January 28, 2012

Hi, my name is Michael. I’m a cultural anthropologist by training, and a curious observer by practice.

This blog seeks to articulate, develop and express my thought process concerning the interconnected webs of culture. I know that’s a pretty broad category, but I hope that if you read and return here on occasion, you’ll get a sense of what I’m up to. To make it more clear, let me share with you my three main inspirations for this blog.

1. Connections: Nonfiction author Lawrence Weschler has written a fascinating book of visual imagery and culture that unexpectedly seems to come together in pop culture, Everything That Rises: A Book Of Convergences. Weschler explains in his introduction how he spent years collecting the intersecting images and concepts in the book, inspired by John Berger and his special Ways of Seeing: “I myself have increasingly found myself being visited by similarly uncanny moments of convergence, bizarre associations, eerie rhymes, whispered recollections—sometimes in the weirdest places.” Below, for example, is the convergence that inspired Weschler, as recognized by Berger.

che and surgeons

2. Clues: The historian Carlo Ginzburg has written about “clues” and how an entire way of thinking emerged in the late 19th century that used seemingly insignificant pieces of evidence to explain bigger concepts. Case in point: the 19th century art historian Giovanni Morelli who argued that:

"We should examine, instead, the most trivial details that would have been influenced least by the mannerisms of the artist’s school: earlobes, fingernails, shapes of fingers and of toes. Morelli identified and faithfully catalogued by this method the shape of the ear in figures by Botticelli, Cosme Tura, and others, traits that were present in the originals but not in copies. He ended up proposing many new attributions for works hanging in the principal European museums."

Here’s a link to download Ginzburg’s essay

3. Mythologies: The French literary theorist, philosopher and critic Roland Barthes wrote a series of brilliant and succinct cultural analysis essays that was published in one small volume called simply Mythologies. In it, Barthes explores all number of contemporary cultural myths, practices and symbols, from professional wrestling, to plastic, to red wine. The world is not as it seems, he repeatedly explains in careful fashion.

So, while I don’t know I can truly live up to these standards, I can certainly cultivate and labor towards my own set of connections, clues and mythologies here on this blog.

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