A History of Private Life

28 09 2009

Today I heard a fascinating discussion on the radio respnding to an interesting sounding series of programmes on Radio 4 about the history of private life. The discussion today was about the meaning of the home and included Amanda Vickery, Simon Jenkins of the National Trust, anthropologist Daniel Miller and sociologist Elizabeth Silva.

Together they looked at the concerns which have dominated life inside the home for hundreds of years. Why are tussles over who rules the roost a persistent theme? Are modern homes increasingly atomised, separated from local communities and housing an army of home-workers and divorcing couples unable to afford to sell their houses? Or are they predominantly a safe refuge from which householders can show off their exquisite taste and treasured possessions, while leading harmonious and socially integrated lives?

The panel examined which of these and many other views might shape how historians of the future will view the private lives we lead at the beginning of the 21st century. You can find out more about the History of Private Life series and Amanda Vickery’s research behind it here. Interestingly it seems that the series gets its name from a series of books of the same title edited by Georges Duby and Philippe Aries, a French Historian who also wrote influentially about the history of childhood.

You can usually hear programmes like this again on the BBC iPlayer.


Strangers into Citizens on the Fourth Plinth

25 09 2009

On Thursday 1st October, from 18:00-19:00 Strangers into Citizens will be featured on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Giuseppe Spaldone, a supporter from Yorkshire, has been given a slot as part of Antony Gormley’s ongoing “One and Other” project. The project gives members of the public one hour on the Fourth Plinth at the corner of Trafalgar Square and Giuseppe will be using his time, among other things,to raise awareness of the plight of undocumented migrants and publicise the Strangers into Citizens campaign. We will be present in support — with posters, flyers, and testimony. The 6-7 pm slot is prime time so we expect the square to be busy and there to be lots of people to witness the action. Please come down to join the crowd of supporters: the more people we have, the more impact we will make. Contact Strangers into Citizens if you intend to come — and feel free to bring friends along, too!

Strangers into Citizens, London Citizens, 112 Cavell Street, Whitechapel, London, E1 2JA, Mob: 07899663123

www.strangersintocitizens.org.uk / www.strangersintocitizens.blogspot.com

Civil Liberties

22 09 2009
Metropolitan Police Manipulation of Jean Charles de Menezes photo

Metropolitan Police Manipulation of Jean Charles de Menezes' photo

It may seem a bit late to be writing a post about civil liberties now that the outrage over the death of Ian Tomlinson, G20 policing in generalJean Charles de Menezes, Policing of Climate Camp, Omar Degayes, Moazzem Begg, Binyam MohamedTorture, and a host of other infringements of our civil liberties seems to be subsiding, but I have been reminded of it recently by several excellent essays by Gareth Peirce in the London Review of Books, an e-mail about an event held by the Haldane Society and reading Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault.

Gareth Peirce, is a campaigning solicitor who defended the Birmingham Six, the Tipton Three, the Guildford Four, former MI5 operative David Shayler, Abu Qatada (who has been called ‘Europe’s Al-Qaeda Ambassador’), Judith Ward, Mouloud Sihali, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, Mozzam Begg and Bisher Amin Khalil al-Rawi, a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp. She was made famous in the film ‘In the Name of the Father’, where she was portrayed by Emma Thompson. She has published some excellent essays in the London Review of Books recently. In ‘The Framing of al-Megrahi‘, she exposes the whole sorry tale of  Pan Am Flight 103 and the Lockerbie Bombing. In ‘Make Sure You Say That You Were Treated Properly’ she writes about torture, secrecy and the British State.

Those in power draw on traditions of deference and non-partisanship when it comes to security, making it unnecessary for governments to provide reasoned justification when security is said to be at stake. There is therefore a dangerous circularity to the entire process. Deference is fed in part by ignorance, and ignorance is fed in turn by claims that secrecy is indispensable. The public receives only the barest of justifications, which it is supposed to take on trust, while the government machine ignores or short-circuits normal democratic processes.

In ‘Was it Like this for the Irish?’ she considers the parallels between the British Government’s treatment of Muslims in Britain and the Irish in the 1970s and 80s.

If you are interested in some of these issues you could do worse than go to a meeting/lecture of the Haldane Society which is coming up on

The Right to protest: police violence, kettling, cover-ups:

Speakers are: Phillippa Kaufmann, barrister and counsel for Austin in Austin v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (House of Lords decision on “kettling”), and Paul Lewis, the Guardian journalist who reported on video evidence that showed the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests, April 2009

Thursday 22 October, 6.30pm, Room S102, 6.30pm – 8.30pm at the College of Law, 14 Store Street, London WC1E 7DE, nearest tube Goodge Street. All welcome. Free entrance.

If that all sounds like  a bit too much work, you could watch the excellent film ‘Taking Liberties’ about Tony Blair’s legacy for UK Civil Liberties – Here on Google Video. Also keep an eye on the Guardian’s Liberty Central Blog

All this got me thinking that with the breakdown of Michel Foucault’s system of control through internalised discipline, perhaps we are seeing a return to the days of sovereign power, of the public spectacle, torture and excecution?

Multiple Users

21 09 2009

This is the first post on the blog by a user other than ‘filonetwork’

Thankyou to everyone who came to the workshop last week. Me and filonetwork enjoyed it… it was nice to meet you all.

In response to the discussion we had about the FiLo Network and future activities, I thought I would start a discussion of potential developments on the website.

1. The first thing is the proposals for reform and expansion of the literature review. I propose that to keep it simple and easy to administrate we have just 2 sections. One for general London studies or specific case studies and one for methodology.

If you have a suggestion for a reference, please first check to see that it is not already on our list and then send it along with a tag – either ‘Reading London’ or ‘Methodology’ these tags will also fit in with general tags on blog posts and events. 

The literature review is quite popular, it had 27 hits in the last month and 210 hits since we started the blog.
2. We should have more member profiles to represent the full size and range of the network.

The Member profiles page has had 209 hits since we started the blog and the top 4 most clicked on links on the blog are all member profiles.

If your name is not already on the list, please send along an e-mail to the filo address with you name, institution, a *short* phrase or scentence about your research and a link to your on line profile, website or if you dont have one, any contact information you would like us to incluse on the members profile list.

3. How and where should we put electronic copies of the workshop posters?

We could have them all on the workshop page, or have them linked somehow from the member profiles.

4. muliple contributors? what do you think and is anyone interested in this?

Public spending and ‘cuts’

16 09 2009

Ipsos Mori’s Research into attitudes towards Public spending and balancing our budget makes interesting reading:

No consensus exists on how best to reduce Government borrowing, with the public divided between maintaining spending and increasing taxes (38%), cutting spending on public services (29%), and doing nothing (31%).

If cuts have to happen, three-quarters of the public would like to see some services protected (77%). Overseas aid and benefits are the most common candidates to be cut, while the vast majority think the NHS should be protected from cuts (82%).

The Guardian’s Data Blog has another excellent graphic with a commentary by Larry Elliott, their Economics Editor about Public Spending. The graphic representation of government spending in the UK makes clear where tax revenues go.  

A quick glance reveals why it is that the politicians are so much keener to discuss the black hole in general than specific terms. The biggest blobs are for health, pensions and family benefits (DWP and Inland Revenue) and education. These three big areas have been growing as a share of the total near- continiously since the Second World War, and are of course the toughest to trim. The fourth big blob, however, is different – the £109.5 bn spent by the Treasury, and increase of an extraordinary 49,891% in the last year. This money, of course, is that which has been used to “save the world” by bailing out the banks.

By contrast, those few things which politicians are most keen to talk about cutting explicitly are tiny. Quangos are of course a favourite target – the dots for Electoral Commission and the Postal Services Commission, for example, are barely visible.

The blog invites members of the public to suggest ways in which they would make cuts to public spending. Here’s one idea from the comments for somewhere to cut and somewhere to spend a bit more: Ministry of Defence £44.6 Billion, Department for International Development £5.2 Billion. According to Ipsos Mori’s poll that commentator, who I happen to agree with, is in the minority.

The Guardian’s Datablog continue to produce interesting and topical graphics and data sets… I think they need a permanent link.

FiLo Workshop, Friday 18th September 2009, 10am-4pm

15 09 2009

The first Fieldwork in London Network workshop is being hosted by the Institute of Contemporary European Studies (iCES), in Tuke building 301 which is located on the Campus of Regent’s College in Regents Park in central London.

For Further Information, please see the workshop page. If you have any further questions you can call Angels 078 008 123 96, Benji 079 228 104 89 or Ines 079 867 666 54 alternatively you can e-mail the FiLo address: filo.network (a) googlemail.com

Workshop Programme: 18th September 2009

9:45 – 10.05 Registration, Tea & Coffee

10.05 – 10.10 Welcome from the FiLo team

10.10 – 10.15 Overview of the Workshop

10.15 – 10.20 Introductions (Speakers and Participants)


                             Prof. Daniel Miller – UCL, London


                             Prof. John EadeCRONEM, Roehampton University

11.40 – 12.30 Discussion of Keynote Presentations

12.30 – 13.00 Break

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch, Tea & Coffee

14.00 – 15.00 FiLo Network Discussion (Future Objectives and Projects)

15.00 – 16.00 Poster Presentations & Wine Reception

16.00 – 17.30 Guided Tour of London (Starting at York Gate)

17.30 – onwards End of FiLo workshop at a London Pub


Anthropology and Finance

11 09 2009

The ASA blog’s attempt to discuss the financial crisis seeks to bring together anthropologists, sociologists, who work on the cultural political economy, anthropology of money, class, labour, industry, economic anthropology, informal economy, wall street as an ethnographic site, micro finance, the nature of capitalism and the modern state so as to comment and examine the current situation. Seemingly an ‘unanthropological’ topic this blog (from mid September 09 to mid December 09).  This discussion would also highlight how ethnographic techniques can be applied to explore such dynamic issues in the modern world.

Gillian Tett, an anthropologist who is the Assistant Editor of Financial Times predicted the credit crisis two years ago when she was largely ignored by the banking world. She felt that her training in social anthropology alerted her to the danger and the need to listen to ‘social noise’ as well as ‘social silences’. To quote Tett from an interview in The Guardian in October 2008: 

“I happen to think anthropology is a brilliant background for looking at finance,” she reasons. “Firstly, you’re trained to look at how societies or cultures operate holistically, so you look at how all the bits move together. And most people in the City don’t do that. They are so specialised, so busy, that they just look at their own little silos. And one of the reasons we got into the mess we are in is because they were all so busy looking at their own little bit that they totally failed to understand how it interacted with the rest of society. But the other thing is, if you come from an anthropology background, you also try and put finance in a cultural context. Bankers like to imagine that money and the profit motive is as universal as gravity. They think it’s basically a given and they think it’s completely apersonal. And it’s not. What they do in finance is all about culture and interaction.”

These and other related issues will be discussed by the following group of bloggers from mid September 09 till mid December 2009:

  • Mid September – end September: Prof. Alexander F. Robertson, Anthropology, Edinburgh University
  • Early October – Mid October: Dr. Gillian Tett, Anthropologist and Assistant Editor, Financial Times
  • Mid October – End October: Prof. Stephen Gudeman, Anthropology, University of Minnesota & Dr. Massimiliano Mollona, Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, London University
  • End October – Mid November: Prof Karen Z. Ho, Anthropology, University of Minnesota
  • Mid November – End November: Prof. Keith Hart, Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, London University
  • Early – mid December: Prof. Bob Jessop, Sociology, Lancaster University