Snippets of an ethnography of the present #1

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 


Alexandra Burke and the trouble with reality TV and race

alexandra burke

Strictly Come Dancing is one of the most popular TV shows in the UK, in which celebrity contestants, with professional dance partners, compete in ballroom and Latin dance.  Analysis by the Guardian has “demonstrated that being black or minority ethnic increased a contestant’s chances of being in the bottom two by 71%, and being both black and female increased those odds by 83%.”  A window on Brexit Britain.


 

La longue durée in Alabamaalabama map

Frank Chi writes on Facebook: “As I stared at Doug Jones’s Alabama victory map tonight, I was struck by how much it looks like the most consequential map in American history – the one that Abraham Lincoln used to determine his political strategy before the Civil War … If you ever needed any proof, just look at these two maps side by side. The descendants of those enslaved, after migrations, KKK terrorism, marches and struggles, now vote where their ancestors were once counted as economic assets. And they voted for Doug Jones.”


 

The Brutal Origins of Gun Rights

 

trump nra

“As the writer and historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz argues in her brilliant new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, America’s obsession with guns has roots in a long, bloody legacy of racist vigilantism, militarism, and white nationalism. This past, Dunbar-Ortiz persuasively argues, undergirds both the landscape of gun violence to this day and our partisan debates about guns.”


 

Prisons for profit

prison visit by skype

“Under the new system, in-person [prison] visits are no longer allowed. Instead, all visits now must be done by video, either from a smartphone, computer, or at an offsite location.

The pamphlet, published by Securus Technology, makes using a video feed to talk to your loved one seem appealing. It says:

“Do you want to see your loved one more often? Stop missing out on:

Watching your favorite TV show.

Singing Happy Birthday.

Reading a bedtime story … Never miss another moment.”

Under the new system, each video visit made from home costs $12.99 for 20 minutes. In-person visits used to be free.”  Gives a whole new meaning to Reality TV.


My Twentieth Century Evening – and Other Small Breakthroughs

 

never let me go

 

“So we come to the present. I woke up recently to the realisation I’d been living for some years in a bubble. That I’d failed to notice the frustration and anxieties of many people around me. I realised that my world – a civilised, stimulating place filled with ironic, liberal-minded people – was in fact much smaller than I’d ever imagined. 2016, a year of surprising – and for me depressing – political events in Europe and in America, and of sickening acts of terrorism all around the globe, forced me to acknowledge that the unstoppable advance of liberal-humanist values I’d taken for granted since childhood may have been an illusion.

I’m part of a generation inclined to optimism, and why not? We watched our elders successfully transform Europe from a place of totalitarian regimes, genocide and historically unprecedented carnage to a much-envied region of liberal democracies living in near-borderless friendship. We watched the old colonial empires crumble around the world together with the reprehensible assumptions that underpinned them. We saw significant progress in feminism, gay rights and the battles on several fronts against racism. We grew up against a backdrop of the great clash – ideological and military – between capitalism and communism, and witnessed what many of us believed to be a happy conclusion.

But now, looking back, the era since the fall of the Berlin Wall seems like one of complacency, of opportunities lost. Enormous inequalities – of wealth and opportunity – have been allowed to grow, between nations and within nations. In particular, the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the long years of austerity policies imposed on ordinary people following the scandalous economic crash of 2008, have brought us to a present in which Far Right ideologies and tribal nationalisms proliferate. Racism, in its traditional forms and in its modernised, better-marketed versions, is once again on the rise, stirring beneath our civilised streets like a buried monster awakening. For the moment we seem to lack any progressive cause to unite us. Instead, even in the wealthy democracies of the West, we’re fracturing into rival camps from which to compete bitterly for resources or power.”

Kazuo Ishiguro – Nobel Lecture, 7 December 2017

 

 

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