Become a department rep and receive a £700 bursary for your time, plus additional benefits. The Student’s Union are currently accepting applications. This is an opportunity for you to get involved with understanding more about the various aspects of student life and academic organisation at Goldsmiths. Your role would involve communicate and coordinate between students and our college managers and decision-makers in order to push changes to improve the student experience.
I value a good story that keeps the audience awake, I don’t want to bore them.
We caught up with Lidija Burčak who graduated in MA Visual Anthropology last year and to find out what she has been up to since graduating and how her film ‘Broken Skin’ has made its way around the festival circuit.
Before Goldsmiths, you have lived and worked in UK, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, could you tell us more about what you did before studying MA Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths and has this inspired your visual practice?
I had a lot of different jobs during my twenties because I was searching for something creative that was meaningful to me. At the same time, it was difficult to get into such job because I started my professional career with a vocational education in a Swiss insurance company. After a few internships in media companies and jobs in factories and offices, I decided to go back to school. The Swiss education system allows people to catch up on an academic degree. My plan back then was to study abroad. I was interested in cultural, social issues and how knowledge is generated through visual means. During my studies, I got into the film industry as I had the chance to do an internship as a script supervisor. You can learn a lot about filmmaking and the work on set. I started realising that I wanted to make films in a very personal way but at the time I didn’t have the courage.
Being born in 1983, the time I spent growing up in front of the TV has had a large influence on my visual practice, I watched a lot of films and TV shows. I was able to challenge this common visuality through my film studies in Zurich and Berlin, where I acquired knowledge on film theory and analysis. I was introduced to auto-ethnography and the films of Agnès Varda, which opened up a whole new world for me. But also my jobs in different offices and workplaces influence my visual practice. How people share ideas and visions, how they tell you how their weekend was and what upsets them is beautifully diverse. I didn’t know at that time that these were precious lessons about storytelling.
It was clear to me that Goldsmiths would be an interesting decision. Also because it has a history of visual anthropology that challenges images and the way we see.
Why did you choose to study at Goldsmiths and take our course?
During my studies in Zurich, I was reading Stuart Hall which helped me personally with questions of identity being a child of Yugoslav immigrants in Switzerland. Having working-class parents forced me to read and think about these kinds of issues. It was clear to me that Goldsmiths would be an interesting decision. Also because it has a history of visual anthropology that challenges images and the way we see. At that time I didn’t know that it would be a very fertile ground for my creativity as well. We didn’t have lessons on the creative practice (I don’t know if that exists any-way?), the course was great on an academic level in anthropology but how do you make an interesting film, what do you film and how do you edit? Not having lessons in that area was highly creative in a painful way, I remember that some tutors told me that I will appreciate that process in a few years time.
Since graduating last year, your film Broken Skin has won awards and has started to make its away around the festival circuit. Could you tell us more about these awards and achievements?
The film festival world is a weird industry but I wanted to bring my film to an audience. I found a website that helps you to evaluate your chances to get into festivals called Festival Whizz. Its uses algorithms but there are also real people behind it who watch your film and discuss your strategy. To give you some numbers: I applied to 60 film festivals all around the world which cost me £725 for admission fees. Some of the festivals invite you, pay your ticket and organise accommodation and some festivals offer you a 50% ticket reduction to your own award ceremony, which was funny to hear. No one talks about these things, why not? I found it very interesting. I told myself: this is the first film I did and I will do the whole thing to find out what is really important to me and to check out the scene. Also I could afford it because I had a job. It is great when you have an audience for your film and you can actually discuss the topic and share your experience of the process.
It is great when you have an audience for your film and you can actually discuss the topic and share your experience of the process.
Can you talk to us about Broken Skin, what inspired you to direct a film about skin and more specifically psoriasis?
I’ve been a psoriasis-affected person more years than I’ve been an anthropologist. My relationship with this disease was full of fear and helplessness. I tried a lot of things to heal, as many people do. You get into a vicious cycle. But before I came to London I started a therapy which finally helped me: I detoxed my body in a natural way. I was very slowly on my way to heal. I realised that hearing from many doctors “you will have this forever” and “there is nothing we can do” influenced my way of thinking enormously. So from an anthropological point of view, this looked like something interesting to explore. How are stories around a disease told and how is it visually represented? Consequently, what is this doing with me? Who is an expert and who is not? It was interesting to relate to other stories and to find out that I am not alone, which seems obvious today. My goal then was to find images that would not spread fear but could explore psoriasis on different surfaces.
I chose auto-ethnography as a research method because it allowed me to move back-and-forth between my own experience and the accounts of other psoriasis-affected people to find out new ways of relating to this disease, also personally. It was a parallel exploration of this topic which is also visible in the narrative structure of the film. I know that auto-ethnography is being criticised for not being a valuable research method for example because it is supposed to be too narcissistic. However, this method resonates with me especially in order to examine psoriasis where, in my opinion, the self and the relationship to the self is at its core. I think that I worked ethically and honestly. I am a fan of auto-ethnography because it allows me to change and cultivate my personal perspectives not just as a researcher but as a person. I value a good story that keeps the audience awake, I don’t want to bore them.
What is next on the horizon for you?
I need a lot of time to reflect on the last two years and I don’t want to get stressed otherwise I’ll get my psoriasis symptoms back. Some people who watched Broken Skin told me that they could have watched it longer, that the film is too short and has therefore a dense structure. I just started playing with the thought to make a longer version.
If you could give our Anthropology students one piece of advice, what would it be?
Something very technical: Keep your project and timeline in your editing programme in a clear order, I didn’t do it from the beginning, a lesson I learned along the way. You might still need to work on it or correct something (for a festival for example) months later after you finished it. This helps to access your work in a clear way especially when you are already working on something new.
And two personal things that I discovered: fearful topics have a very interesting potential for personal and creative growth, and I get much more things done if I don’t strive for perfection. That doesn’t mean that the work is not good.
Lidija’s film ‘Broken Skin’ has been nominated for a Grierson Award in the category of Best student Documentary, winners will be announced on 14th November 2019
Dave Lewis (Department of Anthropology) and Billy Gerard Frank have been selected to exhibit exhibition Epic Memory for the Grenada Pavilion at this years Venice Biennale. Dave Lewis says “When I was thinking about it, I was thinking about the time on Earth which my father spent. He’s 100 years old now. I was thinking about the fragments – which Derek Walcott talks about in his poem – which exist within the house. Sometimes it’s the small things, like the beads that separate the rooms, the doily covers, which I would never have in my home. We see it and it fires off these memories. It’s really important to capture them through still image, something we can contemplate.”
On Thursday 27th June, the first youth forum on gambling was held which featured global experts, interactive discussions, debates, professional sports personalities and academic researchers, including Professor Rebecca Cassidy from the Department of Anthropology, all with the aim of engaging with a younger generation on the topic of gambling. Watch the video which captures activities from the day.
In the media
Watch a snippet on ITV news Wales which discusses the forum (8 minutes and 30 seconds).
Rambisayi and Nicole who are currently working with Emma Tarlo and Adom Philogene Heron over the summer period as part of GRIP: Research Internships. We caught up with Rambisayi and Nicole to find out more about what they will be working on over the coming weeks.
Rambisayi, BA Anthropology and Visual Practice
This summer I have been given the opportunity to intern for Professor Emma Tarlo on a project titled Hair Biographies: How do we relate to the fibre that grows from our heads. This project focuses on people’s relationships to their hair. As an intern I will be employing ethnographic methods including photography, voice recordings and writing to compile a unique collection of personal hair stories. This is a very exciting opportunity for me as I get to be mentored by Professor Emma Tarlo whose work on material culture has inspired me throughout my undergraduate studies. As the project is in collaboration with, and is a part of a larger exhibition commissioned by the Horniman Museum I also get to be mentored by Dr Sarah Bryne, deputy keeper of anthropology at the Horniman Museum. The final output will be a short film that will possibly be shown at a larger exhibition commissioned to Prof. Emma Tarlo by the museum for exhibition in 2021.
Nicole, BA Anthropology and Visual Practice
I will be working on the GRIP internship within the Anthropology department this summer, titled Anthropology and ‘Decoloniality’ with Dr.Adom Philogene Heron and Dr. Gabriel Dattatreyan. The final research project will be presented in the form of a website. The aim of the site is to host a dialogue about decolonization and its relationship to anthropology as a discipline, articulating efforts to decenter the anthropological canon by questioning established forms of knowledge production and what is considered legitimate within the academic space, including the medium that conveys information itself. Thus, there will be range of ways to channel and challenge ethnographic ideas through alternative forms to conventional academic text (and language), such as photography, film, audio recordings, etc. I am delighted to be part of this project and the ongoing discussion of decolonization in pedagogy, much of what has emerged from recent decentering meetings at Goldsmiths, as well as Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action group. I am looking forward to interviewing participants, reflecting on my conversations with them, and situating their perspective on a digital space for others to engage with.
Last month, the memorial for Professor Stephen Nugent was held in East London, who sadly passed away in November last year. Emeritus Professor, Brian Morris spoke at the memorial and has shared his tribute to Steve.
STEPHEN NUGENT (1950-2018 – A TRIBUTE) – written by Brian Morris
Steve Nugent was my friend and colleague at Goldsmiths College for over forty years. We were students together at the London School of Economics, undertaking postgraduate studies in anthropology and I first met Steve through our mutual friend Olivia Harris. In the 1970’s I went to undertake ethnographical studies of a South Indian community; Olivia went to Bolivia to study peasants; and Steve went off to the Amazon, significantly not to study some remote Amerindian community, but to study the people – the Caboclos – of the city of Santarem on the southern bank of the Amazon.
I always found Steve something of an enigma, and he continually berated me for my lack of technological skills, but when he came to my surprise birthday party in October 2016, I felt deeply touched. As a birthday present he gave me a biography of Henry Walter Bates – the naturalist of the Amazons. In fact, had it not been for Steve’s cajoling I probably would never have become a professor.
How then does one describe Steve Nugent? On his passing last November the Anthropology blog at Goldsmiths described Steve as “fiercely intelligent, defiant, loyal, caring, sceptical, humorous, persistently inspiring and forever disruptive!” He wasn’t so much disruptive as critical, for as a libertarian Marxist, he had a deep sense of dialectics. His relationship to both the Anthropology Department at Goldsmiths College and anthropology was therefore always one of unity in opposition.
Steve, as is well-known, was multi-talented, but I knew little of Steve in relation to his family life, or to his talents as a rock musician, or to his important contributions as a film-maker. I shall, therefore, simply offer my recollections of Steve as a colleague at Goldsmiths College, and as a unique and talented anthropologist.
(2) GOLDSMITHS ANTHROPOLOGY DEPARTMENT.
Anthropology began at Goldsmiths College in 1975 when I was appointed as its first lecturer in anthropology. In those days Goldsmiths was viewed very much as a teacher-training college and Art School, and the degree courses came under the University of London regulations which stipulated that all undergraduate students had to take a subsidiary or “other” subject. I thus taught anthropology to a wide range of students taking degrees in psychology, geography, biology, French, chemistry and the like. I was a kind of evangelist, and as I had so many students taking anthropology as a subsidiary subject, the college agreed that I needed some support. In 1977 Pat Caplan joined me in the psychology department.
As there were then moves afoot with regard to the restructuring of the degree programme within Goldsmiths College, in 1978 Pat and I had the temerity to draft an outline for a degree programme in anthropology. The then warden, Richard Hoggart, was somewhat alarmed, and appointed an informal committee of anthropologists to advise him on the teaching of anthropology within the college. They approved our proposal but insisted that the college would have to appoint at least five members of staff. Thus in 1980 anthropology was established as a degree programme at Goldsmiths College. Steve was a member of the Department from the very beginning, being appointed in 1981. There were five of us in the Department; Pat Caplan, Nici Nelson, Olivia Harris, myself and Steve.
From the beginning the Anthropology Dept. at Goldsmiths’ sought to be different from other departments, and we adopted an ethos which consisted essentially of three aspects.
The first was that we would try to develop strong links with the local community at New Cross, continuing the ethos that had already been established at Goldsmiths, which was never a cloistered university. Indeed, anthropology was part of the Faculty of Adult Studies, and in the early days there were more students around in the evening than during the day!
Secondly, we were committed to developing a department that expressed a critical anthropology, both in terms of embracing a radical politics, and in terms of taking a critical stance within the discipline. The right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton has recently bewailed the fact that universities are full of academics who have left-wing sympathies and he advocates the privatization of higher education. Unlike Scruton we sided with Socrates, feeling that as teachers we should encourage students to critically engage with the societies in which they live.
Finally, we felt that the anthropology department at Goldsmiths should be innovative, and from the outset we developed new innovative courses. One, “Psychological Perspectives in Anthropology” was taught by Steve and me over many years, as Steve had a strong interest in cognitive sciences. But we also had courses on “Sex and Gender” (then a novelty), the “Anthropology of Food”, on medical anthropology “Health, Medicine and Social Power” and later, a course Steve and I devised in “Environmental Anthropology” (long before ecology became a fashionable topic). We also initiated the first access course in anthropology. But perhaps in retrospect the most significant innovation was a course that had the title: “Anthropology, Representation and Contemporary Media”. I signed the course proposal when head of department in November 1984. Of interest is that “images of the primitive” and “ethnographic film as a form of knowledge” are listed among the scope of the course, and that “training in video techniques” was a practical aspect of the course. This course was therefore the embryo or seed that led eventually, largely through Steve’s enthusiasm and initiative, to the setting up of an MA in visual anthropology and the foundation of a Centre for Visual Anthropology.
Steve had two long spells as head of department and played a very significant and crucial role in the development and expansion of Goldsmiths’ Anthropology Department. In the early 1980’s there were five of us teaching joint degrees in anthropology and geography (we became a department in 1986); at the present time it is a large and flourishing department with twenty-five academic staff teaching five undergraduate and eight postgraduate degrees in anthropology, especially visual anthropology, at Goldsmiths College.
Yet it is well to recall that Steve always had a dialectical approach to Goldsmiths College, especially in the early years, and, to express this, at departmental meetings he would sit separately on the floor reading a book – (Adorno’s “Negative Dialectics” seems to have been a favourite). Nevertheless, he would always participate in the proceedings, often making some inspired comment, or crack a joke that would dispel any pretentions we may have had.
(3) CRITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY.
You are perhaps aware that anthropology is often viewed as going through a series of theoretical “turns” – radical changes in its approach to the understanding of human societies. In the 1970’s there was the “symbolic” or “interpretive” turn associated with Clifford Geertz, David Pocock and Mary Douglas: in the 1980’s there was the literary or postmodernist turn, associated with James Clifford and Stephen Tyler; while at the turn of the present century there was the so-called “ontological” turn –particularly associated with Cambridge University and the acolytes of Marilyn Strathern and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.
Although Steve engaged theoretically with these various anthropological “turns”, we do well to recall that he had very little time or sympathy with what he described as “mainstream” anthropology. He was highly critical of the narcissistic aspects of the “literary” turns which tended to view Nietzsche and Heidegger as “fonts” of anthropological wisdom. Steve was also concerned to go beyond the concerns of pure ethnography, and he bewailed the tendency of many anthropologists to focus on the more “exotic” aspects of a generalized “other”, to the complete neglect of concrete historical analysis, as well as the abandoning of any attempt to “explain” human social life and culture. I therefore always looked upon Steve as a kindred spirit, for he was essentially a historical anthropologist. He stood firmly in the Marxist tradition of Eric Wolf, Sydney Mintz and Immanuel Wallerstein. He was for many years editor of the journal “Critique of Anthropology”, and included among his close associates radical scholars such as Mike Rowlands, John Gledhill and the late Josep Llobera.
Steve’s kind of anthropology was therefore realist – “down to earth” long before Bruno Latour – materialist – in marked contrast to the cultural idealism that permeated mainstream anthropology – historical and critical, as well as being inter-disciplinary. Indeed, as Mark Harris stressed, Steve was an avid reader of all things Amazonian, and drew for his studies on a wide range of sources – from the biological sciences to archaeology, economics and political ecology. Anthropology, for Steve, was therefore the study of concrete historical societies, and we should, he felt, seek to understand the underlying causes of social change. Given the modern crisis – social and ecological- Steve always lamented that the study of political economy had tended to be marginalized in recent anthropology.
Steve’s three key texts on the Amazonian region –“Amazonian Caboclo Society” (1993), “Scoping the Amazon” (2007) and “The Rise and Fall of the Amazon Rubber Industry” (2018) – are truly pioneering studies of historical anthropology – substantive, well-researched, politically engaging, and highly critical of the stereotypical portrayals of the Amazonian region and its people that tend to pervade literature – both popular and academic. All three books in fact reflect Steve’s ardent concern to challenge the common portrayal of Amazonia as a “green hell”; as a region that is inimical to human life, and is resistant to social complexity, and is thus inhabited only by the stereotypical forest-dwelling noble savage. Indeed, in one of his last essays (2016) he berates the doyen of the so-called “ontological” turn for not only portraying Amerindians as the “exotic” other, but of offering us “exotic theory” masquerading as original scholarship. Stephen Nugent’s studies of Amazonia and its people are, I think, important, unique and enduring contributions to anthropology.
As an inspiring and challenging teacher; as a key figure in the development and flourishing of the Anthropology Department at Goldsmiths College; as a unique historical anthropologist whose pioneering studies of Amazonia have an enduring value; and as a friend and colleague and supporter for over forty years, “old Steve” will be sadly missed.
20TH June 2019
Last week the GRACE team held its end of project conference in Utrecht, Gender and Cultures of In/Equality in Europe: Visions, Poetics, Strategies. Led by Dr Suzanne Clisby, Senior Research Fellow and co-director of the sister project GlobalGRACE, based in anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, the GRACE project brought together fifteen EU funded doctoral researchers from across Europe to investigate what equality means and the ways various cultures of equality are made and remade in the European context today. These studies range from the examination of documentary cinema, theatre, poetry slams and science fiction, to disability politics and trans visual poetics, Islamic feminisms, Syrian women’s diasporic writing, the experiences of women in boxing, and the analysis of the role of social media and reproductive health apps in social change. Together, these studies provide a unique lens through which we can think about the processes and practices, as well as the challenges and dilemmas, that create, enable and contest cultures of in/equality.
Marking international women’s day, the end of project conference not only brought together scholars and activists from across the world to interrogate and challenge equality discourses and practices but also to celebrate the launch of an exhibition and a feminist smartphone app curated and designed by the GRACE researchers at CASCO Art Institute – casco.art. The exhibition, entitled Footnotes on Equality, may be visited via its online platform – footnotesonequality.eu – and the app, Quotidian, may downloaded from Play Store – or the App Store.
The GRACE project also saw the launch of What is Left Unseen, at Central Museum, Utrecht, that seeks through new forms of exhibition making to, ‘expose the white male gaze that, for centuries, has determined what and how we see in the museum’
What is Left Unseen is part of the Museum of Equality and Difference (MOED) – moed.online– that also emerged out of and is inspired by the GRACE and GlobalGRACE projects and that brings together ‘artistic perspectives on equality and difference that strive for social change’.
Gavin Western has written a new publication, Fieldwork Playlist featured in Suomen Antropologi. Fieldwork Playlist emerged from a conference of the same name at Goldsmiths back in 2013. The idea was a simple one: “For our fieldwork playlist, each contributor will pick one song and recount the story of how that song came to hold significance in relation to their research encounters and experience” (Fieldwork Playlist Call For Papers 2013). Each of the papers here explores the evocative nature of music in relation to the experience of social science fieldwork. Each author has selected a song as a starting point to consider their experience in the field. Music is woven into the fabric of the social world of the field, our location in it, our collection and interpretation of data and the writing up process. This edited collection brings together diverse experiences and reflections through the evocative medium of particular songs.
Martyn Wemyss’s contribution titled Michael Jackson’s – ‘Billy Jean, reflects on the first few months of his fieldwork in Bolivia and how the death of Michael Jackson ‘prompted a shift in the soundtrack to daily life: for a brief window his music was everywhere’.
The latest issue of Suomen Anthropologi also contains entries from former students and associates of the department, Dominique Santos, Willam Tantam and Kieran Fenby-Hulse and can be downloaded online.
A tribute to Steve Nugent, who passed away on 13 November, from his colleagues in the Department of Anthropology
How to remember Steve Nugent? Fiercely intelligent, defiant, loyal, caring, sceptical, humorous, persistently inspiring and forever disruptive! Steve was a man who left a mark on all who met him and anyone who sat in department meetings or on college boards with him will no doubt have their own unique memories of this remarkable man.
We remember him here for his dedicated commitment and contributions to anthropology, Latin American Studies and the intellectual life of Goldsmiths.
Steve joined the anthropology department at Goldsmiths in 1981 and twice took on the role of Head of Department. His contributions to anthropology were wide ranging, spanning political economy, peasant societies, the anthropology of Brazil, historic and visual anthropology. He has left behind him a formidable body of work on Amazonia: Big Mouth: the Amazon Speaks (1990) – a ground-breaking account of the socio-economic and environmental landscapes of contemporary Amazonia, Amazonian Caboclo Society: An Essay on Invisibility and Peasant Economy (1993) and Scoping the Amazon: Image, Icon, Ethnography (2007) – a work which focuses on problems of representation and Indigenism and Cultural Authenticity in Brazilian Amazonia (2009). This year he completed perhaps his most ambitious contribution to the political economy of the region yet with the publication of his book The Rise and Fall of the Amazon Rubber Industry: An Historical Anthropology (2018).
Steve was far more than just an Amazonianist. His interests were broad extending to questions of cognition (for example The “Peripheral Situation” 1988), the analysis of political and economic elites (see co-edited volume with Cris Shore, Elite Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives, 2003), anthropology’s complicated relationship with cultural studies (with Cris Shore Anthropology and Cultural Studies,1998), structural Marxism and the potential of visual methods to advance anthropological theory and practice.
Steve was also Editor-in-chief with John Gledhill of the influential journal, Critique of Anthropology and he taught for many years at the Institute of Latin American Studies. At Goldsmiths he set up the MA in Visual Anthropology and more recently the BA in Anthropology and Visual Practice. He also founded and for many years directed the Centre for Visual Anthropology. His interest in the visual was both theoretical and practical and in the last decade of his time at Goldsmiths he made three films: Where is the Rabbi? (2001), a film about Sephardic communities living in Amazonia, Waila (2009), focused on a Tohono O’odham musician from Tucson Arizona, and Sounds Like a Vintage Guitar (2012), an exploration of the business and craft of making and faking historical electric guitars. Arguably, his anthropological sensibility informed his artistic collaborations and vice versa. How many anthropology departments can boast that one of their members collaborated with Ian Dury and wrote the iconic song ‘Billericay Dickie’ (in the album New Boots and Panties 1977)?! His colleagues always knew when Steve was in his office from the music streaming down the corridor.
Steve taught and supervised several generations of anthropologists at Goldsmiths as well as serving on numerous college committees. His students remember him as strict but generous and supportive. Many of them have gone on to become academics and maintained long term relationships with him. His colleagues remember him as a tireless worker on behalf of the department and of the discipline, whose sharp and acerbic wit was guaranteed to enliven every occasion. Steve’s contributions to anthropology and to Goldsmiths were remarkable and the world feels less interesting without him.
A private humanist ceremony was held for Steve Nugent’s immediate family on 16 November. The Department of Anthropology will host an event in his memory in 2019.