By Chris Diming
Based on Feldnotes of Zahir Pajaziti Square, Pristina, Kosovo
It’s cooling down now, and the weather would be pleasant, except the sun’s in my eyes. The time is approximately 7 pm, and I’m sitting at a table on the crowded patio of a cafe on Zahir Pajaziti square, a large, concrete public space in Pristina dedicated to a deceased Kosovo Liberation Army commander. Grimacing in the light, I order a small macchiato (makiato e vogël), thinking “at least the coffee looks nice” and, with my heart-rate accelerating, I look attentively over the patio. Who’s here, what are they doing, what’s the cafe like, what’s happening? Upbeat electronic music plays in the background, while the waiters, dressed sharply, serve a mixture of makiatos, ice cream, and juices. Many of my fellow patrons at this particular cafe seem to be of middle class backgrounds, with most people sitting in groups of 2 to 6, sometimes more. To my left, I see a group composed of two young men, two young women, and their children relaxing. They are having a political discussion, with words such as “Amerika” and “Thaçi,” Kosovo’s current prime minister, being accompanied by snorts of amusement.
When I finally reach one of Barcelona’s drug-consumption centres, I run into a massive line of impatient consumers waiting at the doors, all hoping to participate in the collection of used syringes in the vicinity. This afternoon, the privileged few who win the toss to be included in the operation will be rewarded with something between 6 and 12 euros, depending on available funds. Besides providing ordinary citizens with sanitised images of drug consumption and keeping the public space clear of used materials, putting this handful of drug users to work also aims to raise their awareness of the effects of leaving the tools of their addiction on the streets.
Anthropologists have traditionally been artifacts (the products of man) collectors. This is the reason why Allegra felt compelled to open its own Virtual Museum of Obscure Fieldwork Artifacts: to exhibit the marvelous objects anthropofolks have brought back from their various fieldworks around the world. But Allegra would not be Allegra without the pinch of self-irony that characterizes our online experiments. Indeed, our artifacts humourously distort the ‘mysterious’ and the ‘exotic’ that tends to dominate in narratives of classic ethnographic museums. They nevertheless offer windows into our own belief systems and the belief systems of ‘others/alter-egos’. They are material entry points into traditions of craft and reflect societal needs or the state of technological advancement of a specific time.
Since this week is dedicated to Allegra’s beloved AVMoFA we would like to share with you, dear readers, the marvellous ARTifacts collected by multi-media artist Aman Mojadidi during a workshop organised by anthropologist Noah Coburn in the context of his Anthropology of Democracy course at Bennington.
Yesterday we brought you back to basics by introducing the idea behind AVMoFA. Today we continue by sharing a ‘jewel’ from our AVMoFA archives: the bottle of Professional Lightweight mousse ‘Curl Collection’, provided by Giulia Mensitieri. The bottle is connected to her fieldwork of the fashion industry in Paris and Brussels – which she also shared with Allegra readers via some fieldnotes. That this topic is timely is also reflected in our recent New Publications list on #Economics – put together by our very own reviews editor Judith Beyer. Thus we’ll continue with this theme soon as reviews will be arriving on books such as Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins and Flip-Flop. A Journey Through Globalisation’s Backroads by Caroline Knowles. ENJOY!
A while back someone pleaded that we PLIIZ clarify what the AVMoFA is all about. Of course we are only too pleased to comply. Thus today we recycle our original introduction to Allegra’s Virtual Museum of Obscure Fieldwork Artefacts, first posted in October 25, 2013. Stay tuned for more adventures through our archives in the weeks to come – and remember our running CALL for more OBSCURE AVMoFA artefacts!
It’s been a long year with MUCH fun and also work. It’s time for Allegra’s first SUMMER BREAK! And of course, the only way to set it off is with PEACE & LOVE! We are thus very pleased to exhibit today in Allegra’s Virtual Museum of Obscure Fieldwork Artefacts (AVMOFA) a new artefact by Samuli Schielke! See you all VERY SOON!
A Salafi man was selling red heart-shaped balloons with the text (in English) “I love you” on July 26th street in Cairo. I asked him whether I could take a picture, and he answered he would not want to appear on a photo because pictures are ‘haram’ (forbidden in Islam). He was nevertheless very pleased to have his balloons photographed. A bystander came to his help and held the balloons for him. I bought one balloon and took this picture.
In the proximity of neighbourhoods of Barcelona where drugs are sold, the entrances of buildings, parking lots as well as public spaces are transformed into spots of consumption, as well as the dumpsters of drug use. Spoons with which to “cook” the fix, cotton balls to filter the drug, tourniquets to tie off the vein, cleaning alcohol to leave the injection site blank and even bloody syringes are disseminated among the plastic bottles, milk cartons and empty boxes that fill the streets. Alternately, they are laid at the full sight of other consumers for potential re-use, even at the risk of being infected with HIV and hepatitis.
The garment before your eyes is called ‘Strude’. I discovered its existence in 2010, while conducting research in Denmark on controversies around Islam that had emerged in the wake of the ‘cartoons affair’. Like in the rest of Europe, the controversy was about pieces of cloth displayed in public; namely the participation in the parliamentary elections of a veiled Muslim woman called Asmaa Abdol-Hamid. As I interviewed people who were directly or indirectly involved in the debate, and spent long hours discussing my findings and ideas with my friends, one of them directed me towards the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, where an exhibition of photographs by artist Trine Søndergaard was taking place. ‘We too in Denmark, she said, have an equivalent of the burka!’
Several years ago I was a lead researcher on a project studying how faith-based nonprofit service organizations use social capital in their day-to-day functions. (If you’re interested, our findings are located here).
One of the organizations that I was working with was a multidenominational community association serving a rather diverse inner-city neighborhood in Baltimore. I regularly attended a wide variety of organizational activities, including food pantry staffing, board meetings, and holiday fundraisers. At one of the fund-raising dinners all of the attendees were given small red plastic piggy-banks like the one pictured above. The bank was emblazoned with the logo of the community organization, and the attendees were commissioned to fill the banks with their pocket change throughout the year and bring it in once they were filled.