Wednesday, July 21, 2010

VAOJ's first published foto in Europe

Pdf copy of the page from yesterday's (7/20/10) printed edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. My photo is about two thirds of the way down on the right. The story is about a fieldtrip to the German Deaf Museum in Frankfurt I took my students on. Yes, dear VAOJ readers, I have been holding out on you. Of course I have been looking into the deaf scene here in Germany. Please look forward to the future post on this subject. Coming soon...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


What does one do when one's all-day Saturday Visual Anthro seminar has been canceled (postponed) and one suddenly finds oneself with a free weekend? Go to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic... Not that I have become bored with Germany. But transportation to Prague was cheaper than transportation to any German city I wanted to visit. So Prague it was... Prague is a tourist mecca in Europe, and filled with history. Czech beer is cheaper than bottled water. And I found Czech people to be very friendly and giving. I will be going back (as 3 days wasn't enough) - you should check it out as well.

I took only about 500 photos while I was there. I have edited them down to 70 images. See more photos of Prague at my Flickr account, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"McDonaldisation, Masala McGospel and Om Economics"

Not Japan (or even Germany) related, but some interesting visual anthropology and globalization stuff...

Announcement from H-ASIA, Member's publication:

Jonathan D James, McDonaldisation, Masala McGospel and Om Economics: Televangelism in contemporary India. (New Delhi, Sage Publications, August 2010), ISBN: 978-813-210473-5, Hardback, 268 pages.

The book takes the American phenomenon of televangelism out of its usual context into India and seeks to understand its outworking in a new historical, cultural, religious, political, and economic setting. The Indian Government's open policy on satellite television is attracting a plethora of American-based television ministries (especially the Charismatic brand of Christianity).

The book, based on an ethnographic study of Church and Hindu community leaders from India likens global televangelism to 'McDonaldisation', because of its standardized, "one size fits all" approach. 'Glocal' televangelism, the fusion of American and Indian televangelism, is referred to as 'Masala McGospel,' because the Indian elements in the programs are overshadowed by the American grammar and logic of global televangelism. Hindu televangelism, a relatively new phenomenon, is also creating a disjunction because of the blending of New Age spirituality with the Charismatic (American) marketing and commercial techniques.

For more information:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

German Rap: "Freundeskreis: Esperanto"

We were discussing Japanese rap and hip/hop in Contemporary Japan and Globalization seminar today. Armin provided an interesting cross-cultural comparison, a German hip/hop group named Freunderskreis (which means "circle of friends"). They are apparently quite socially conscious and rap in German, English, French and Esperanto. This video is quite visual as well. Enjoy.

For more info see this web page on international hip/hop:

See Freundeskreis' own web page (in German):

Berlin: I thought it was the Japanese flag...

While in Berlin I saw what I thought was the hinomaru, or Japanese flag. I assumed that this was the site of the Japanese embassy. When I walked to the actual building, and even around it once, I saw that the building was actually the Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart (Museum for Contemporary Art). And next to the Japanese flag was a flag featuring a red basket. What the...?

I did some investigation but couldn't find out what was going on with the flags. Finally I contacted the museum itself and they were good enough to provide the answer. It is a piece of art by Christoph Niemann. Here is a brief explanation:

Niemann, born in 1970 in Waiblingen (South Germany), is an internationally prolific illustrator, designer and author, and divides his time between Berlin and New York. He has designed front pages for ‘The New Yorker', ‘Spiegel', ‘Time', ‘Newsweek' and the ‘New York Times Magazine'. His works have featured in solo shows in galleries in New York, Paris and Ljubljana. His exhibition in the Transit Museum in Brooklyn will open in November. Among Niemann's latest publications are ‘I LEGO New York' and the children's books ‘Der kleine Drache' and ‘Subway'.

His works often feature easily discernible pictograms, which are arresting for their inventiveness and fine sense of irony and can appear both simple and complex at once. For a cover of ‘The New Yorker', for instance, Niemann transformed the elements of the American flag into ingredients for a barbecue. His blog, ‘My Abstract City' is a regular feature on the New York Times' website, where he variously relates the history of the Berlin Wall by weaving paper strips together to form images, reconstructs famous New York sights using a minimal number of Lego blocks or illustrates his personal relationship with coffee by painting with the beverage on serviettes.

Niemann's icons play with the human mind's propensity to create narrative links and to read meaning into abstract signs. While the flag for the Hamburger Bahnhof, with its red circle on a white background, would otherwise be instantly recognizable as the Japanese flag, as it flutters over the museum roof with a basket attached beside it, it suddenly resembles a basketball.
Source: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - News - Information.

Here is a photo of some of his other work (photo borrowed from

Apparently he has traveled and lectured in Japan. I have posted about visual symbolism involving the Japanese flag in the past. How do you feel about his messing with Japanese symbols? I wonder how Japanese school teachers would feel?

"Emotional Terrain of Transnational Immigrants: a Cultural Anthropological Approach"

Announcement from H-Japan...

Let me draw your attention to a workshop at Keio University (Mita Campus) next Tuesday (7/20) that will focus on the emotional aspects of migration through two ethnographic movies and three talks. The keynote speaker will be professor Karl Heider whom many of you might know as the author of "Ethnographic Film," one of the most popular introductions to visual anthropology.

Keio University, Centre for Advanced Research on Logic and Sensibility (CARLS) Cultural Anthropology Group, Research Seminar

Title: "Emotional Terrain of Transnational Immigrants: a Cultural Anthropological Approach"

Date: July 20th, 2010 13:00

Venues: East Research Building, Mita Campus, Keio University (6F G-sec Lab, 4F Seminar Room)

Admission: Free
Language: English & Japanese


PART 1: 13:00

Film screening:
"Jaguar" (by Jean Rouch, 93 min, 1967, with English subtitles
"Les Maitres Fous" (Jean Rouch, 35 min, 1954, with English subtitles

Commentary: Prof. Karl G. Heider (Keio University, Visiting Professor)

PART 2: c.16:00

Lecturer: Prof. Miyasa Keizo (Keio University, Cultural Anthropology)
Title: Diaspora and Emotional Life: An Anthropological Approach
Discussant: Prof. Matsuoka Hideaki (Shukutoku University)

PART 3: 17:30

Lecturer: Kang Yoon-hee (Nanjyan Technological University, Singapore)
Title: The Emotional Terrain of Educational Migration: South Korean Early
Study Abroad (jogi yuhak) Students and Their Families in Singapore
Discussant: Prof. Jung Yeong-hae (Otsuma Women's University)

Panel Discussion: by Prof. Karl G. Heider and others

* For more information see:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How do you capture Berlin in only three days?

...especially when one of those days is spent watching and celebrating a world cup match victory?

Yes, it's impossible. Berlin is huge and I found it to be fascinating, disturbing, exciting, depressing and full of all kinds of art. I took over 1,000 photos but managed to edit a set down to fit in my monthly Flickr account quota.

I found myself taking many pictures of buildings, graffiti and advertisements. How and why does a visual anthropologist choose to photograph what s/he does? Do these photographs reveal some bias(es)?

How representative of Berlin are my shots? Click here to see an edited set of Berlin photos from my recent trip.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Berlin Exhibition: Urbanity - Twenty Years Later

When I was in Berlin I saw a fascinating exhibition at Potsdamer Platz comprised of urban photographs with compelling captions. For example, the captions of the three photos in the above read:

The character of our homes is a direction reflection of how we live.

Assembly halls create "new dimensions" of public space.

Private property is confronted by the emptiness left by torn down monuments of recent times.

The exhibition is called Urbanity - Twenty Years Later and is a collaborative project of architects, sociologists, photographers and others. Here is a brief description from their web site:

URBANITY Twenty Years Later is a research project, organized by CCEA, focusing on critical analysis of the transformation, which took a place within Central European region in the last twenty years. We share opinion, that there is a lack of communication and cooperation between countries within this region, which leads to the repetition of same mistakes.

Project houses different activities from exhibitions in public space to lectures, student projects and conferences, round tables, symposia’s. Architects, politicians, photographers, anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers from seven European capitals /Berlin, Budapest, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Prague, Warsaw and Vienna/ are trying to point out their contemporary urban problems and develop a platform which would enable future cooperation between the cities and experts.

The city is a mirror of social changes and their reasons. But what does the national capital mean in today’s Europe? What is the representation of power in cities today? How have Central European capitals changed under the power of the transforming structure of society? What was the effect of the changes which happened in the last twenty years? What is the role of an architect nowadays and who decides about the city?

URBANITY student projects are focusing on developing new concepts for Central European capitals, which would be flexible enough to take into account the different speed of social, demographic and political changes.

URBANITY large scale photographs in busy public spaces should activate the public and question the negative impact of contemporary development strategies and tactics.

The outcome of our interdisciplinary research teams /architects, artists, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, politicians, photographers/ is going to be a publication URBANITY Twenty Years Later which will be published in English in autumn 2011.

This is a great application of visual anthropology. Unfortunately the public exhibition in Berlin is over, but look forward to their upcoming publication.

For more information, see their web site: