Tag Archives: Consumption

PhD Scholarships (2) for Inhabiting Buildings: Embedding Sustainability into RMIT Culture

Digital Ethnography Research Centre, School of Media and Communication and the Centre for Urban Research (Beyond Behaviour Change research program), School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University

The Inhabiting Buildings project adopts an innovative participatory research methodology to map and promote change in the RMIT community to improve sustainability. It focuses on everyday social practices within the built environment to understand how resources are consumed, what role buildings and technologies play in shaping these processes, and where opportunities exist for social, cultural and organisational change. 

Two PhD scholarships (projects 6 and 7) are available for humanities/social science students working under the supervision of A/Professor Tania Lewis and Dr Yolande Strengers as part of the RMIT Greener Government Buildings programme. More information can be found at www.rmit.edu.au/scholarships/ggb. Also see the project description below. Note the closing date for applications is 31 October 2013.

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CFP: Australian Anthropological Society Conference 2013

Australian Anthropological Society Annual Conference 2013 

Theme: The Human in the World, the World in the Human

Australian National University
6-8 November 2013

The theme of this conference embraces anthropology’s enduring commitments to grappling with the human condition in the widest terms. Yet it also directs attention to the ways in which the interrelated concepts, ‘human’ and ‘world’, receive critical disciplinary attention in the present. While anthropologists have always been interested in how particular environmental, social or political worlds shape and are shaped by human existence, the theme attends to the urgency that such questions take at a time when the limits and potentialities of what ‘human’ and ‘world’ mean are subject to searching re-examination. Climate change, developments in bio-technology, securitization and supply-chain capitalism, and processes of forced and voluntary migration are among an array of issues that challenge and stimulate the conceptual and ethnographic work of anthropologists in the present.

The theme also draws attention to how particularly located humans engage in projects of “worlding”, attempting to stake claims for the relevance of their own understandings, practices and commitments in contexts shaped by both human and non-human agents. How do humans get drawn into, adapt to and adopt in their own way worldly projects that originate from afar? What kinds of oppressions and freedoms are involved in these processes? Shifting global circumstances usher these questions into the anthropological domain, where they are dealt with from a multitude of perspectives, including anthropologies of globalization, media, religion and the environment, existential anthropology and economic anthropology, theories of network and meshwork and theories of political economy. We invite participation from any and all concerned with imagining the shape of the world and the place of the human in relation to it.

Instructions for the submission of individual paper abstracts: If you are interested in presenting a paper on any of the panel themes below, please contact the individual listed panel convenors directly. Send the panel convenor your paper title and abstract (maximum 250 words), along with your email address and institutional affiliation. Do NOT submit your paper abstracts to the conference organisers. The deadline for submission of paper proposals is 1 August 2013.

Conference panels of interest to readers of the Material World Blog may include the following:

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Consumption Markets & Culture

From Jonathan Schroeder, Rochester Institute of Technology and Editor in Chief of Consumption, Markets and Culture

Consumption Markets & Culture has been accepted for inclusion in the Social Sciences Citation Index from volume 13 (2010). The journal will receive its first impact factor in the 2012 Journal Citation Reports, which will be published in summer 2013.  An interdisciplinary journal published four times a year by Routledge

For information, see journal’s homepage: www.tandfonline.com/toc/gcmc20/current

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The Material Culture of (N)Ostalgie

[image found here]
A recent article by Vadim Nikitin on nostalgia in Russia for the USSR called my attention to a number of current projects and publications that focus specifically on fond reminiscences of the unique material culture of Soviet life:

The multivolume glossy, expensive books arising from the Namedni project, the latest of which was published in November, feature a grab bag of large color photographs, news clips, interviews and narratives about every year from 1961 to 2005. For instance, 1962 spans physicist Lev Landau winning the Nobel Prize, the launch of milk in plastic bags, the Cuban missile crisis and the Soviet debut of the Hula-Hoop. The books target readers who lived through Soviet times as well as those who, like me, were too young to have experienced the Soviet Union and want to know more about their parents’ generation.

The volumes are a runaway success despite their high price, and this reflects a growing trend. In the past year alone, at least three other books showcasing Soviet material culture have caught the popular imagination, even on the other side of the old Iron Curtain. Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design, edited by Soviet-born American writer Michael Idov and featuring contributions from the likes of bestselling writer Gary Shteyngart, is a breezy English-language meditation on such Soviet staples as folding cups, Lomo cameras, fishnet shopping bags and rustic cars. Olga Dydykina’s coffee-table volume We Lived in the USSR is a kind of Dorling Kindersley travel guide to the Soviet Union, with hundreds of photos and a dictionary of Soviet-era expressions. And Frédéric Chaubin’s Cosmic Communist Constructions celebrates forgotten examples of late-Soviet architecture. What these books have in common is a tone of what Russian-born American scholar Svetlana Boym termed “reflective nostalgia,” the kind that “lingers on ruins, the patina of time and history, in the dreams of another place and another time.”

Here are some links for the projects and publications mentioned in the article:
- on Amazon
- on Wikipedia
- on YouTube
Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design:
- on Amazon
- on a blog post (with images)
Cosmic Communist Constructions:
- at Taschen
- on Amazon
- on WeHeart (with images)
Svetlana Boym’s website with media projects and publications
One of the first explorations of this phenomena to make popular headlines in Western Europe and America was the 2003 German film Goodbye Lenin, which told the story of a patriotic East German woman who slipped into a coma just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and whose son tries hard to protect her from the new world order once she awakens a few months later. One of his main strategies is to meticulously surround her with the rapidly vanishing products to which she has grown accustomed before they are replaced by commodities from the West. (My own relatives, who grew up in East Berlin, report similar post-1989 demand for the few brands of coffee, jam, and cereal that they had grown up with in the face of proliferating but unfamiliar choices, and as a kind of quotidian protest against rapid gentrification by Wessies.) Also noteworthy was last year’s exhibition of contemporary artists in The New Museum’s show “Ostalgia”, which showcased diverse and highly ambivalent relations with the visual, material, economic and political cultures in Soviet times.
And finally, here are some recent academic takes on the topic (thanks to Bruce Grant at NYU):
- Dominic Boyer, Dominic (2006) “Ostalgie and the Politics of the Future in Eastern Germany.” Public Culture Spring 18(2): 361-381
- Berdahl, Daphne (1999) “(N)Ostalgie” for the present: Memory, longing, and East German things.” Ethnos 64: 192-211
- Bunzl, Matti and Daphne Berdahl (2010) On the Social Life of Postsocialism: Memory, Consumption, Germany. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
- Todorova, Maria and Zsuzsa Gille (2010) Post-Communist Nostalgia. New York: Berghahn Books.