek Gift: Politics in a Cypriot Village. London: St Martin’s Press.
Heavily involved with the ‘ancestors interviews’, Peter was himself interviewed by Alan Macfarlane on Sept 14 2002. See here.
See also Charles Stewart’s obituary in the Guardian
Stephen Nugent at Goldsmiths College has sadly announced the death of Josep R. Llobera. Born in Havana and brought up in Catalonia Josep had made Britain his home since 1969. He taught for many years in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths and following his retirement was a Visiting Professor in the Anthropology Department at UCL, from which institution he took his Diploma in the early 1970s and a PhD in 1978.
Josep resisted pigeonholing for he had a broad view of anthropology and the human sciences. He was well known for his work on European nationalism, for his research in historical anthropology and for his enthusiasm for anthropology as a critical social science. He had many friends, strong opinions, and a rigorous and humorous approach to life. For many, he was always an energetic and reliable presence and will be deeply missed.
Llobera, J. & A. Bailey eds. (1981) The Asiatic Mode of Production. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Llobera, J. & J. Kah eds. (1982) The Anthropology of Pre-Capitalist Societies. London: Macmillan.
Llobera, J. (1994) The God of Modernity. The Development of Nationalism in Western Europe. Oxford: Berg.
Llobera, J.; V. Goddard & C. Shore eds (1994) The Anthropology of Europe. Oxford: Berg.
Llobera, J (2001) ‘The Political in the Work of Emile Durkheim’, in Pickering, W. (ed.) Durkheim: Critical Assessments. London: Routledge.
Llobera, J (2004) Foundations of National Identity: From Catalonia to Europe. Oxford: Berghahn.
Llobera, J (2006) Reminiscences of a Distant Past (novel). London: Mare Nostrum.
For a complete list of Josep’s Publications