Thursday, 8 April 2021

Quoting Lemmy Kilmister

“I don't see why there should be a point where everyone decides you're too old. I'm not too old, and until I decide I'm too old I'll never be too f*** old.”
Lemmy Kilmister

photograph by Eddie Malluk (1992) via

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Stefan Zweig's Last Letter

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), Austrian and Jewish, left Austria in 1934 for England, then New York, and finally Brazil. His work - once the most translated one - had been denounced, banned and vilified in Germany and Austria.

During political disturbances early in 1934, policemen arrived at Zweig’s house, demanding to search it for weapons. As soon as they had gone, Zweig packed his bags for London, where he had recently rented an apartment, and he never lived in Austria again.
Leo Carey, The New Yorker
Zweig, who had been "one of the most renowned authors" (via) and "an object of admiration" and envy before, lived in exile (via), in Brazil "the only place where the race question does not exist", Zweig wrote. He continued: "Blacks and whites and Indians, the most marvellous mulattos and creoles, Jews and Christians all live together in an indescribable peace." Brazil was ruled by Vargas, an anti-Semite dictator who only offered Zweig asylum because he was so famous (via).

On 22 February 1942, he combed his hair, buttoned his collar, straightened his tie, took an overdose of sleeping pills and lay down. His death, together with his second wife Charlotte Elisabeth Altmann, is often interpreted as a political act. In fact, he was "anything but outspoken" which frustrated writers of the time (via)
If Zweig’s death wasn’t quite the political act it seemed, the popularity of that interpretation is understandable. A man in whom genuine modesty and a genius for self-publicity existed side by side, Zweig spent his life backing into the limelight, and his death followed the same pattern. The day after their bodies were discovered, Stefan and Lotte Zweig were given a state funeral. President Getúlio Vargas attended, along with his ministers of state. Petrópolis shuttered its shops as the cortège passed and deposited Stefan and Lotte in a plot near the mausoleum of Brazil’s former royal family. A day or so later, a friend received a farewell letter from Zweig, asking that his burial “should be as modest and private as possible.” Leo Carey, The New Yorker
In his suicide letter (entirely written in the first person singular although he committed suicide together with his wife), he wrote:

“Every day I learned to love this country more, and I would not have asked to rebuild my life in any other place after the world of my own language sank and was lost to me and my spiritual homeland, Europe, destroyed itself.
But to start everything anew after a man’s 60th year requires special powers, and my own power has been expended after years of wandering homeless. I thus prefer to end my life at the right time, upright, as a man for whom cultural work has always been his purest happiness and personal freedom – the most precious of possessions on this earth.
I send greetings to all of my friends: May they live to see the dawn after this long night. I, who am most impatient, go before them." (via)

image via

Monday, 29 March 2021

Graciela Iturbide: Taking Pictures of People with Dignity

“Whether in my country or in other places, I notice the pain as well as the beauty, but I never shoot poverty. I am interested in taking pictures of people with dignity.
Graciela Iturbide

"For us Mexicans, there is no American dream. This is our fault, because we don't create opportunities here in Mexico. Crossing the border is hard, life is really hard for migrants. So we need to educate ourselves as Mexicans, create jobs in Mexico, for people to stay here. There's so much Mexico has to offer. There is no need to pursue the American dream. We have our own here, too."
Graciela Iturbide

"I am a feminist. And as I am, in my photographs, my way of being is revealed. That does not mean that I deliberately do feminist photography. I do what surprises me."
Graciela Iturbide

photographs via

Thursday, 25 March 2021

David Fleming and the Perfect Museum

"In terms of museums as part of the overall cultural life of a society, we can be a platform to enable people to be visible, not hidden, we can encourage empathy, respect and understanding, we can be a positive platform, we can be a supporter, campaigner and active participant/collaborator. Museums are places that can enable many voices to be heard. All of this work comes down to the teams working within museums being aligned with the framework of a strong mission and linked policies. Being active about inclusion means being outward facing, aware of societal and global inequalities and their causes, and seeing contemporary life and the future as being influenced by the past. Being active about inclusion is a mind-set and means working hard to include."

"Museums working with an inclusion mind-set will think about the broader context of any subject or theme they deal with. They will need to take a fresh look at the past, working with people whose histories have often been excluded from the main narrative, looking at uncomfortable (or controversial or contradicted) subjects in an honest and open way. But working with culturally diverse people/communities, migration and refugees is not always about a museum being a campaigning organisation and a platform for debate; it can also be about being a ‘safe’ place."
David Fleming (Director of National Museums Liverpool, 2001-2018)

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- Fleming, D. (2017) Thinking strategically about inclusion in museums. In M., Vlacou (coord.) The Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees. The Role of Cultural Orgnisations (50-57). Acesso Cultura
- photograph via

Friday, 19 March 2021

The Weathering Hypothesis

"When Arline Geronimus was a student at Princeton University in the late 1970s, she worked a part-time job at a school for pregnant teenagers in Trenton, N.J. She quickly noticed that the teenagers at that part-time job were suffering from chronic health conditions that her whiter, better-off Princeton classmates rarely experienced. Geronimus began to wonder: how much of the health problems that the young mothers in Trenton experienced were caused by the stresses of their environment?
It was later, during her graduate studies, that Geronimus came up with the term weathering — a metaphor, she thought, for what she saw happening to their bodies. She meant for weathering to evoke a sense of erosion by constant stress. But also, importantly, the ways that marginalized people and their communities coped with the drumbeat of big and small stressors that marked their lives." (via)

"There have been folk notions and laypeople have thought that health differences between populations — such as black versus white in the U.S. — were somehow related to differences in our DNA, that we were, in a sense, molecularly programmed to have this disease or that disease. But instead, social and environmental factors, can through what's called DNA methylation, which occurs — I don't know how technical you want to get — but that occurs when a group of molecules attach methyl groups to specific areas of a gene's promoter region, and either prevent the reading of certain genes and sort of forms the gene's product, and you have genetic expression of that gene. That's a pretty powerful idea, and it sort of refutes the kind of more DNA-centric one, that you are destined by the literal DNA you have to have certain diseases or not.
But what I've seen over the years of my research and lifetime is that the stressors that impact people of color are chronic and repeated through their whole life course, and in fact may even be at their height in the young adult-through-middle-adult ages rather than in early life. And that increases a general health vulnerability — which is what weathering is."
Arline Geronimus

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photograph (HD-1469 (Pineapple), 1969, The Estate of J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere/Victoria and Albert Museum) via

Thursday, 18 March 2021


"I'm someone who is very supportive of us eliminating all discrimination."

Herlinde Koelbl has been photographing Angela Merkel since 1991. Koelbl says that photographing her has always been "a bit awkward but you could feel her strength at the beginning." (via)

Monday, 8 March 2021

International All Women's Day

They are invisible, we don't see them often in campaigns celebrating women's day, womanhood, so-called power women, girls' power, working mothers, young women entrepreneurs, in campaigns fighting gender pay gap and femicide that targets young women killed by a jealous ex, etc. Yes, "older" women are women, too. 

Older women are not counted in statistics, overlooked by the police, marginalised by services and many are left dangerously at risk in a relationship because the few exits available to them are barred by ageism, stereotyping, underfunding and ignorance.
Women over 60 are killed, the homicide toll is "horrifying", cases often dismissed as accidents. Until three years ago, they were not counted in the Crime Survey for England and Wales which had a cap of 59 years, now it is raised to 74. Institutions such as care homes and refuges are excluded creating a hidden death toll. One in four domestic homicides involve people over 60, half of the victims are killed by their sons (parricide), grandsons, and relatives. Older women are missing in police data on abuse, rape, and murder. The crimes are either not looked at or treated as a "safeguarding issue, gender neutral, 'elder abuse' with no perpetrator". Doubt is quickly cast on the older victim's mental capacity or veracity removing her to residential care making her lose her home. In some cases, extreme violence is involved, older women are "more likely to have suffered five or more injuries than younger women, known as 'overkill'". Nine out of 13 victims aged 80 plus were victims of sexual assault, their murderers "the least likely to express remorse or empathy". Older women also tend to stay in abusive relationships longer than younger women which again increases the chances of fatal violence. But they don't really have many options. In 2017, only one out of 276 refuges offered services for women aged 45 and over (via). So, yes, "happy" International Women's Day ... but let's celebrate all women.

"Once a woman reaches 60, the response from agencies and families to abuse is completely different. That's a violation of older women's human rights. It denies them justice." 
Rebecca Zerk

"If you are found at the bottom of the stairs at 40, the police are probably going to ask questions. Deeply entrenched ageism means that if you are 80, it’s, ‘Well, she probably fell.’" 
Hannah Bows

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photograph via

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Stereotype Threat in Black US-American Children

In a study, black US-American children (n=190, age 10 to 12) completed the Stereotype Awareness Task (participants were asked to list all stereotypes they knew about Black people). One to two weeks later, they were asked to read a target word list and choose which two out of five words fit best the concept represented by the list. For this purpose, they were randomly assigned to one of two groups: a) threat condition, i.e. the children were told the test was a measure of intelligence and the scores of Black and White children would be compared, b) neutral condition, i.e., no reference to skin tone.

Some results: The most common stereotype listed by 44% of the children was that Backs are less intelligent than Whites. The children in the stereotype threat condition performed more poorly on the academic task compared to the control group; the stereotype threat effect was moderated by both the awareness of stereotypes and Black identity (measured using the Multidemensional Inventory of Black Identity-Teen, children were asked about their feelings toward Blacks as a group, their view of society's beliefs about Blacks as a group, the importance of being Black to their self-concept, and their approach to dealing with issues about Blacks).

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- Hines Shelvin, K., Rivadeneyra, R. & Zimmerman, C. (2014). Stereotype threat in African American children: The role of Black identity and stereotype awareness. Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 3-4(27), 175-204.

- photograph via

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Queering the Collections

During Euro Pride 2016, the movement "Queering the Collection" worked together with Dutch museums voicing concerns that museums would be too heteronormative - hence underrepresenting queer people and reestablishing binary ideas about gender. Generally speaking, museums are not places that provide truthful, objective information about history, culture, and other aspects of society, although one might think so. Different strategies were used, each having a different but positive effect: highlighting the sexual orientation of artists, setting up a queer exhibition that offers new stories to visitors, using a queer prospective as interpretative tool, i.e., switching the perspective (Barendregt, n.d.)

- Barendregt, L. (n.d.). Queering the Museum. How do queering strategies in museums change the representation of queer people? Thesis: Utrecht University.
- photograph by Richard Kalvar via

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Meet me in St. Louis

Webster University's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Virtual Conference, 23-25 February.

My lecture: The Urgent Need for a New Narrative on Ageing; 24th February, 11 AM - 12 St. Louis time

Age is not a popular diversity dimension to focus on. Research shows comparably little interest, there are no allies, no hashtags trending. The reluctance to turn it into an issue society discusses leads to little awareness. Ageism hardly elicits emotional responses in everyday life – no matter if encountered in health care, design, language, marketing, movies, urban planning or at the workplace, to mention a few. We are taught gerontophobic stereotypes in younger years and start developing prejudice against our future selves early which makes them appear more acceptable at a later stage and us vulnerable to self-stereotyping. Despite the need to act and the fact that old age, if we are lucky, affects us all, stigmatising ageing is widely accepted.