Tag Archives: Anthropology

Lecture on Extra-Terrestrial Space Garbage, 4/10

A central tenet of accelerationist aesthetics is that mediaworks that deliver and bear witness to the “intensity effect” of everyday life “help and train us to endure – and perhaps also to negotiate – the ‘unthinkable complexity’ of cyberspace,” and also the unrepresentable immensity and intensity of ‘the world space of multinational capital’ (Shaviro quoting Gibson and Jameson, respectively). The present paper turns for deeper inquiry to commercial ad spots featuring foreign objects falling Earthwards from the sky – “space junk” centrally, and also things like destructive alien robots – arguing that their scenarios draw unduly charged attention to foreign threats to domestic security, all the while displacing the greater threat of multinational technologies of militarism: sources of social senses and narratives of insecurity in the accelerated networks of global capitalist practice. In short, they are artifacts of false witness. To the extent that visual ethnography productively engages with, rather than despairing of perspectival instability, and attenuates encounters with alien modalities of relating, it holds out the possibility of a countervailing force to the implicit resignation of accelerationist aesthetic regimes.

New Draper Spring Course!

Draperites! Our fearless leader, Robin Nagle, will be teaching the below course this spring. Interested students should email Robert Dimit (robert.dimit@nyu.edu) for approval.


Garbage in Gotham: The Anthropology of Trash
Robin Nagle
Draper Program / Anthropology
Spring 2014 / Wednesdays, 6:20 – 8:20
Garbage is understood as a practical problem, but this course also considers values, traditions, and cultural assumptions inherent in the notion of “trash.” How is the material object called “garbage” created, perceived, processed, ignored? What are the economics of garbage in Gotham more than a decade after the city’s last landfill closed? What are the social assumptions that allow garbage to be an acceptable, even inevitable part of daily life?
The class starts with readings that propose more inclusive parameters for authoritative knowledge so that waste in general, and garbage in particular, might find a place in academic discourse. We then look at ideas of private property and value imparted to material objects and consider how such measures are inverted in the process of creating trash. Readings move to anthropologists who have studied distinctions between the sacred and the profane. We include philosophies and histories of waste and worth. We step into contemporary conversations about trash through several considerations, including the gendering of both domestic and municipal trash management, the history of garbage handling in various times and places, the relationship between garbage and consumption, the labors of waste (who exactly is responsible for taking away the trash?), garbage archaeology, and the ways in which solid waste and related industrial processes shape landscape — among many other themes.

Anthropology “Art and Society” course of possible interest to Draper students

Professor Fred Myers is teaching the Anthropology grad course Art and Society this Fall, on Mondays from 2-4:45pm. Description below. Students must consult with Robert Dimit during their advising appointments before registering.


 GA 1630:   Art and Society

                  According to Jakobson, communication has an aesthetic function when communication focusses on the medium itself.  In this course, we will consider the nature of aesthetic expression in a variety of media — the arts, broadly speaking — in diverse societies, focusing both on style and function with a critical examination of the relationships between art and other dimensions of culture.   One of the instructor’s principal interests is in the larger problem of how material culture acquires value in a variety of social formations.  As cultural forms from a variety of societies now circulate more broadly outside of the venues in which their meanings were once produced, a range of very interesting anthropological and conceptual problems has emerged.  In the course, we will be concerned with tracing the impact of the new circumstances of art’s circulation on traditional theories of the value of the formal.

            A major emphasis in the course will consist of comparing relativist approaches from anthropology that have questioned the universality of the category “art” with current debates in art theory on the category of “aesthetics.”  The plan is to take quite seriously the conception of “art and society” as a problem, by exploring different problems in this relationship and especially considering the social and cultural construction of the category “art” itself in artworlds.  Topics will include the general orientations of ethnoaesthetics (the way form is understood locally); the role of art producers cross-culturally; the primitivism debates; the differentiation of the arts from each other; art, taste, and distinction; new patterns (global flows?) in the circulation and consumption of art; struggles over public art; the avant-garde; art markets; artwriting; and art, nationalism, and cultural identity.