It’s not often one is greeted in the foyer of the Chrystal Macmillan Building by a kaleidoscope of seemingly-random images. Yet that’s exactly what happened on Thursday afternoon at the exhibition representing the culmination of the School of Political and Social Science’s “Anthropology in 100 Objects” project, co-curated by undergraduates, postgraduates and faculty of the University of Edinburgh and supported by the student-run Social Anthropology Society.People from countries and cultures around the globe were invited to submit objects they considered anthropologically significant, and Thursday’s exhibition was the end result. Exploring the connection between material culture and anthropological knowledge, the project attracted submissions as wide-ranging as a mass-produced Buddha figurine from Nepal; a pair of traditional Lithuanian bast shoes, hand-woven from linden tree bark; a collection of National Geographic magazines from the 1930s; an American college sorority pendant; and even a Coke can from Turkey.
As somebody not particularly well-versed in the intricacies of this field, I was initially somewhat sceptical of the anthropological value of the objects in this collection, many of which on first glance appeared to be nothing more than random, everyday objects. However, the exhibition did an excellent job of opening the eyes of neophytes like myself, proving that this was not the case. The Turkish Coke can, for instance, was presented as a symbol of the relationship between globalisation and localisation, and of their ability to co-exist side-by-side (it had the Coke symbol in English on one side and in Arabic on the other.) The mass-produced Buddha, meanwhile, highlighted the differences between tourist culture and local culture in a somewhat unusual way; it turns out that while tourists see them as tacky, the Nepalese give the Buddhas to one another as good-luck gifts. Who knew?
Overall the exhibition was a stimulating, well-rounded and accessible introduction to the field of anthropology. It’s on for the rest of the week; I’d recommend it to anyone.
Side note: the free food was a nice touch.
– Michael Hannan, MSc Creative Writing