Category Archives: Anthropology

Tim Burrows: The Only Way is Online: being an Essex girl/boy in the internet age

Tim Burrows is a professional journalist for the Guardian, whose work has led him to closely investigate the phenomenon of ‘Essex’ in recent years. He has looked into ‘The power of Towie’ and how the ITV reality series has changed Essex itself, but also the preconceptions that people have of ‘Essex people.’

Some interesting questions were raised: ‘What does it mean to be from Essex?’ ‘Would you class yourself as an Essex boy/Essex girl?’ ‘When abroad, do you say that you come from Essex or London?’ ‘What is a typical Essex girl/boy?’

Some people who are not from Essex might say that the stereotypical Essex girl/boy would be well-groomed, materialistic, loud, extravagant, dramatic. But are these positive or negative descriptions? These were all questions asked and answered at the Williams Project this week, which uncovered the effects and the hidden reasons why the pre-conceived idea of the typical Essex boy or girl has evolved in our society today.

Alice Carter

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Sue and Patrick Cunningham: The Heart of Brazil

Sue and Patrick Cunningham are professional photojournalists and writers who have been supporters of the indigenous communities of Brazil for the past 20 years. They both do lots of work for the Indigenous People’s Cultural Support Trust which raises awareness about the issues affecting tropical forests and their indigenous habitats. They have been involved in the writing of many educational publications including “Brazil in The School” and “Out of The Amazon”, and Patrick has written for many magazines such as Geographical Magazine and BBC Wildlife.

Mr and Mrs Cunningham are extremely lovely people who excellently communicated their passion and and knowledge about the indigenous communities of Brazil. They spoke to us about their recent trip down the Xingu River on a boat powered by solar panels. They talked to us about the people who lived in these communities and how their lives are being affected by deforestation. They also talked to us about how the tribes don’t want much money, they are happy and content with making whatever they need. This is what amazed me so much, how we as a community are so obsessed by materialistic things while they are living very happily making whatever they need.

Read more and see photographs of their travels and work here.

Stella Kearin

Richard Maynes: “That’s not funny!” Are there any topics that shouldn’t be joked about?

A pop-up WP, for the VIth form only. Mr Maynes took us through a whole gamut of types of offensive humour, and, with admirable openness, tact and skill, engineered an intelligent, and at times impassioned, discussion about humour. Audio clips from comedians, with audience laughter, brought home the difficulty of finding something ‘funny’, but not wanting to laugh. Is it OK to share such jokes if no members of the target group are there, and if the teller knows no one will be offended? Or should one only tell jokes which one could tell to anyone?

The conversation continued over dinner, where several students expressed with relief that now for the first time they felt able to discuss things like gender and race in an official school setting.

Emily Miller: ‘Does Britain need a museum of migration?’

Emily Miller, the Head of Learning and Partnerships at the Migration Museum Project, discussed whether Britain needs a migration museum. France, Germany, Portugal and many more countries have migration museums, yet Britain is not among this list, and Emily Miller’s talk focussed on why this needs to change. Migration is a pertinent and sometimes controversial issue, and the intention of setting up a migration museum is to tell personal and evocative stories of immigrants throughout history. It is easy for people to stereotype immigrants, but the point Emily was making is that everyone comes from somewhere, and everyone has a story which needs to be respected and tolerated, rather than faced with prejudice. The Syrian refugee crisis, unfortunately, is one of many throughout history – something that people often remain ignorant to unless they actively go out of their way to broaden their knowledge about the history of migration. What is most frightening is that attitudes to those seen as ‘other’ have changed so little over time. For example, in 1290, Edward I issued an edict which expelled all Jews from England, and as recent as 2016, people have been filmed on high streets in London claiming that they want immigrants to be shot. Education of people to eradicate these prejudices is vital, since a harmonious society cannot result from tensions based on something so small as background and fear of the unknown. The Migration Museum Project so far does not have a location for a physical building, but the need for plans to come to fruition in the future is a great one. For now, they are putting on events and exhibitions in places around London, such as a migration walk, and they have big hopes for the future – so watch that space.

Olivia Mendel-Portnoy

Tomáš Cvrcek: ‘The Marriage Market – How the Rules of the Game Affect the Outcomes’

Old Chigwellian Dr Tomáš Cvrcek, lecturer of Economics at UCL and admissions tutor for the innovative new degree History, Politics and Economics, treated the Williams Project to an in-depth look at the nature of modern-day relationships, and how one can take basic principles of economics (e.g. supply and demand, market equilibrium and making value judgements) and apply them to ‘the marriage market’. As the talk progressed, it became clear that one can choose to view the ‘dating’ scene with a rather clinical eye, choosing partners based upon a rigid list of preference and weighing up the opportunity cost of choosing someone else over another e.g. Person A may not end up with Person B because Person B places a higher value upon Person C, but may still be able to end up with Person D, who they value to a lesser extent but is the next best option due to the constraints of the market. However, Dr Cvrcek also concentrated on the various historical and cultural factors that affect how ‘the game’ is played – for instance, although we in the UK base the ‘rules of the game’ upon one-to-one relationships, certain cultures may base the ‘rules of the game’ around many-to-one relationships, for example when a husband has multiple wives. Historical factors considered included the nature of middle-upper class relationships in Victorian Britain (where suitable partners were chosen by the parents of the couple in question, hence personal preferences did not hold as much weight) and scenarios such as arranged relationships/marriages. By the end of the talk, a vast array of topics and scenarios had been covered, leaving the audience significantly more enlightened and informed.

Henry Bird

tomas cvrcek and mr lord

tomas cvrcek and mr lord

the marriage game in action

the marriage game in action

Keith Snow: The evolution of our understanding of evolution: the influences on Darwin’s ideas and the development of his theory

keith snow at the wp

On Tuesday the 22nd of September the Williams Project was visited by Keith Snow. He gave a very interesting talk about the development and influences behind Darwin’s theory of evolution, showing us how Charles Darwin himself was not the sole mind behind the theory of evolution. Darwin’s ideas both evolved over time and much was taken from many other people before him. Keith Snow discussed how Darwin took many of his ideas from his lesser-known grandfather Erasmus Darwin, as well as Thomas Malthus, whose ideas also inspired Darwin. Erasmus theorised that all life came from a common ancestor that branched off into all the species that we see today. Even without any time for questions in the library at the end it was a very enjoyed and interesting talk, and I’m sure that Keith Snow would be welcome back in the future.

Alex Wade: “The Happy Consciousness of Pac-Man”

This week’s Williams Project meeting saw Alex Wade of Birmingham City University give a wide-ranging talk on ‘The Happy Consciousness of Pac-Man’. The much-loved, chomping, yellow character was analysed not just as a game but as an influence and reflection of ’80s and modern society, whether it be in his RAVE-like habit of popping pills or in his consumerist desire to never stop eating. We’d like to thank Mr Wade for his excellent talk which enlightened us not just on video games but also gave us an insight into some of the wider aspects of our culture and technology.
Mr Wade started by warming up the audience with some ’80s jokes, before talking about ’80s culture and its parallelism to the game itself. He carefully explained the idea of Pac-Man, that you play as a small, yellow creature who must eat power pellets in order to eat ghosts, all inside a maze from which there is no escape. As you get to higher and higher levels, the mazes become more complex and difficult to escape from. He spoke elegantly about the game’s popularity in the ’80s, and also about how it is perceived by some to be more well-suited to females than males, as the ghosts never die when they are eaten, but merely float back to the “ghost box”, unlike most modern video games in which the characters often die. He also kept the audience entertained with fun facts about the game – for example, he told us that the shape of the character Pac-Man was originally inspired by a pizza with one slice missing.

However, for me, the most impressive part of Mr Wade’s speech was the final part, in which he expanded on his ideas about Pac-Man’s link to capitalism. In a broad, sweeping gesture, he stated: “Pac-Man is all about eating.” And so, he went on to say, is life. Pac-Man must eat power pellets in order to eat ghosts in order to live, so that it can eat more power pellets in order to eat more ghosts etc. In the same way, the population of a capitalist society are trapped in a cycle of consuming for the sake of consuming, buying more and more goods just to thrive in society. A cycle from which escape is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Of course, the hugely challenging question which this point causes us to ask is “is there a better alternative?” Would it be better to have a society with poor consumption (Communism) or one with excessive consumption?

A fascinating message delivered in a clear, confident manner, it is certain that all those who were present at Mr Wade’s talk will be thinking about it for a long time, and many thanks must go to the speaker for a thought-provoking session.

Thomas

Alex Wade at the WP

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