“Brain of the Earth’s Body”

Review: “Brain of the Earth’s Body: Art, Museums, and the Phantasms of Modernity,” by Donald Preziosi (2003); University of Minnesota Press
Sharon Macdonald teaches at the University of Manchester
Donald Preziosi’s “Brain of the Earth’s Body: Art, Museums, and the Phantasms of Modernity” (2003, University of Minnesota Press) is the published version of his 2001 Slade Lectures (an annual series of Art History Lectures at Oxford University). Somebody I know who went to these lectures told me that he found them fascinating but almost impossible to understand. I can see why. But at least in the book form you can read sentences several times (and untangle all the multiple partial parentheses of words). It’s an effort worth making.
Preziosi makes an argument against a representational account of art that is similar to Gell’s in Art and Agency.…

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The Lost Museum

Museums on the web are, in general, rather disappointing. At worst a selection of digital images with directions for how to get to the institution, at their best, they use the potentials of the internet to create new online visitor constituent (see the Brooklyn Museum’s Myspace page for instance, www.myspace.com/brooklynmuseum.
Possibly one of the best ‘virtual’ museums, The Lost Museum is a digital recreation of P.T Barnum’s American Museum in New York, which burned to the ground in 1865. Visitors are encouraged by the man himself to solve the mystery of the fire. You can explore the museum in three-dimensions with innovative use of image, film and sound, search archival material, maintain personal files on the case, and engage with specific objects.…

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Museum + Anthropology = Blog, and Other Online Phenomena

Haidy Geismar, NYU
Map showing the location of the last 100 viewers of Materialworldblog, source www.statcounter.com
Alongside this site, there are several recent additions to the Museum/Anthropology blogosphere which are definitely worth checking out (any other good links, please add to the comments below!).
The bi-annual journal, Museum Anthropology, now has it’s own blog, which will be used increasingly to supplement materials published in the journal. The blog offers a forum in which articles published in the journal can be discussed formally as a form of post-publication peer-review. It will also dynamically post notifications of current exhibitions, symposium, book releases and other relevant material. Scholars interested in the fields of museum studies and material culture studies are urged to submit announcements and other materials of interest to the community.…

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Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts.

García Canclini, Néstor (2001) Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. University of Minnesota Press
In Consumers and Citizens, García Canclini suggests the necessity to consider how the changes in modes of consumption have altered the possibilities of citizenship in the Latin American context. Through several essays the author proposes a romanticized idea of citizenship and social movements in Latin America that struggle to survive by being redefined; people in mega-cities (particularly Mexico City) answer the questions on belonging, rights and interests traditionally located in the public sphere in the realm of private consumption.
This book belongs to the 1990s trend within anthropology, sociology and cultural studies on globalization, Americanization, multicultural identities and mass consumption, with a particular focus on the cultural industries.…

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Fake Branded Clothing

An Exploration of Its Presence in a European Periphery

Magda Craciun, PhD Student in Material Culture, University College London  e.craciun@ucl.ac.uk
ordinary socks in turnu magurele.jpgA widespread phenomenon, re-production is morally and legally contested and combated, culturally derided, and socially dismissed as belonging to the lower social strata. I am interested in approaching it in its everyday complexity, by focusing on the lives of objects, and meanings and consequences of their presence; on practices, and preoccupations of people living in the vicinity of these objects; on institutions these objects bring together; and on the trans-national routes along which these clothing items move.

In order to grasp as much as possible of this complexity, I have designed
a multi-sided ethnography, choosing as field sites Istanbul (the main regional
producer of fakes); “Europa” market on the outskirts of Bucharest (considered
the source of 80% of the counterfeited goods on the Romanian market); and Turnu
Magurele (a provincial town in south Romania, chosen for its typical clothing-scape,
in which “Europa” clothing predominates).…

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Two Drinking Cups, Egypt 1550 BC

Politics of Viewing
Stephen Quirke; Reader, Curator of the Petrie Museum, University College London


What gives a viewer the right to look at a picture? Or an object? Or these
two drinking cups, of fired Nile mud, made three and a half millennia ago in
the lower Nile Valley, and buried at a site an archaeologist chose to dig in
1914 and chose to call Harageh, the pair now sits on a low glass shelf in a
university museum in London. What gives us the right to learn, might be the
recognition of political realities, that London had troops occupying Egypt in
1914, that London museum-goers and university students have higher living standards,
better health service, higher literacy rate, that politics, society and the
economy, after all, exist.…

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Freud’s Therapeutic Boxsprings

The Couch: Thinking in Repose, Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, Austria, Exhibition Review 5 May – 5 November 2006
Martina Grunewald, PhD candidate in Design History and Material Culture, University of Applied Arts, Vienna
On Sunday, 5 November 2006, the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna closed the doors to “The Couch: Thinking in Repose,” a special exhibition commemorating Freud’s 150th anniversary this year. Using a cross-disciplinary approach, curator Lydia Marinelli focused on literature, art, science, and design from the mid-nineteenth century until today in an illuminating exploration of the most intimate and complex relationship between neurology and—well—a divan conspicuous by its own absence. The exhibition encompassed paintings, sculpture, photographs, books, furniture, china, and tableware as well as interviews and music. The original psychoanalytic couch, however, was missing.…

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Materialising Democracy

Mukulika Banerjee, Anthropology, UCL
This week, reportage of the mid term US elections seems to devote almost equal coverage to the Democrat re-capture of the Congress and the close race to finish in the Senate as it did to malfunctioning electronic voting machines. Indiana and Ohio were singled out for the most unreliable machines and Florida was reported to have reverted to paper ballots. Thus, who people voted for seems to be hinge crucially on how, literally, they cast their vote. The materiality of the voting process, namely ballot boxes, counting procedures, polling stations do not usually feature in election analysis, but when they do, we can assume that something is either wrong or novel. In the case of the US elections, it was both.…

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Traumwerk Website

Victor Buchli, Reader in Material Culture, University College London
The Traumwerk website is a brilliant project started by Mike Shanks and his students at Stanford University that experiments with the boundaries of archaeological work and interpretation and wider questions in material culture. In particular there a number of projects hosted on the site that are of interest to students of material culture in general: These are the archaeology of the contemporary past project, the china garbology initiative with Bill Rathje, and the three rooms project by Mike Shanks. In addition there are numerous experimental projects based on soundscapes and virtual environments which involve archaeoloigsts, artists and other scholars.
The cultures of contact and the Mercedes Benz Daimler initiative are also well worth exploring especially the Mercedes project which brings together, material culture studies, anthropology, archaeology and design together.…

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Clifford Geertz (1926-2006)

Daniel Miller, Anthropology UCL
My impression is that students coming into anthropology today, at least in Britain, are not necessarily expecting to read very much of the writings of Clifford Geertz, compared to my time as a student. But his death on Monday should remind us of just how much a loss that is. I have spent my academic life enamoured of fieldwork and ethnography and I suspect the single biggest influence on this was the sheer pleasure of reading Geertz. As far as I know he never would have described himself as particularly associated with material culture per se, (please comment if you know otherwise) but he was the quintessential cultural anthropologist, and his work shows how much that American tradition of cultural anthropology, (to some degree as opposed to European social anthropology) provided in its heyday an almost seamless acceptance of the materiality of peoples lives and the need to give due credit to the form of cultural order and life.…

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