Archive | Topics for Discussion

Pic Nic the Street: public spaces and the materials of the body politk

In a previous post we already discussed the ‘ergonomics of public and political life’, which we defined as the various ways in which our bodies ‘fit’ in the material environments that we inhabit and about how this ‘fitting’ shapes the quality of public and political life.

The post was a way of signaling the increasing precariousness of urban public spaces and how they enable or diable the constitution of effective political bodies.

Well, it seems that we are not alone in this .

A couple of weeks ago, the philosopher Philippe Van Parijs published this opinion piece in which he denounced the increasing pauperization of public spaces in Brussels; their reckless marketization; the dictatorship of the car; and the need to reclaim them back.…

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Mark Dion and the Arts and Archaeologies of Waste

Mark Dion and the Arts and Archaeologies of Waste

– William Viney

[William Viney has a PhD in cultural studies and humanities from the London Consortium, University of London. An editor for Pluto Press and Pod Academy, his current research project examines the philosophical, artistic and anthropological significance of twins.  http://williamviney.com]

An interesting debate has simmered in the humanities about the relative importance of ‘waste’ in our material and historical imagination. This post has the modest ambition of asking what some theorists of archaeology have said about waste things, about the time waste objects seem to articulate and about the narrative interpretations that seek to chart the comings and goings of things. Having done this short tour about some secondary texts, I want to then compare those statements to a work of installation art that deals explicitly with the archaeologies of waste.…

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Statement from the Indigenous Forum at WIPO

Since 2001, WIPO has convened an intergovernmental committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.
In the last two years, these negotiations moved to text based negotiations on the content of the Treaties (there are three planned, of which genetic resources is one) which aim to be finalized by 2013 for the WIPO General Assembly. During these negotiations, important questions of process and inclusion for indigenous peoples have been raised by the Indigenous caucus who, last week, finally issued a statement withdrawing from the negotiation process.
Below is the statement from the Indigenous caucus at World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) meeting on the draft treaty relating to genetic resources.
In an unprecedented move, the Indigenous Forum unanimously decided to withdraw from the discussions on the development of this treaty due to consistent and unaddressed efforts at undermining Indigenous participation and inclusion within the process.…

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“Are we to hang our hearts on such little things?”

“Tables and chairs, beds, mirrors, a clock to remind the happy couple of the passage of time, an armchair for an hour’s pleasant daydreaming, carpets to help the housewife keep the floors clean, linen tied with pretty ribbons in the cupboard and dresses of the latest fashion and hats with artificial flowers, pictures on the wall, glasses for everyday and others for wine and festive occasions, plates and dishes, a small larder in case we are suddenly attacked by hunger or a guest, and an enormous bunch of keys–which must make a rattling noise. And there will be so much to enjoy, the books and the sewing table and the cosy lamp, and everything must be kept in good order or else the housewife, who has divided her heart into little bits, one for each piece of furniture, will begin to fret.

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Benches, stairs, sidewalks and the politics of urban comfort

Fernando Domínguez Rubio
Postdoctoral Marie-Curie Fellow, Dept. of Sociology, NYU & Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC)

“How would you improve comfort in the city?” This is one of the provocative questions posed by the BMW Guggenheim Lab. In its own words, the lab is:

“The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory traveling to nine major cities worldwide over six years. Led by international, interdisciplinary teams of emerging talents in the areas of urbanism, architecture, art, design, science, technology, education, and sustainability, the Lab addresses issues of contemporary urban life through programs and public discourse. Its goal is the exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and ultimately the creation of forward-thinking solutions for city life”

For the first of these cycles, which began in New York back last August, the lab has been designed by the Japanese firm Atelier Bow-Bow, which transformed a derelict stretch of land between two old townhouses in the Bowery into a beautiful instance of what they call an urban ‘micro-public space’.…

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Art History and Material Culture Studies

Why is there an apparent disconnect between art history anthropologically- and sociologically-derived material culture studies? None of the major publications commonly used as benchmarks for material culture studies come from the discipline of art history; art-historical texts are rarely anthologized in compendia of sources about material culture, and in general art historians have been involved only minimally in the entire scholarly venture. This situation contrasts strikingly with the perception within art history, where many art historians believe themselves to be involved with material culture, use the term “material culture” frequently to describe certain classes of objects, and construct histories of objects quite consonant with the general claims and interests of.
In an recent article entitled “Toward a Fusion of Art History and Material Culture Studies” [West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 18, no.…

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What are we to do with our new affluence?

The making of modern-day people in postwar Finland  –  a short introduction to a project studying making a model city
Mika Pantzer, Academy of Finland & National Consumer Research Centre
 
My project focuses, in particular, on the ways the concepts of proper consumption and proper consumers were defined in post-war Finland. One particular project deals with building a model city, Garden City Tapiola, near Helsinki. The  case demonstrates how the very specific historical circumstances – material poverty combined with reformist ideals of functional architecture – conditioned a new understanding of citizens’ wellbeing. Relatively new professions like home economists and sociologists had an essential role on the converging developments that defined proper consumption. Somewhat interestingly, the discursive frames of the different professions involved in the building project were converging into and by means of fairly ambiguous concepts such as ‘biological function’, ‘catching up’, and ‘neighborhood unit’.…

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Mangrove Music

Carlo A. Cubero, Dept. of Anthropology, Tallinn Univ.
On making MANGROVE MUSIC – an ethnographic documentary released in 2007 about musicians on the Caribbean island of Culebra.
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Perhaps, the strongest theme that emerged out of my experience of making ‘Mangrove Music’, an ethnographic documentary about musicians of the island of Culebra, was to consider the fissures between the creative practice of music making and place. My initial provocation of making a documentary about the musicians of this particular island was to research the presupposed fixity between music and place. Texts abound on the relationship between salsa and Colombia (Wade 2000), merengue and the Dominican Republic (Austerlitz 1996), tango and Argentina (Taylor 1998), reggae and Jamaica (Manuel et al. 1996), calypso and Trinidad & Tobago (Birth 1994) – as if music and place had an inextricable connection.…

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Everybody Goes: Designing Age-Friendly Public Toilet Solutions

Jo-Anne Bichard & Gail Knight
Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art

The design and provision of toilet facilities for people with disabilities has been covered in great depth by research (see Feeney, 2003), that in the UK, helped develop the ‘British Standard BS8300: Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people’ and ‘Approved Document M of the Building Regulations’. However, research undertaken by Hanson et al (2007) has found that many older people do not think they are ‘entitled’ to use the accessible (disabled) toilet and therefore feel their needs are not being met, both in design and provision of lavatory facilities they may need when ‘away from home’. [1,2]
Current research being undertaken at the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre (RCAHHC) is aiming to address the issue of older peoples access to ‘away from home’ toilet facilities.…

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Overview of my research – for comment

Amanda H A Watson, PhD candidate,
Queensland University of Technology

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My research explores the role of mobile telephony and change in rural communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Mobiles have only just recently become widely available in PNG. Prior to mid-2007, the government telecommunication provider, Telikom PNG, held a monopoly, but not many people had mobiles as the networks were so limited, with only poor quality reception, even in urban areas.
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But then the govt’s competition commission decided the market should be opened up to competition, and it granted licences to two overseas companies. One of them, GreenCom, has failed to offer any services. The other company, Digicel, is the same company that has been discussed by Daniel Miller and Heather Horst in relation to Jamaica.…

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