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Anthropology is so important, all children should learn it - The Ecologist
"Anthropology, the study of humankind, should be the first of all the sciences our children encounter, writes Marc Brightman, with its singular capacity to inspire the imagination, broaden the mind and open the heart. Moves to downgrade it in the education system by those who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing, must be fought off.

Anthropology has been in the news because its A-level, only introduced in 2010, is under threat.

This discipline has never been more important at a time of troubling intolerance in society, but it does far more than merely help understand ethnic diversity.

Anthropology includes biological, linguistic and medical fields as well as social and cultural ones, and is as much about human ecology as it is about the 'ecology of mind', to recall the title of Gregory Bateson's classic work. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind ]

I can remember when I was choosing what to study at University. I loved languages, literature, history and art, and I yearned to travel. But I had never heard of anthropology.

It was only later, as a student of English literature, that I read Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques and was spellbound by the story he told of his experience of the degradation of the environment by colonialism, and of the mental worlds of the Bororo and Nambikwara people, which were so close to having been obliterated.

Many of my students tell me similar stories of how they discovered anthropology by accident, and when I tell them about the anthropology A-level they say they wish they could have taken it at their school.

Anthropology is a key to ecology as well as culture

Lévi-Strauss's melancholy tone, expressed in the title of his book, comes from witnessing the erosion of both cultural and biological diversity. Rooted in older disciplines closer to the natural sciences, such as geography and biology, as well as in humanities and social sciences, anthropology is about human ecology, different ways of being in the physical world, and about sustainability - not just culture and identity.

It is good that the press has recently covered the well justified protests against the axing of the anthropology A-level before it has even been given a chance to take root (most schools still do not have the capacity to offer it). But the reports emphasise only the value of anthropology for understanding cultural difference.

Yes, it is true that anthropology can help us to understand and relate to different cultures, different ways of being in the world. It can certainly offer ways to educate people to become more tolerant of diversity. But anthropology is much more than this.

In the face of a global ecological crisis which most of the press fails to take seriously, the discipline also has much to offer. Anthropologists are well known for documenting traditional livelihoods, which are often sustainable adaptations to environments which would be difficult to live in without rich bodies of traditional knowledge and practice to draw upon.

As The Ecologist frequently reports, many indigenous peoples have a wealth of traditional knowledge, which is embedded in complex sets of practices that are compatible with, and indeed founded upon, long term ecological relations.

Anthropologists have been at the forefront of efforts to understand these practices and to bring them to the attention of the wider world. We show how people manipulate their environments to make them more productive, rather than depleting the resources that they find - examples of anthropogenic forest islands or dark earths are cases in point.

The myth of 'wilderness'

Land that is not intensively farmed is often all too easily labelled as 'wilderness', and incorporated into the economist's category of 'natural capital', inviting the naïve conclusion that by subjecting it to the laws of supply and demand it will find its true value.

But the value of land, as my work on REDD+ has shown, alongside many other anthropological studies, cannot be simply reduced to exchange value on the market, and attempts to do so can be severely harmful to people and to the environment.

My colleague at UCL, Jerome Lewis, has shown how the sharing economy of Mbendjele hunter gatherers in Congo-Brazzaville, and their intimate relationship with the forest, are invisible to neighbouring farmers, logging companies and conservation organisations, often leading to dispossession and abuse, as others have shown in this magazine.

In my own work, in collaboration with Brazilian scholars, I have shown how ownership plays a fundamental role in structuring social relations among native Amazonian peoples.

When states and extractive industrial actors make claims to land on the basis that it is not used - that it is terra nullius - they often do so in profound ignorance of both indigenous practices and indigenous property regimes. Anthropologists are often well placed to mediate in such cases.

Is the real problem that it's seen as 'subversive'?

The noises made by the Education Secretary about academic 'rigour' ring false as an excuse for axing anthropology, a discipline which at its best combines scientific precision with the critical awareness of the humanities.

Anthropologists also provide robust, evidence based critiques of the assumptions of policy makers and technocrats who offer tempting 'win-win' solutions to problems of sustainable development. Far too many well-meaning development projects do not take detailed account of situations on the ground, and fail in their objectives, with unintended and sometimes destructive consequences, both for the environment and for native inhabitants.

Perhaps for this reason anthropology is perceived as too subversive - it does indeed foster critical thinking that can be uncomfortable for those in power, especially in the hands of incisive and influential critics of the establishment such as David Graeber.

Successive governments have made claims to basing their policies on scientific knowledge. But the fact is that they usually only do so when it suits them, and scientific arguments are taken piecemeal to justify preconceived policy objectives.

The idea of natural capital has been enthusiastically taken up by policymakers from economists such as Partha Dasgupta, because it can be used to bolster a bold new rhetoric about launching a 'green economy', while in reality making few fundamental changes to business as usual.

The natural capital paradigm is not necessarily something to be rejected wholesale, but it must be recognised for what it is: a universalising discourse which has very particular historical origins in Western capitalism.

'Nature' is not an object, and is not separate from culture, for many peoples of the world. Indeed many of the 'natural' landscapes that conservation organisations try to preserve are the product of efforts over the centuries of indigenous peoples - the very peoples who are all too often evicted to make way for hunting lodges, plantations or 'carbon sinks' that only benefit the wealthy.

We should all study anthropology - beginning at primary school!

There is an increasing consensus among those involved in addressing the global ecological crisis that the natural sciences and economics cannot succeed without input from the arts, humanities and social sciences, as a recent conference at UCL resoundingly showed.

Anthropologists routinely deal with local and global phenomena, working at the interface of the arts and the sciences. We have something very important to contribute, and sometimes we are given this opportunity.

The director of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity is an anthropologist (Henrietta Moore); an anthropologist, Steven Rayner, has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Royal Society's Working Group on Climate Geoengineering; and an anthropologist, Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, serves on the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

So anthropological knowledge is in demand, and not merely in the field of cultural identity. To limit the argument about the value of the anthropology A-level to identity politics does a disservice to the discipline.

Anthropology provides students at any level with the critical awareness need for key issues of our times, which are not just religion and ethnicity, but also global sustainability, biocultural diversity and environmental governance. It also gives an excellent preparation for the study of other, more established disciplines such as history, English literature or geography.

More anthropologists are needed in public life, and then the discipline will really influence society and the environment - and very much for the better.

Far from axing the anthropology A-level, the government should support its expansion into the school system at all levels. When I arranged for Nixiwaka Yawanawá of Survival to speak to my son's primary school in Oxford, he gave a basic anthropology lesson to a packed assembly of children aged from four years old upwards, and created a real sensation.

Parents and teachers, as well as children themselves, came to me for weeks afterwards to comment on what a powerful and inspiring experience it had been.

Opening children's eyes, from the earliest ages, to the wonders of cultural diversity, and the different ways of living sustainably in the world, ought surely to be a core aim of our education system."
anthropology  education  gregorybateson  claudelevi-strauss  2015  marcbrightman  children  learning  curriculum  via:anne  k12  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  howwelearn  culture  religion  ethnicity  sustainability  diversity  environment  identity  henriettamoore  anthropologists  davidgraeber  parthadasgupta  jeromelewis  wildreness  ecology  anthropocene  howweteach  global  cv 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Going public: suburbanites become situationists in St Petersburg art project Critical Mass | The Calvert Journal
"Participatory art projects are increasingly popular around the world, not least because their social agenda can attract considerable sponsorship. However, these projects are also often criticised for failing to achieve results. Bitkina and Veits, who had to look abroad for funding, even though their work is almost unprecedented in Russia, do not make unrealistic claims about grandiose changes. Their aim is to make small, lasting changes for the people who interact with the work. “We don’t want to shock and intersect with public space in an aggressive way,” says Bitkina. “We want to engage as many people as possible.” They deliberately involve the police and city administration, striving gradually to “enlighten them and change their ways, to show them that things can be done in a certain way”.

The process begins with Veits consulting with other sociologists, anthropologists, historians and residents to locate stories and problems in the area; then Bitkina commissions and curates artists (eight this year) to respond to these problems in public spaces. “The last wooden house in Kupchino” is typical of Critical Mass in its attempt to engage with communities that are normally cut off from both the art world and from discussions about development, and in its focus on neighbourhood and belonging."



"Kennedy’s work stands out from this lineage because of its emphasis on myth and tradition. His folk-fictions seek to create new traditions that will represent the community and provide them with common touchstones of identity. He is guided by Claude Levi-Strauss’s belief that the myth must be enacted to find new relevance in the contemporary, and by the notion of “shared anthropology” pioneered by filmmaker Jean Rouch, whose documentary films made North African communities act out their daily lives with “critical awareness”. “Myth,” says Kennedy, “becomes something that is embodied and manifested, in this case in public and civic space through the aesthetic form of the procession.” In the Kupchino action the artist takes an intimate, personal tradition — the story of one family — and turns it into a shared myth for the whole community by re-enacting it in a public space with 60 participants, and then by showing them his Super-8 recording of the event. "



"But the greatest sense of public gratification came from one of the unscripted moments that occur naturally when the artist-viewer hierarchy is broken in public art. Just as Kennedy and Vasiliyeva shook hands and posed for photos by the handmade wooden house, a brightly coloured rocket exploded in the sky above them. It was the flare her mother had given her back in 1976. Vasiliyeva’s brother had decided to fire it today — clear confirmation of the significance and resonance of this social project for the family and for all of Kupchino."
stpetersburg  russia  art  community  situationist  suburbia  2013  garethkennedy  folk-fiction  criticalmass  jeanrouch  claudelevi-strauss  myth  social  kupchino  annabitkin  mariavets  iraidavasiliyeva  alexandranyskova  guydebord  societyofthespectacle  everyday  everydaylife  communes  privacy  self  kommunalki  communism  society  engagement  glvo  participatoryart  socialpracticeart  development  sociology  anthropology  publicspace  workshops  openstudioproject  ncmideas 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Toolkit for Today | Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA)
"Toolkit for Today: Concepts for Contemporary Architecture"

"Concepts can become powerful tools to analyze reality and to develop new practices, confronted with the necessities of the contemporary world. In the notorious juxtaposition between the “bricoleur” and the “engineer”, developed by Claude Lévi-Strauss, the first uses a limited number of tools and materials to perform multiple tasks, reassembling things together in creative ways, while the second invents specific tools for the solution of each new problem that arises.

The objective of the first CCA summer school for graduate students is to critically read a series of concepts developed by theorists and designers to understand their potential as tools for reflection, for the development of new strategies and for the creation of novel assemblages within contemporary architecture and urbanism."
edwardsoja  mohsenmostafavi  reinholdmartin  nancylevinson  momoyokaijima  davidgissen  stanallen  renatasentkiewicz  iñakiábalos  urban  urbanism  toolsforreflection  reflection  reassembly  materials  toolkits  2012  assemblage  toolmaking  tools  engineering  design  cca  toread  books  architecture  claudelevi-strauss  bricoleur  bricolage 
july 2012 by robertogreco
LeisureArts: MacGyver - Bricoleur - LeisureArts
"…pushing for re-thinking the field, finding other ways to critically negotiate, & promote work of cultural MacGyvers. Robyn Stewart, in Text [Oct 2001], writes in…"Practice vs. Praxis: Constructing Models for Practitioner Based Research:"

"It is not easy being a bricoleur. A bricoleur works w/in & btwn competing & overlapping perspectives & paradigms (& is familiar w/ these). To do so they must read widely, to become knowledgeable about variety of interpretive paradigms that can be brought to a problem, drawing on Feminism, Marxism, Cultural Studies, Constructivism, & including processes of phenomenography, grounded theory, visual analysis, narratology, ethnography, case & field study, structuralism & poststructuralism, triangulation, survey, etc."

It's not easy to write about them either…requires challenging available orthodoxies, an equally at-ease disposition w/ regard to switching conceptual domains & categories, & flexibility to leave one's critical assumptions behind…"
bricolage  bricoleur  leisurearts  generalists  arts  art  culture  reading  cv  marxism  feminism  constructivism  narratology  ethnography  casestudies  fieldstudies  aesthetics  poststructuralism  structuralism  survey  triangulation  phenomenography  groundedtheory  theory  praxis  robynstewart  macgyver  criticalthinking  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  research  claudelevi-strauss  culturehacking  hacking  tinkering  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  jacks-of-all-trades  making  doing  glvo  dilettante  bernardherman  randallszott  2006  jacquesderrida  artleisure 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Bricolage - Wikipedia
"Bricolage (pronounced /ˌbriːkɵˈlɑːʒ/ or /ˌbrɪkɵˈlɑːʒ/) is a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts, to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. The term is borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler, the core meaning in French being, "fiddle, tinker" and, by extension, "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". In contemporary French the word is the equivalent of the English do it yourself, and is seen on large shed retail outlets throughout France. A person who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur."

[Bricoleur!]
bricolage  bricoleur  creativity  language  postmodernism  art  tinkering  diy  glvo  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  multimedia  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  learning  education  borrowing  french  fiddling  culture  punk  edupunk  claudelevi-strauss  guattari  constructionism  seymourpapert  sherryturkle  ianbogost  kludge  deleuze  thesavagemind  polystylism  jacquesderrida  gillesdeleuze  félixguattari 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Reading and the Panda’s Thumb « Snarkmarket [Don't miss the comments thread.]
"“Writ­ing evolved to fit the cor­tex.” On the one hand, it makes per­fect sense that a human inven­tion would be lim­ited by human biol­ogy — that the visual forms of writ­ing would be lim­ited by our abil­i­ties to rec­og­nize pat­terns in the same way that the sounds of let­ters are lim­ited by the shape and struc­ture of the human mouth.
snarkmarket  timcarmody  neuroscience  brain  reading  stanislasdehaene  research  evolution  human  stephenjaygould  claudelevi-strauss  jonahlehrer 
august 2010 by robertogreco
French Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss Dies at 100 - NYTimes.com
"What was important, he said, was that Levi-Strauss advanced the idea that cultural diversity is a positive thing -- an ''idea that wasn't very popular'' 40 years ago. Honored by universities worldwide, accepted into the Academie Francaise, home of France's scholarly elite, Levi-Strauss was also a skilled handyman, loved music and believed in the virtues of manual labor and outdoor life."
claudelevi-strauss  anthropology  ethnography  obituary  2009  manuallabor 
november 2009 by robertogreco

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