Friday, August 03, 2012

The Body Canvas International Photo Competition

Body art and modification has been practised for thousands of years across the globe. People have cut, stretched, dyed and pierced their bodies for recognition, relationships, beauty and rites of passage.
The RAI is launching an international photo competition that seeks to find out more about body modification by exploring questions such as:
- Who is involved in body art and modification communities?
- Why do people permanently alter their bodies? 
- What are the symbols, meanings, and relationships attached to body alterations?
- Where do practitioners, artists, doctors congregate?
-What type of tourism has this diverse industry created?

The Body Canvas photography contest forms part of the RAI’s Discover Anthropology Outreach Programme

The contest aims to:
• promote public engagement with the RAI’s Education Outreach Programme

• provide a platform for people to share their work and become actively involved in anthropology

• develop an understanding for the personal, social and political reasons why people undergo permanent body modification

• explore the many ways in which communities around the world develop and express relationships with their bodies

• explore the industry of body modification, the artists, doctors and craftsmen who practise their trade

The submissions we are looking for:

Engaging photographs that explore biological, cross-cultural and social elements of body art and modification in relation to these categories:

1) Tattoos and Scarification

2) Piercings and Body Reshaping

Below are themes that could be visualised under each category. They are meant to be illustrative and not restrictive. Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about how they can communicate these categories and relate their photographs to anthropological themes. Photographs can include aspects related to body modification such as media and advertising, rituals, material objects, technological advancements, forensics.

Category 1: Tattoos and Scarification

- the commercialisation and commodification of body art and modification

- the growing industry of tattoos (parlours, conventions, festivals, TV programmes, films)

- the relationship between tattoos/scarification and metamorphosis (self-development, discovery and growth as an individual)

- tattooing as a discipline where well-known professionals are respected for their craftsmanship

- the community of body modification artists and cross-pollination of ideas and practises

- tourism generated by the artists/trade and practitioners

- body modification as a means of expressing one’s spiritual/religious beliefs

- body modification and controversy, social exclusion or stigma

- body modification as a means of expressing group identity and reaffirming social ties and status

- tattooing as an addiction- adrenaline, pleasure, thrill and excitement

- body modification and exhibitionism

- body modification and rites of passage

- tattoos and forensic anthropology

- cultural interpretations of beauty and aesthetics

- tattoos and art

- tattoos carrying protective elements against disease, illness, evil spirits and possession

Category 2: Piercings and Body Reshaping

- pushing the body to its physical extremes, dealing with fear, emotion and pain

- body reshaping and perceptions of strength, beauty, and attractiveness

- body building, fitness and popular culture

- plastic surgery and perceptions of beauty, age and social status

- reconstructing the body after accidents, illness,

- body reshaping and the media

- body modification as a means of expressing group identity and reaffirming social ties and status

Who can participate:

The competition is free to enter and is open to anyone within the UK and abroad who is interested in anthropology, photography and the body. Both professional and amateur photographers are welcome.

Guidelines for submissions:

• All applicants must fill in the registration form which can be found on the following website:

**Participants must complete a separate form for each of their submissions**

• To be considered for the photo competition, each photograph must be accompanied by a title and text of 50-150 words to be included in the registration form.

• Participants can submit a maximum of four photographs to EACH of the categories: 1) Tattoos and Scarification 2) Piercings and Body Reshaping . Composite images can be entered as well

• Photographers may not submit the same image to more than one category

• Once a photograph has been submitted, it is final and may not be replaced by another photograph.

• Photographs need to be submitted in high resolution JPEG/ TIFF or PNG format and sized less than 10MB. Please send submissions to Nafisa Fera, the RAI Education and Communications Officer at

• Submissions must be suitable for all audiences. We will not accept R-Rated photographs including adult themes, sexually-oriented nudity or genitalia.

• Submissions that infringe copyright agreements, are unethical or disrespectful of anyone will disqualify the photographer from the contest.

• The RAI is not responsible for any late, misrouted, lost or damaged entries

• All decisions made by the judges are final

• The prize is non-exchangeable

How will the submissions be judged?

The Royal Anthropological Institute has appointed a panel of judges who will assess the photos based on the following criteria:

- creativity and originality of the photograph

- quality of the written text and its incorporation and exploration of anthropological themes

- technical quality of the photograph

To get some ideas of other RAI photo contests take a look at our Flickr webpage:

Deadlines for submission

The deadline for submissions is 30th September 2012

The RAI will notify the applicants of the panel's decision by November 2012.


All short-listed contestants will be published in RAI educational materials. In addition, the winning photograph from each category will receive a £100 Amazon gift voucher.

Copyright and Data Protection

All images submitted for consideration to the RAI’s Body Canvas Photo Competition remain the sole property of the photographer. By submitting to the contest the entrants agree that the RAI has the right to use and display their work for the RAI’s online and printed materials or for further use (as the RAI deems appropriate) without requiring additional compensation. The RAI will cite entrants as copyright holders of their work in its own publications, but takes no responsibility for any third party usage of photographs.
Any personal data acquired will be used primarily in connection with the RAI’s Body Canvas Photo Contest to facilitate communication with the entrant and for consideration of future RAI activities, competitions and events. The data will not be passed on to third parties without the prior consent of the entrant.

For further enquiries
Please contact the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Education & Communications Officer Nafisa Fera at or 020 7387 0455 with any further enquiries.

Sources of Information and Inspiration

For more information about body art and modification take a look at these great online resources:

Pitt Rivers Museum Body Arts website

Penn Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology Body Cultures website

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Dear Readers,

We are up and running again! Due to time restrictions, the blog will no longer be posting non-RAI related events and activities. If you would like to post an anthropology related event or activtity you can join our Discover Anthropology Facebook group and publicise your activities directly to the group. The blog will be running as an open RAI E-Newsletter.

We have some fantastic events coming up in April at the Institute located at 50 Fitzroy St. London W1T 5BT. We hope you can make it !

BODIES IN MOTION is a series of evening events and exhibitions that explores the relationship between human movement, space and expression

Place: The RAI, 50 Fitzroy St, London W1T-5BT

Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm

Dates: Friday 13th April, Tuesday 17th April, Wednesday 18th April, Thursday 26th April, Monday 30th April

The way in which we move our bodies can express our multiple identities as well as our social and cultural backgrounds. Whether dancing, walking or playing sports, movement can be an affirmation of society’s norms, a celebration of community cohesion and a vehicle for expressing national and international affiliations. Equally, human movement can be a means of resistance demonstrating social and political unrest or an avenue for innovation and cultural change.

Bodies in Motion, is an initiative that explores the relationship between human movement, space and expression. Using photography, ethnographic film, art and presentations, the project aims to engage the public in exploring the meaning of movement in urban, digital and natural landscapes.

If you have any questions about the Bodies in Motion series please get in contact with Nafisa Fera, at / 020 7387 0455

Book your ticket for all events and receive a 20% discount-

FRIDAY 13th April 2012

Temporary Sanity: Jamaican Dancehall Culture

Temporary Sanity: the Skerrit Bwoy Story is a film produced by Dan Brun in 2006 as part of his Visual Anthropology Masters at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, University of Manchester. The film explores the cultures, gendered performances and political expressions that form part of Jamaican Dance Hall in New York. By following “Skerrit Boy” a Bronx based performer and promoter of Dance Hall music, the film gives an insider’s view into the dancing, history and social roles of Dance Hall clubs in the lives of the Jamaican and Caribbean Diaspora in the United States. The film has won international recognition amongst dance enthusiasts and film makers.

Tonight’s screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the RAI’s Education and Communications Officer Nafisa Fera

Tonight’s event includes a photo and art exhibition illustrating sport, dance and play in diverse landscapes from concrete jungles to remote highlands where people come together to celebrate movement.

Book your ticket here:

Tickets: Free for RAI Members and Fellows, £3 Students/Concessions, £5 General Admission

* Tickets include a complimentary glass of wine, refreshments and snacks.

TUESDAY 17th April 2012

Dancing Gender: Gesture and Identity among Native American Two Spirits

This presentation explores how Native American gay, lesbian, and transgender people (Two-Spirits or GLBT) find culturally acceptable ways of conveying their gender and sexual identity through dance and performance. Using photographs, clips and over 10 years of research, the presentation shows how ethnicity, gender and sexuality, converge through performed gestures and movement amongst the Native American Two-Spirit community.

Presentation and Q&A with Max Carocci

Dr. Max Carocci has conducted research among Two Spirits since 1991 in several US cities. On the subject he published in 2010: ‘Textiles of Healing: Native American AIDS Memorial Quilts’ Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; in 2009: ‘Visualizing Gender in Plains Indian Pictographic Art’ American Indian Culture and Research Journal; and in 2004: ‘Reconfiguring Gender in Contemporary Urban Pow-wows’ in The Challenges of Native American Studies B. Saunders and L. Zuyderhoudt (eds.), Leuven: Leuven University Press. His forthcoming publications on the subject are: ‘Native Americans, Europeans, and the Gay Imagination’ in Tribal Fantasies D. Stirrup (Ed.), Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press (2013), and ‘Sodomy, Ambiguity, and Feminisation: Homosexual Meanings and the Male Native American Body’ in Indigenous Bodies J. Fear-Segal and R. Tillett (eds.) SUNY Press (2013).

Tonight’s event includes a photo and art exhibition illustrating sport, dance and play in diverse landscapes from concrete jungles to remote highlands where people come together to celebrate movement.

Book your ticket here:

Tickets: Free for RAI Members and Fellows, £3 Students/Concessions, £5 General Admission
* Tickets include a glass of wine, refreshments and snacks

WEDNESDAY 18th April 2012

Speeding Bodies and the City: From Skateboarding to Car Driving

This presentation explores some of the various ways in which bodies in motion – from skateboarding to walking to automobile driving – produce different experiences of cities and landscapes. Photographs, film clips and music are used to explore the transitory nature of our mobile interaction of the world around us, while also introducing themes of urban politics, bodily senses and mobile aesthetics.
Presentation and Q&A with Iain Borden

Dr. Iain Borden is Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where he is also Vice-Dean for Communications for the Faculty of the Built Environment. His wide-ranging research includes explorations of architecture in relation to critical theory, philosophy, film, gender, boundaries, photography, bodies and spatial experiences. Authored and co-edited books include Drive: Automobile Journeys through Film, Cities and Landscapes (2012), Bartlett Designs: Speculating With Architecture (2009), Manual: the Architecture and Office of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (2003), Skateboarding Space and the City: Architecture and the Body (2001), The Unknown City: Contesting Architecture and Social Space (2001) and InterSections: Architectural Histories and Critical Theories (2000).

Tonight’s event includes a photo and art exhibition illustrating sport, dance and play in diverse landscapes from concrete jungles to remote highlands, where people come together to celebrate movement.

Book your ticket here:

Tickets: Free for RAI Members and Fellows, £3 Students/Concessions, £5 General Admission
* Tickets include a glass of wine, refreshments and snacks

THURSDAY 26th April 2012

Invisible and Visible Bodies in Ceremonial and Ritual Dance in Java

This presentation will explore dancing in the royal courts and remote highland villages of Java. What are the different layers of meaning behind these dances? And how do Javanese people explain what is going on? Illustrated with film clips and photographs the presentation will draw upon over 30 years of research into Javanese ceremonial and ritual dance, human movement and expression.
Presentation and Q&A with Felicia Hughes-Freeland

 Dr. Felicia Hughes-Freeland is an anthropologist and a documentary filmmaker who has published widely on performance, including Embodied Communities: Dance Traditions and Change in Java (2010) and the films The Dancer and the Dance and Tayuban: Dancing the Spirit in Java (1996). Most recently she edited ‘Gender and Creativity in Southeast Asia’, the guest issue of Indonesia and the Malay World 115 (November 2011). She is currently working on cultural heritage and documentary film as Research Associate at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at SOAS, London.

Tonight’s event includes a photo and art exhibition illustrating sport, dance and play in diverse landscapes from concrete jungles to remote highlands where people come together to celebrate movement.

Book your ticket here:

Tickets: Free for RAI Members and Fellows, £3 Students/Concessions, £5 General Admission

* Tickets include a glass of wine, refreshments and snacks

FRIDAY 30th April 2012

The Creation of a Ciné Parkour

This presentation explores the transformative aspects of Parkour through film-how one experiences, moves, connects and participates in the environment, challenging notions of normative behaviour, socialisation, identity and self-determining actions through explorations of the self. The films range from quiet observational pieces to montages and first person POV, reflecting Parkour as a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Through Parkour led films (as opposed to films about Parkour) this presentation aims to demonstrate how Parkour encourages self-reliance and mutual co-operation whilst enabling participants to reclaim the wonderment and magic of the human experience.
Presentation and Q&A with Julie Angel

Dr. Julie Angel is an independent filmmaker, directing, shooting and editing self-initiated projects as well as commercial commissions. Julie specialises in documentaries and participatory, shared cinema in a variety of contexts. With a keen interest in visual anthropology, her work has been screened internationally at festivals, in galleries, broadcast internationally and has a large following online ( She recently completed a practice-based PhD that documents parkour through the visual anthropology of space, place and the body. Her work involves participant observation and a feedback loop of collaborative production. She explores the documentary form using a range of styles and techniques to create 'parkour led' films where the participant’s voice is heard. Julie is part of the parkour collective Parkour Generations and continues to work and travel with them, exploring new ways to communicate parkour.

Tonight’s event includes a photo and art exhibition illustrating sport, dance and play in diverse landscapes from concrete jungles to remote highlands, where people come together to celebrate movement.

Book your ticket here:

Tickets: Free for RAI Members and Fellows, £3 Students/Concessions, £5 General Admission

* Tickets include a glass of wine, refreshments and snacks

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Calling all sport fans! Do you have objects from your past that hold special memories? Then share your stories with the world!

In anticipation of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the RAI's Education Department has launched an oral histories project called Blast from the Past: connecting people through material objects related to sports, games and play.

The Blast from the Past project aims to:

• promote public engagement with the RAI’s Education Outreach Programme

• provide a platform for people to share stories in relation to sport, games and play and become actively involved in anthropology

• initiate activities and events in relation to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics

• explore the connections between identity, sport and material culture through the use of digital media


Oral histories are living memories, experiences and life events that are gathered through interviews and conversations which are often subsequently shared with relatives, community members or outsiders. Anthropologists use oral histories to try and understand how individuals make sense of their world. They also use oral histories to find out about cultural traditions that have been past down orally through generations. Because we are unable to provide interviewers for this project we have compiled a list of questions which may assist you in framing your narratives:

- What is the story of the object and your relationship to the object

- Why is this object meaningful to you or your family

- How does the object connect to sport, play, or games


Anthropology of Sport is the cross-cultural and biological understanding of sport in …history and the contemporary world (Blanchard 1995). It analyses the socioeconomic, political and cultural dimensions of sport and how sport influences the lives of individuals and communities around the world.

Anthropologists have always been interested in sport and games, their research encompassing everything from cock-fighting to cricket. Evarard ImThurn, an anthropologist of the 19th century studying games in South America, noted that some of the simplest and earliest forms of games were those where children imitated their elders.Im Thurn defined a game as a pleasurable exercise involving any part of the mind or body that led to the development of embodied knowledge (1901).

Play is often defined in very similar terms as Im Thurn’s definition of games- as taking part in a recreational activity for enjoyment or for a practical purpose. Play is voluntary and is part of a creative process. According to Huizinga (1955) play goes beyond being a purely biological activity. “It is a significant function-that is to say there is some sense to it. In play there is something ‘at play’ which transcends the immediate sense of life and imparts meaning to the action.” For Huizinga play always has a meaning.

Analysing games and play in a contemporary North American context, the Association for the Study of Play (TASP), describes the importance of play in relation to identity and childhood development: “Play is an essential tool for social, cognitive, and physical competence as well as identity development, but research has shown that societal trends have marginalized play…under heightened scrutiny and pressure to respond to the current climate of accountability, economic uncertainty, technologically enhanced learning, changing demographics of students and multiple other factors”. This project hopefully will help us re-visit our attitude to play and stimulate new forms of creative activity.

Blast from the Past considers games, sports and play to be integrated and mutually cohesive elements. We are interested in any material object associated with individual play, group games or institutionalised sport. In terms of games however, we are excluding non-physical games such as online games, board games any video games.


Signed baseballs, medals, autographs, old posters, old sport equipment, vintage photos, game pieces, sport kits, jerseys, uniforms, old sport venues, pom poms, flags, souvenirs, old prosthetics, mascots, lyrics, slogans, banners, books, magazines, cards. This list is not exhaustive and we encourage you to come up with new ideas. * Please only include material objects related to sports, games and play that are of a physical nature*

We are asking people to dig through their attics, family trunks and wardrobes to find objects (sport kits, souvenirs, photos, medals or magazines) that capture special memories related to sport, games and play. Send us a video of you speaking about your object or write a story and send us a photo!

Anyone interested in anthropology, history and sport.

You can submit your story either of two ways:

1) Take a photo of the object and write your story down in the application form

2) Tell your story of the object through a short video clip


• This project is open to anyone (16 years old and above)

• All applicants must fill in the registration form which can be found on the following website:

**Participants must complete a separate form for each of their submissions**

• If you are submitting a photo of your object, please try and take a high resolution image and submit either a JPEG, TIFF or BITmap and sized less than 10MB.

• If you are submitting a video, please keep the video of maximum 1 min and 30 seconds in length. The video can be taken by any digital device, including mobile phones and cameras.

• The RAI is not responsible for any late, misrouted, lost or damaged entries.


- The Royal Anthropological Institute will publish the photos on our Discover Anthropology website, Flickr and YouTube channel and other RAI satellite websites.

- Early submissions will be exhibited at the RAI’s Sport Cultures event on November 5th as part ESRC Festival of Social Science.


For further enquiries and to request printed publicity, please contact the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Education Officer Nafisa Fera at or 020 7387 0455.
CC photo credits from megaphone downwards: Felipe Bachomo, Tom Browne, Brad K, Generic Face, Frederic Fhumbert

Friday, August 05, 2011

Diary for August 2011

Dear Readers,
I hope you are having a wonderful August and have had the opportunity to experience some of the outdoor events and activities that have been listed on the blog. In anticipation of this upcoming school year we are including a new section of teaching and learning resources to encourage discovery of anthropological topics through film, photos, ethnographies and more! Hope you enjoy the new material! 

As part of the growing interest in getting involved in the Anthropology A-level in Britain, the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Education Department is putting a call out to Anthropologists who are interested in going into schools and 6th Form Colleges and discussing their ethnographic research or their career. We are looking for anthropologists who are able to communicate to high school students in an engaging and thoughtful manner and who are able to bring their research to life. The RAI will compile a list of these anthropologists and put them on our Discover Anthropology website. If you are an anthropologist based in England and are interested in being added to the list, please email Nafisa Fera at with a brief description of your biography (50-100 words max) and research interests, your email and a high definition JPEG of yourself. Deadline for submissions is September 2nd 2011.

Zina Ramzi Abdul-Nour is an artist whose work explores the notion of cultural identity through architecture, nature and the decorative arts. Her work has been exhibited in Dubai, Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, the U.S. and now in London. Running until the 27th of August at the Barbican Library is her exhibition called Pomegranates. The exhibition uses mixed media to explore the similarities and differences between Middle Eastern and Western culture. The exhibition is free.

For the first time in 2012 there will be an international film festival dedicated solely to student films from around the world. The London based International Student Film Festival will help young film makers have a platform for showcasing their work and becoming involved in the industry. The festival will take place in London from the 2nd to the 3rd of February. The call for film submissions is now open. For more information on the festival and submitting your films visit this website.

Today between 2-2:45pm and 3-3:45pm is your chance to join Horniman Museum staff, attendees and Crishna Budhu to take part in mass participation dances which incorporate movements of Classical Kathak Dance from northern India and Bollywood dance steps. The workshops are free and take place in the Gallery Square.

The American Anthropological Association has put out a call for their annual photography contest. The contest aims to encourage members of the AAA to share their field experiences and demonstrate the variety of work that anthropologist do through photography. This year members will be able to vote on the winning photos and the selected photos will be displayed during the next annual meeting. The top photos will also be published in their Anthropology News. For more information and contest guidelines take a look here.

I've decided to take the train to Paris and spend the weekend eating great baguettes and cheese while exploring the fantastic Musee de Quai Branly. Running until the 2nd of October is a wonderful new exhibition showing more than 160 objects from the National Heritage of Guatemala. The objects include ceramics, semi previous stones, funerary objects and ornaments, combining to show the development of the Mayan civilisation. Take a look here  for a short preview of the exhibition.

Today marks the beginning of the 21st birthday of Gay Pride in Manchester. Over the next ten days there will be a fantastic array of film, talks, art installations, parades to celebrate lesbian, gay and transgender life. The centerpiece will be the parade which will take place on Saturday the 27th of August from 13:00pm. Thousands of people attended Manchester pride and since 2003, the Festival has raised £895,000 for local LGBT and HIV organisations. Click here for more information about events and activities.

On the 23rd of August 1791 enslaved Africans of Saint Dominigue (what is now Haiti) rose up against their oppressors. In observance of this date and to honour UNESCO's designation of the date as Slavery Remembrance Day, National Museums of Liverpool together with individuals from Liverpool's Black community, Liverpool City Council, Culture Company and Mersey Partnership bring together talks, events and activities in commemoration of this event. Over the next two days there will be the chance to hear a memorial lecture from Dr. Maulana Karenga, take part in the Walk of Remembrance and more! Take a look at this website for a detailed itinerary.

Every year the Notting Hill Carnival in London attracts hundreds of visitors from all over the world to celebrate in one of Europe's biggest outdoor celebration of music,dance, masks and Caribbean culture. The festival begins on Sunday but the main parade will be held on Monday. Enjoy some jerk chicken, fried plantain while listening to everything from Calypso to R&B. The festival is free. For more information visit the Carnival's website.

The Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) is hosting its 31st Film Festival alongside the People Over Sea symposium organised by the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews. The Film Festival will run alongside the academic conference exploring social and cultural aspects of the North Sea and the North Atlantic. Several themes of the conference include: the wealth of oceans, lines of seafaring, water crafts and narratives related to life at sea. For more information and registration prices visit this website.



Delegates from the Haida First Nations have formed an International Research Network with staff from the Pitt Rivers Museum and the British Museum. In 2009, 21 Haida First Nations delegates came to the UK to re-encounter some of their ancestral material culture and work with museum collections alongside giving talks, performances, carving and weaving demonstrations. The Haida Project "seeks to understand the importance and role of historic collections for source communities and to improve access to collections". The Project is a unique case study in debates concerning repatriation and museum collections. Take a look at this great film about the Haida Project.

The National Film Board of Canada has launched a fantastic website which allows users to view their archive and contemporary films for free online. The website has different channels including the world, hot topics, aboriginal peoples, history and more. There are some great anthropological films such as Through These Eyes which takes a critical look at a curriculum project in the 1970s that produced The Nestlik Film Series. Take a look at some fantastic films on the NFB's channel.

The London Anthropology Day 2011 which was held at the British Museum on July 14th was a great success with over 350 attendees and 20 participating universities from England, Ireland and Wales. The event was organised by the Royal Anthropological Institute's Education Department in collaboration with the British Museum and participating universities. Photos of the event are now online. Take a look at some great portaits of student participants and more!

Anthropologist Kaori O'Connor has published a new book called 'Lycra: How A Fiber Shaped America'. Based on extensive longitudinal fieldwork and in-depth research of archival materials, Kaori demonstrates the way in which this man-made super fiber influenced women of the Baby boomer generation ideas concerning body image and wellness. Click here to download a podcast of Kaori speaking about her book.

How does Facebook affect the lives of its users? Anthropologist Daniel Miller's new book 'Tales from Facebook' explores the ways in which Facebook is affecting the lives of a group people in Trinidad. The book looks at how this social networking site has substantially influenced the social interactions in their day to day life. For example, the book shows how Facebook has been instrumental in cultivating romantic relationships as well as breaking up a marriage. To find out more, take a look at this YouTube video where Miller talks about the book.

Photo Credits: Manchester Pride-Man Alive, Notting Hill Carnival-L-Plate,

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Lucy's Diary July 2011

Happy (sunny) days one and all! I've got post mid-summer fever and that annual itch to get out and about in the sun while he's got his hat on, so I channelled mostly all things bright and beautiful to do out on beaches, streets and with hands and feet plus a bit of politics and the odd indoor activity to keep the variety of life. Plenty to do to be involved, get active and make the most of what it is to be human and alive in this sunny realm. Wishing you all a top summer, whatever and wherever you may be!

South Yorkshire:

Yorkshire Sculpture Park:
Jaume Plensa: until 22ndJanuary 2012

Sculptural depiction of human bodies resonant with symbolic power and meaning has long occupied a discrete space within studies of the anthropology of art and material cultures. Specific address to non-European forms was made by William H. Davenport (2005) in the Santa Cruz Islands and Susan Preston-Bliers (1995) in addressing sculpting of figures as well as masks in Vodun cultures across Central and East Africa. Others have chosen to migrate anthropological interest into a practice of making bodily forms in order to explore human experience. Of these, Malvina Hoffman made an ‘Anthropological Series’ depicting everyday life activities from diverse cultures for exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in 1930. A current, more philosophical approach, striving to convey what is essential to the existence, experience and relation to the world of humanity, is communicated in the work of former anthropologist Anthony Gormley.

An example of this last approach can be found in an encounter with bodies (and heads) large, small, scattered and clustered currently found meditating upon existence in the Sculpture Park. Jaume Plensa’s work encourages physical and sensory interaction with bodies whose contemplative, pensive nature reflexively provokes the same within the viewer; addressing our situation in the world just as we look at theirs. All of the figures are beguiling and beautiful, interpersonally connective and irresistible; inviting you to spend time with them and affective as with the best of Gormley’s work such as ‘Field for the British Isles’. Some of the bodies are literally inscribed with alphabets, on one set an eclectic mix from global languages; reflective of ongoing ideas of embodiment including those of Marcel Mauss (1934) and Thomas J. Csordas (1990) as well as Judith Butler (1990) adding bodily inscriptions of which the physical markings on these sculptures are evocative.

North East:

Gateshead Central Library: until 20th August
‘Car Boot Sales and Charity Shops’

copyright: Sharon Wilson
Photographic exhibition featuring photographic work describing the faces and spaces of the ‘alternative economies’ of selling on unwanted goods and possessions. Amongst the practitioners on show are Sharon Wilson who looks at performance and theatre within a particular car boot fair, Susan Swindells’ socio-cultural take on north-eastern charity shops and Karen Johnson’s look at the description of lives laid out on car-boot tables.

In addition to the wider view taken on photographic practice by Susan Sontag (1979) and later, Goeff Dyer (2005) attention paid to the uses, abuses and practices associated with using photography as an ethnographic communicating social and cultural information is deftly provided by Christopher Pinney (2010) and Sarah Pink (2001) amongst others.

To supplement a visit to the exhibition or to the real, live glory of a car-bootery, a few anthropological observations on alternative social and economic spaces can be brought to bear. While Nigel Rapport’s (1992) brush with car boots and other village affairs informed him about affect and interaction within a small community, N.Gregson and L Crewe (1997, 2005) looked at the purchase of goods in terms of performance and as spectacle; the art of engaging in car-boot transactions as a particular form of knowledge. Martin and Sunley (2001) describe the buying space as in terms of a marginality dismissed by the mainstream market as the balance is weighted less toward pure profit motives and more toward sociality within the selling act. Either way, if you make it to a real car-boot this summer, make sure you bring at least one dodgy jumper/LP/lamp/old boardgame back as well as the ethnographic observations.

Green Lane Masjid: 22-24th July
‘Flourish. Thrive. Succeed: Overcoming the challenges and seizing the opportunities for Muslims living in the West’

A conference seeking to explore aspects of Islamic experience and practice within the Western context. This free conference aims to provide a forum to consider and engage with current debates regarding the challenges and opportunities within shared societal space with a view toward making positive and productive contributions within wider society.

Nationwide Events:

Amnesty International Events:

Anthropology is responding to the proliferation of conflict and injustice at local and global levels through the study of violence. David Riches’ ‘Anthropology of Violence’ (1986) looked at the practical and symbolic ends and role of agency within conflictual spaces. A self-professed alternative concerning anthropology of power is supplied by Nigel Rapport (2003) exploring bodies in relation to environment, total institutions and the death of power.

The individual as an agentive force in opposition to political, social and cultural oppression informs Amnesty’s work. Actions and engagement by supporters is a key aspect of involvement in the campaign, especially this year as it’s the 50th anniversary of organisation and there are plenty of events to celebrate and have a knees-up to ensure that conscience isn’t all hard work. Summer events range from tea- to beer-drinking, dancing and film screenings. Political pleasure-seekers can seek out those local to them on the site above plus get more details on the following selection:

Human Rights Action Centre, London: all films £5

11th July: ‘El Problema: Testimony of the Saharawi People’ (dir. Jordi Ferrer, Pablo Vidal)
A documentary developed from on-the-ground collection of testimonies and documents telling the story of Saharawi’s forced displacement from their lands in the Western Sahara by Moroccan government land appropriation.

13th July: ‘500 Years Later’ (dir. Owen ‘Alik Shahadah)
A film tracing the effects and struggles associated with the ongoing pan-African and Diasporic fight for self-determination necessitated by colonial and slave histories and resultant displacements. A multi-sited documentary spanning five continents, this overview of a wide issue brings sharply into focus the phenomena of African holocaust.

ABP Autgoraph Film Season:
Films throughout July addressing issues of racism, sexuality and religion from around the world. The first of three session kicks off with:

20th July: ‘Possessed by Demons’ and ‘Difficult Love’ (dir. Zanele Muholi) Films concerning the problems facing lesbians in South Africa and discussion around the current situation for the LGBT community led by the film-maker in live-link from Cape Town.


16th July:St John's Church Rooms, Mostyn Street, Llandudno ‘Palestine and the Arab Spring’
Half-day event with 3 speakers and panel discussion, exhibition and lunch.

16th July:Sefton Park, Liverpool ‘Amnestea in the Park’
What it says on the tin-a tea party in the park.

23rd July: The Riviera International Centre,Torquay ‘Freedom is Coming: Summer Concert’
An evening of music and performance with the Big Noise Chorus and Stagecoach Arts Theatre plus a talk by former Chair of Amnesty, Tom Hedley.

1st August:St.Mary’s University College, Belfast ‘When They Are All Free’
A journalistic panel debating the manner and risks taken in journalistic endeavours in telling stories from spaces of conflict otherwise unknown. Interesting to attend for the parallels and divergence with ethnographic motivations and ethics in similar spaces.


Summer is the time of the riotous release of social tensions and challenge to order and civility in what Bakhtin (1968) termed ‘carnivalesque’ activity. Today, one such form is in the carnivals found all across the UK. In addition to the huge number that can be found to attend, including Bristol, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Derby, Brighton, Acton, Balham and Tooting in July. Also, the fantastic extravaganza that is Notting Hill, Leeds and Birmingham next month, there are ways to get involved beforehand. Workshops to make costumes and learn dance include the following for adults as well as young people:

 The Scrapstore, Hull Play Resource Centre is hosting a rolling programme of low-cost costume making. Email:

Spark, Stockton are doing costume and props in workshops on the 9th, 16th and 23rd July. Email:

Derby has calypso drumming every Saturday and carnival dancing every Wednesday. For information see: or

Insight into wider African masking and masquerade practice can be found in the photographic work of Phyllis Galembo (2010) whose Pende examples find an ethnographic counterpart in Z. S. Strother (1999) who backgrounds the meaning, production and evolution through reinvention of masking in response to social and cultural change.

On the Beach:

A feature of more traditional beach life in the UK, though in decline, can still be found in Punch and Judy shows. Practitioners and Professors of the show ply their trade providing the sort of play of social and cultural life described in Clifford Geertz (1973) descriptions of Balinese shadow-puppetry and the role of the performative in theatre described by Victor Turner (1992). Performances can be seen throughout the summer on Southend, Weymouth, Clacton, Exmouth and Paignton beaches. Also, inland at Basingstoke park on 31st July and in Lincoln city centre on 30th July.
Details on individual events visit

And, just for fun, if you fancy making your own Punch and Judy spoon-puppet for £1, go to Herne Bay Museum and Gallery. Go to


Southbank Centre Hip Hop Festival:14 – 17 July
Intelligent Movement – A Celebration of Hip Hop Culture

Hip Hop takes the space of the Southbank with three days of Dj battles, performance, workshops and parties dedicated to the genre. Free and paid dance workshops from breaking to funk, locking and popping, music nights and parties-but get in quick to book the free ones, all on Sunday 17th. Talks around influences on and by rap/hip hop cultural will form one element of a larger conversation encompassing traditions and innovations in use of beat, rhyme and rhythm in music, spoken word, and dance.

To check into anthropological research on hip hop culture and its global migrations, translations, and transformations H.Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim, Alastair Pennycook (2009) and James Peterson (2001) look at it from an Islamic perspective. Whereas Greg Dimitriadis (2009) considers the role of ‘tha cipha’ as a speech event in hip hop as one of the established forms of language within genre, its transglobal usage, and how that relates to performing identity and culture true to hip hop; wherever it may travel.

Wellcome Collection: 15-16th July
‘Unclean Beings’

Connected to the ‘Dirt’ exhibition at the Institute written about here previously, these two days explore the subject further. ‘Dirty Stories’ on the 15th tells stories of the myths and metaphors encompassing life, death and dirt by the Crick Crack Club with drinks, conversation and a viewing of the show.

The 16th provides talks and discussions on the resonance of dirt in historic and modern contexts sex work in Victorian Britain to Indonesia, the caste system in India and religious ideas of cleanliness. Including appearances by TED’s Elizabeth Pisani and Belle de Jour.

International Day Against Stoning:
London Action: 10th July

‘Stone-in’ acts will performed from 2pm at Trafalgar Square on the 10th July and then along the route of procession as part of an international protest. Stimulated by the death by stoning of Maryam Ayoubi in Iran and currently campaigning against the imprisonment of Sakineh Mohammed Ashtiani and lawyer Sajjad Houtan Kian who defended Sakineh and another woman against stoning sentences, demo’s seek to highlight issues both within Iran and the wider geo-political stage in debates regarding adoption or allowance of Sharia Law. An active participant in organizing this event is Maryam Namazie whose ‘One Law for All’ campaign addresses issues including apostasy, secular law and how debate regarding Sharia law has been used by far-right groups currently gaining greater power and political inclusion across Europe. A diary of her appearances can be found at: