Saturday, January 25, 2014
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
- Within this hypothesis I mentioned the idea that pre-production might be a method displayed by traditional cultures, which is to say "cold" cultures (Levi-Strauss) characterised by stable patterns and circular time which seek to naturalise, stabilise and cement the social order by using a fixed set of cultural forms. However traditional cultures were never as rigid as all that, and when social circumstances changed there would always be methods for rearranging meanings while still keeping the illusion of eternal circular history. Is this not precisely what Levi-Strauss' structuralism is about: a fixed set of signs that can be recoded and rearranged so that a society can both change cultural meanings will not purporting to do so on the level of the signifier.
- Of course structuralism has been superseded entirely by various post-structuralist readings. Nevertheless I wonder if the ideas of the postmodern (which is increasingly fading to obscurity) overplay a "newness" of cultural forms with its emphasis on floating signifiers, remixing etc etc. Under postmodernism we are presented with a view that modernity abolishes all inherited meaning in favour of a capitalist culture that constantly churns meaning and signs, and this further suggests that an "authentic" relation of meaning is foreclosed owing to a condition in which signs no longer are attached to referents so much as other signs. I wonder now if this reading misses a possible cultural development in which this process reaches a point of entropy and stabilises over time into a new fixed set of forms, albeit expanded. Or alternatively, whether this represents not a methodological change of meaning production (eg through media etc) but rather a highly individualised culture in which these meanings can be democratically remixed, and while this leads to an increased dynamism, is in fact no less of a fixed palette. I thus wonder whether this is equatable to a stabilisation of the social order as certain modes of resistance run their course, and we continue along the axis of the "post-political" which is some way might suggest a finite palette of signifiers.
- In Levi-Strauss structuralism we are presented with a fixed set of signs as a readable system that progresses by way of homology or a transposed topological mapping, that is: A is to X what B is to Y and C is to Z. And while the reductionist simplicity of this model is appealing and implementable, it has been criticised by Clifford Geertz, to take just one example , who said that Levi-Strauss was merely seeking to project a French Enlightenment paradigm of "a rational,universal, eternal, and thus (in the great tradition of French Moralism) virtuous mind." So equally perhaps traditional cultures were not dealing with fixed palettes quite to the extent that Levi-Struass wished to suggest.
- Universalism vs. particularism (What is more important, rules or relationships?)
- Individualism vs. collectivism (communitarianism) (Do we function in a group or as individuals?)
- Neutral vs. emotional (Do we display our emotions?)
- Specific vs. diffuse (How separate we keep our private and working lives)
- Achievement vs. ascription (Do we have to prove ourselves to receive status or is it given to us?)
- Sequential vs. synchronic (Do we do things one at a time or several things at once?)
- Internal vs. external control (Do we control our environment or are we controlled by it?)
Monday, January 20, 2014
(5) long-term orientation (initially called "Confucian dynamism" following Chinese field work). Reward oriented, persistence, saving and capacity for adaptation (long term) vs short term values on steadiness, respect for tradition, preservation of one's face, reciprocation and fulfilling social obligations.
Hofstede is an international business sociologist and is concerened with international organisational management. He worked for the personnel research department of IBM who wanted to look at differences in values across their offices in different countries which caused him to produce this model. Obviously its a reductionist, generalised, positivist empirical type model, mostly suited to instrumental (ie business) uses.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
In 1607, beginning on May Eve in Haselbech, Northamptonshire and spreading to Warwickshire and Leicestershire throughout May, riots took place as a protest against the enclosure of common land. Now known as the Midland Revolt, it drew considerable support and was led by John Reynolds, otherwise known as "Captain Pouch", a tinker said to be from Desborough, Northamptonshire. He told the protesters he had authority from the King and the Lord of Heaven to destroy enclosures and promised to protect protesters by the contents of his pouch, carried by his side, which he said would keep them from all harm. (After he was captured, his pouch was opened – all that was in it was a piece of green cheese.)
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Saturday, January 4, 2014
A good formulation for me as to how research and field work might be used towards a critique of international HR law.
Frederic Megret – Where does the critique of International Human Rights Stand
"...In the effort to elucidate the actual meaning of human rights for those actors, it has never been more necessary to understand human rights anthropologically, as a social practice. Both mainstream human rights lawyers and critical ones have at times tended to operate at the level of the ideological superstructure, or of elite discourses about human rights major NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, at the expense of work more rooted in an observation of the actual uses of human rights. More than ever it seems what is needed is to answer the question "what do human rights do?"113 and to answer it in detail with an eye for the local and the idiosyncratic. The goal should be to better understand, from a legally pluralistic perspective, how rights are produced and reinvented by their holders.114 Anthropologists have considerably enriched our understanding of human rights by treating them as cultural practices and shown the benefits of a more grounded perspective to understand the potential and the constraints imposed by resorting to human rights language.115 Legal pluralism can also channel attention to non-‐legal modes of norm production and the extent to which various forms of resistance, rebellion or civil disobedience are also at heart normative practices.116 ..."
Friday, January 3, 2014
"In the past, previous generations were very aware that if you want to change things people in power hold onto power and they talked about power. In our age we live in a Wes Anderson movie, its like we are all happy and we are all twee…. Bill Murray is sitting in his submarine with lots of other like cute little Wes Anderson people and I think he expresses the ideology of our age, which is that we are all a bit crap, but that's ok. OH THAT'S IT. Well actually no its not…."
– Adam Curtis
Ok I was gonna write something more considered but anyway I'll just say a few things, from the position of someone who is very disappointed by the unfulfilment of Wes' initial promise, and as somehow who feels a tad jilted.
(1) (1) Patriarchy and Institutions – in every film we have a pretty formulaic version of some sort of faux-crisis in the patriarchal order:
a. the wealthy industrialist, the barber's son and the private school;
b. the father above the law, the child geniuses and the new york upper class family dynasty.
c. the police officer bachelor, the orphan and the boy scouts;
d. the absent father adventurer, the neglected aeroplane pilot son and National Geographic magazine;
e. the dead father, three sons with a crisis of masculinity, and the spiritual journey (perhaps this should be read as a crisis in US geopolitical hegemony as the colonialist train ride over India is now made to read American spirituality-of-the-self orientalism, the Other is mere backdrop to American self-important psychologising, faux-struggles, and then a reaffirmation of human experience as universal).
(2) Disembowelling Ashby – As Curtis points out, those crises are always resolved in a really glib simplistic way. So in taking all the dialogical and editing comic tropes from Ashby, Anderson transports them from the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction real world of Ashby to a miniaturist escapist world.
a. In Ashby we have Chauncy Gardiner in Being There (actually a prototype for David Brent because it is about how beyond explanation the power of white male dominance is);
b. In Harold and Maude we have some sort of dialectic between love and trauma that is constitutive of the subject, then made to play out wrt history and cultural memory and previous generations etc etc.
(3) The Gaze of the Child – All Anderson's films are told through the gaze of the child, and this is their central charm and aesthetic pleasure. He does this by taking on the art direction and stylisation of Children's Books (miniaturist sensibility; the trademark front on angle like illustrations; the uniform costumes that signify character traits; the names: Mr Littlejeans, Bob Bambalam, Applejack etc etc). In this sense his interest in making Fantastic Mr Fox is telling.
While I do think that hipsterism sucks, it is only for its lack of criticality, because I think more so than any aesthetic for a long time, this is an aesthetic very strongly caused by material conditions outside of their control (liberalised work force, decline of middle class and manual jobs, decline of nuclear family, super capitalism etc etc) and they are often blamed for it too unfairly ("how to deal with lazy Gen Y in the workforce").
So yeah while Anderson may have started this twee US folk nostalgia, one would be unfair to draw no distinction between his work and the terrible spin offs such as artisanal anything (apropros to children's home made craft activities especially around the house eg cookies, family unit, mum at home etc), banjo baby voice songs (Wes used a whistful nico as emblematic of romanticised new york, he used The Who and John Lennon to talk about turbulent adolescence – they weren't just formal choices) and stylised adds (start up culture > being so tech driven > being so nerdy aspergery unsocialised teenage male drive > being the most infantilised working culture ever).
(6) So with Wes I feel Rushmore showed a bit of promise because it was a little bit less stylised and a bit grittier, it dealt with some real ideas and issues and had some sense of being grounded in reality. Then Tennenbaums a more Boroque version but still strong because to me the milieu, the characters (especially the family dynamics – I absolute oppose those readings that see it as just a random assemblage of zany characters, for eg the child orderings were very well correlated with their characters and family roles), the issues all fit together and were a fair miniaturist rendering of society New York, which is also an important story of America. So for me it resonated up to here, but then after this it becomes mannerist and becomes formulaic, in the most literal sense, he just transposes the forms.
(7) So I would say at that point Wes could have either (a) driven himself to improve by challenging himself and changing style etc, or (b) if he was to stay with his aesthetic then become more critical and deal with interesting issues.
One way he might have done the latter would have been to take more widely from children's culture. There is nothing inherently apolitical about children's culture at all, if anything it can be more subversive owing to its lack of realism, not being taken seriously, and the increased openness of thinking that allows children to think in metaphors or by logic of sense or whatever. So there's no shortage of opportunities to draw from children's books but without Disney endings.
Or not even that, he could have just not done things like trivialise cultural difference in India as some sort of collection of 1 billion individual idiosyncrasies (although that is kinda a funny lost-in-translation cultural gap to think about!!!)
(As an aside, it is strange he likes to tie things up so nicely because not even historically were children always entitled to a sugar coated version of things, so I'm not sure if it come from Victorian era invention of childhood or from US style Disney / Hollywood culture.)
(8) So basically I am saying that Wes makes children's books, which is not necessarily a bad thing in principal. But in his case, he has let it spawn a culture of nostalgic infant-adults who want to be told time and time again that everything works out well in the end, that all the problems of the world are just idiosyncratic neuroses, and that they can go on making cupcakes at home just like when they were little and everything was so nice and perfect and abdicate politics forever. A real director would see this and rise to the challenge, and not let them all get off so easily.