Tuesday 18 June 2024

Township Billboards. By Santu Mofokeng.

"(I should preface by saying the work in this show is seminal. It is the beginning of my investigation of the visual history of township billboards.) 


Perhaps the title should read Township and Billboard. Billboards have been the medium of communication between the rulers and the denizens of townships since the beginning of the township. The billboard is a fact and feature of township landscape. It is a relic from the times when Africans were subjects of power and the township was a restricted area; subject to laws, municipality by-laws and ordinances regulating people's movements and governing who may or may not enter the township. It is without irony when I say that billboards can be used as reference points when plotting the history and development of the township. Billboards capture and encapsulate ideology, the social, economic and political climate at any given time. They retain their appeal for social engineering.


Apartheid billboards were very austere, and were chiefly concerned with the 'sanitation syndrome'. The economic boom of the sixties introduced American style highway advertising billboards thus rendering Apartheid ideology anonymous and opaque. In the politically turbulent period of the '70s and '80 the overtly political billboards made their return. This time the struggle was for the hearts and minds of the populace. Recently, with the liberalization of politics the billboard is chiefly used to address the rising consumer culture and the anxiety caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This last is a campaign partly financed by government.


 
I read somewhere that ads create a sense of participating in the utopia of beauty: Life as it should be. A drive from the city into Soweto will quickly dispel this notion as misguided. Billboards line the freeway on both sides. In the name of freedom of speech one's cultural sensibility is assaulted by textual and visual messages. The trip can hardly be described as boring. Nobody ever complains of the visual pollution. At the high speed of a minibus taxi, the billboards roll by like flipping pages in a book. The retina registers arcane and inane messages about sex and cell-phones, mostly sex and cell-phones. Perhaps this is a coincidence. I wonder."


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photographs by Santu Mofokeng via 

Monday 17 June 2024

Dancing between Spectacular and Ordinary. By Paul Weinberg.

I remember a seminal moment during the turbulent 1980s, when David Goldblatt confided in me. At the time, I was part of a collective of photographers, called Afrapix, that I had co-founded. Without trying, we were at the center of the storm: We photographed the ongoing violence against ordinary black South Africans, who had prepared themselves for continued resistance to the apartheid state. We called ourselves the “Taking Sides” generation and were unashamedly partisan as we recorded the aberrations of South African society and the events as they unfolded.


David’s disclosure was simple and to the point: despite his considerable reputation as a photographer, he felt his work—at that point in history—was meaningless and of no value. He thought our photographs, on the frontline of political struggle, were more important than his work, which he felt was peripheral. At the time, photojournalism had a particular gravitas. Images were circulated into the national and international news media and, in our case, mainly the alternative press. Njabulo Ndebele, one of South Africa’s finest writers, described David’s paradigm somewhat differently; he saw an evolving tension between the spectacular and the ordinary. The pervasiveness of apartheid, in all its ugly and grotesque manifestations, consumed us. Ndebele pleaded for preserving the sanctity of ordinary people caught up in historical events—who had names, hopes, and dreams—rather than simply reducing them to statistics, lost in the amorphous atrocity.


This ambivalence was not unfamiliar to me. While the frontline was where the camera gravitated, as lines of battle were demarcated in a time of civil war, I was a reluctant war photographer. Like my colleagues in Afrapix, I believed that every image that revealed what was happening was a victory against the system, against myopia, and against national amnesia.



Ndebele alluded to the invisible landscape that ran through the country. David, a self-described “failed newspaper photographer,” had dedicated his photography to working beyond the headlines, to explore and elevate the lives of ordinary people. David’s confession was also part of my existential dilemna; I too was drawn to this invisible world. As a young photographer, I had spent many years walking the streets of Johannesburg, visiting townships, and celebrating the ordinary. The camera was a way to understand my country and to learn about the world around me, which was cut off by the visible and invisible divides of apartheid. Some of my pursuits crisscrossed, unknowingly, with David’s. We both had photographed in Fietas, a mainly Indian community in the center of Johannesburg that faced displacement because of the Group Areas Act. At first my connection with Fietas was not photographic. I was part of cricket team based there, in a non-racially-specific league. I watched with alarm as my teammates and families lost their houses and were relocated thirty kilometers from the center of the city. I shot photographs and made a documentary film about what was happening. Nearly forty years later, my work sits alongside David’s concerted and thorough work in the Museum in Action, established by Salma Patel in Fietas for the memory of the community.

Ironically, my journey into the invisible landscape continued at the height of the struggle against apartheid. I worked in rural areas for human-rights organizations that were doing their best to find legal loopholes to stave off displacements and to support communities. My camera took me to places like Mogopa, two hundred kilometers from Johannesburg, where I witnessed the drama of a once-vibrant farming community, documenting its desperate attempts to stay, its removal to a desolate homeland, and then its post-apartheid return.

When I began working with Africa’s first people, the San, I was working against the tide. The San, despite centuries of genocide and dispossession, were presented as people living in some kind of stone-age bliss, in “primitive affluence,” as if time had stood still. Films like The Gods Must be Crazy, numerous advertisements and commercials, and feature stories in magazines perpetuated what renowned the filmmaker John Marshall called “Death by Myth.” The truth was that the San were marginalized and badly treated by white and black farmers alike; even more catastrophic and disruptive was that they had been drafted into the South African army and the Namibian civil war. For thirty years I journeyed with communities throughout southern Africa who struggled to hold onto their lands and a hunter-gatherer way of life, in the rare circumstances in which they could.

The dawn of the new South Africa, liberated from the manacles of apartheid, elicited new ways of seeing. I reveled in the new freedom to travel, to make visible the invisible landscape: to tell muted, hidden, and personal stories. I spent a decade on a project called Moving Spirit. In a time of national healing, I explored diverse practices of spirituality. I wrote in the project’s book: “I, too, with or without my camera, am part of a country trying to heal. In this journey I join millions of South Africans continuously on a pilgrimage beyond politics and platitudes…in search of the transcendent spirit.”

I composed a series of images that had been buried in my archive; Travelling Light; a celebration of earlier photographs that I excavated from the past, that I had put to the side during the dark days of apartheid, when the spectacular overwhelmed the ordinary. Apartheid shadowed me on all these journeys; it was always there, whether I was conscious of it or not. But between the cracks, life continued, with its pain and joy. The ordinary was mirrored in the lines of people’s faces or in the fascist bravado of military parades. I watched how people reflected themselves, how I absorbed their reflections, how they danced with reality, how they made light in a dark space, and how they embraced each other at great risk.

As we gear up to celebrate twenty-five years of our new democracy, there is much to reflect on, for photographers and for society as a whole. The ordinary continues to be the metaphor for the country’s soul. Apartheid has officially disappeared, but its aftereffects and those of the colonial past, remain. Our liberation-movement government has failed and forsaken its people. It is a far cry from the moment of joy and optimism that I experienced when I photographed Nelson Mandela as he voted for the first time, in 1994. Now, thirty percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and many estimate that forty percent is unemployed. We watch one commission after another reveal unbounded corruption, nepotism, and national neglect. But, to guide us in this difficult time, we should hold onto David Goldblatt’s words, from an interview we shared, on a project called Then and Now, reflecting on our work during and after apartheid. They are as relevant and inspirational now as they were during the turbulent 1980s, when he made his confession to me: “During the apartheid years, my primary concern was with values: what our values were, how we had arrived at them, and particularly how we expressed them. And once you start with that line of thinking, there is no break: there is a continuation. I am still concerned with what our values are and how we are expressing them.”


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photographs by Paul Weinberg via and via and via and via

Sunday 16 June 2024

"Early in the morning, there's tolerance and later in the day it disappears." On Stress and Stigma.

Abstract: Stress is a challenge among non-specialist health workers worldwide, particularly in low-resource settings. Understanding and targeting stress is critical for supporting non-specialists and their patients, as stress negatively affects patient care. Further, stigma toward mental health and substance use conditions also impacts patient care. However, there is little information on the intersection of these factors. This sub-analysis aims to explore how substance use and mental health stigma intersect with provider stress and resource constraints to influence the care of people with HIV/TB. 


We conducted semi-structured interviews (N=30) with patients (n=15) and providers (n=15, non-specialist health workers) within a low-resource community in Cape Town, South Africa. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Three key themes were identified: (1) resource constraints negatively affect patient care and contribute to non-specialist stress; (2) in the context of stress, non-specialists are hesitant to work with patients with mental health or substance use concerns, who they view as more demanding and (3) stress contributes to provider stigma, which negatively impacts patient care. Findings highlight the need for multilevel interventions targeting both provider stress and stigma toward people with mental health and substance use concerns, especially within the context of non-specialist-delivered mental health services in low-resource settings. (Hines et al., 2024)

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- Hines, A. C., Rose, A. L., Regenauer, K. S., Brown, I., Johnson, K., Bonumwezi, J., Ndamase, S., Ciya, N., Magidson, J. F. & Myers, B. (2024). "Early in the morning, there's tolerance and lter in the day it disappears" - The intersection of resource scarcity, stress and stigma in mental health and substance use care in South Africa. Cambridge Prisms: Global Mental Health, link
- photograph by Santu Mofokeng via

Friday 14 June 2024

The Tradwife Persona

For a great many women, tradwife is an identity. Tradwives are women who believe in what is considered as traditional gender roles usually including "hetereosexual marriage with masculine dominance and feminine subservience, child-rearing, homeschooling,  and right-wing political ideals". In his article, Proctor examines three well-known online tradwife persona: Alena Kate Pettitt (The Darling Academy), Caitlin Huber (Mrs. Midwest), and Ayla Stewart (Wife with a Purpose). 

His focus is on how forms of racism and sexism manifest in their performances to "1) establish tradwifery as a legitimate practice and form of identification, 2) illustrate how a person should act/talk/live to be considered a tradwife, and 3) establish themselves as part of a community of tradwives". 

Tradwifery is inherently sexist and explicitly anti-feminist since women are portrayed as subservient to men and feminism is attacked calling for a return to so-called traditional feminine gender roles. Many tradwives call their ideology and lifestyle "choice feminism". In other words, as the choices are made by women they are automatically declared to be feminist choices.

The decisions to stay at home “may be presented as entirely personal. However, they are inseparable from the profound crisis of both work and care under neoliberal capitalism” (Rottenberg & Orgad 2020). So those women who choose to not work are exercising a privilege to embody a traditional version of feminine gender roles, as these traditions are often “frozen moments in history arbitrarily chosen from the cultural repertoire as “the’ authentic expression of the national collective” (Christou 2020). Indeed, very likely these arbitrary historic traditions themselves are complete inventions (Hobsbawm 1992). For instance, it is a myth that women in the far past didn’t work. They were wives and mothers, but also worked the fields, brewed mead, sold and bartered goods, spun wool, and very often worked alongside guildsmen to learn a trade (Shahar 2003). By framing the woman’s role in the home as ‘traditional’, tradwives continue a long project of delegitimizing women’s contributions in the workforce as separate and less valid than the formalized economy of male labour (Milkman 2016).

While sexism is quite obvious, the link between tradwifery and racism is comparably more subtle. The movement promotes white, western heteronormative ideals of gender roles taken from white middle-class US-Americans in the 1950s. The construction of the fragile woman was something white women had access to, not Black women, as the distribution of labour was different among the Black population. The tradwife movement is not explicitly racist or extremist. However, tradwife culture is useful to white supremacists.

In 2018, Ayla Stewart (censored several times) described her site as "an online forum which brings together people interested in God's plan for happy families and wives dedicated to traditional homemaking. It also serves youth interested in an alternative to feminism and liberal ideology". While Stewart is vocal on issues of feminism and ethnicity, Caitlin Huber and Alena Kate Pettit shy away from overt statements and focus more on institutional and corporate aspects of their personas and making money.

Huber has a ‘Shop’ tab on her blog that links out to allow purchase of her “favourite things”. She does not produce these items, but in the site’s frequently asked questions, she explains: “I get ad money from YouTube from my videos, and when I do a sponsorship, I will negotiate to get paid. I also get a little money from any links that I offer to y’all from Amazon!” (Huber 2022). She is letting us know (with a colloquial “y’all”) that even though she is making money from this, she’s really just like us: a normal person, where ‘normal’ is code (for all three women) as white, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgendered, neurotypical, and able-bodied. Pettitt takes corporate agency a step further by offering her own books on ‘Traditional Lifestyle & Etiquette’—co-authored by herself and The Darling Academy—for purchase via Amazon link.

The author points out that while the concept of tradwifery clearly contains aspects of misogyny and white supremacy, not all tradwives are anti-feminists or white nationalists (Proctro, 2022).

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- Proctor, D. (2022). The #Tradwife Persona and the Rise of Radicalized White Domesticity. Persona Studies, 8(2), 7-26; link
- photograph via

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Becoming Old, Becoming a Stranger

Abstract: We start with the observation that aging gerontologists often engage in two distinct discourses on aging—one public and one private. This separation entails “othering,” which reproduces agism and stigma. Based on personal experience, insight from colleagues and writers, and concepts from symbolic interaction perspectives, we argue that becoming old to some degree involves becoming a stranger. Before reaching old age, both of us have been in the position of strangers due to social experiences that left us “off the line” or “on the margins.” 


Examples are crossing social borders related to nations, class structures, gender, race, health status, and generations. Our stories illustrate how aging is more than personal. It is interpersonal—shaped by social history, policies, interdependence in relationships, and the precariousness of old age. Such phenomena often show sharp contrasts in the interpersonal worlds and social experiences of women and men. Reflecting on our own journeys as life course migrants leaves us acutely aware of both the social problems and potential promises of aging. (Hagesta & Settersten, 2017)

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- Hagestad, G. O. & Settersten, R. A. (2017). Aging: It's Interpersonal! Reflections From Two Life Course Migrants. The Gerontologist, 57(1), 136-144.
- phtotgraph by Garry Winogrand via

Saturday 8 June 2024

World Oceans Day & Environmental Injustice in the Anthropocene Ocean

In the 1980s, the concept of environmental justice emerged in the United States recognising the disproportional distribution of environmental pollution and hazardous waste with Black communities and  socio-economically disadvantaged populations experiencing more environmental burdens and having less access to benefits. Comparably little attention has, so far, been paid to environmental justice issues in connection with marine and coastal environments. Here, too, impacts are "unequally distributed geographically and produce socially differentiated impacts across racial, ethnic, gender, age and socio-economic groups". One of the reasons why marginalised groups experience worse impacts is that they are often inadequately considered and mostly excluded from the deciscion-making process (Bennett et al., 2022). 

These colonial and racist acts fail to recognize ancestral ocean ownership and tenure rights, inclusion of marginalized communities in decisions, respect for human rights, and consideration of social and health impacts in the formulation of pollution prevention approaches. (Bennett et al., 2022)

Bennett et al. (2022) discuss five key hazards in the marine and coastal environment affecting some communities and populations more than others: (1) pollution and toxic waste, (2) plastics and marine debris, (3) climate change, (4) ecosystem, biodiversity and ecosystem service degradation, and (5) fisheries declines.

Liboiron (2021) challenges us to think about plastics as a form of colonialism enabled by global capitalist expansion. The amount of plastic waste generated per capita by individuals in many low- and middle-income countries is substantially less than individuals from high-income countries (Euromap, 2016; UNEP, 2021a). Fifteen countries account for 73.9% of the plastic waste that is exported, 11 of these countries are from the OECD (Pedra & Gonçalves, 2020). However, many Low- and Middle-Income Countries are unable to adequately manage their own plastic waste let alone the burgeoning amount of plastic waste shipped from High-Income Countries (Ritchie & Roser, 2018). The UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics underscored how this issue compounds due to the lack of adequate reception and processing facilities in lower income countries (Orellana, 2021). When combined with local gaps in waste management, this leads to substantially greater land-based inputs of plastics into the ocean with associated increases in environmental and societal impacts for populations in lower income countries (Pedra & Gonçalves, 2020; UNEP, 2021b, 2021a). (Bennett et al., 2022)

Some interesting excerpts:

emerged in the 1980s in the United States from concerns about the disproportionate burdens of pollution that were being placed on and experienced by Black communities and socio economically disadvantaged populations (Bullard, 1994; Cutter, 1995). Environmental justice research demonstrated that polluting infrastructure, such as oil refineries, mining and factories, as well as air pollution emissions and toxic waste disposal sites, were often situated near Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities (Bullard, 2018; Walker, 2012). Such environmental discrimination and racism was shown to be producing numerous negative health effects and wellbeing outcomes for these populations (Brulle & Pellow, 2006). The field of environmental justice has since grown globally and expanded to focus on a broader set of environmental hazards and harms, including climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss, and declines in ecosystem services (Boyd, 2022; Chaudhary et al., 2018; Mutz et al., 2002; Sikor, 2013; Sze & London, 2008; Tsosie, 2007). Environmental justice has also come to refer broadly to both the distribution of environmental burdens and access to benefits, as well as the recognition, meaningful involvement and fair treatment of people in environmental decision making and legal frameworks emerged in the 1980s in the United States from concerns about the disproportionate burdens of pollution that were being placed on and experienced by Black communities and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations (Bullard, 1994; Cutter, 1995). Environmental justice research demonstrated that polluting infrastructure, such as oil refineries, mining and factories, as well as air pollution emissions and toxic waste disposal sites, were often transform-situated near Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities (Bullard, 2018; Walker, 2012). Such environmental discrimination and racism was shown to be producing numerous negative health effects and wellbeing outcomes for these populations (Brulle & Pellow, 2006). The field of environmental justice has since grown globally and expanded to focus on a broader set of environmental hazards and harms, including climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss, and declines in (Boyd, 2022; Chaudhary et al., 2018; Mutz et al., 2002; Sikor, 2013; Sze & London, 2008; Tsosie, 2007). Environmental justice has also come to refer broadly to both the distribution of environmental burdens and access to benefits, as well as the recognition, meaningful involvement and fair treatment of people in environmental decision making and legal frameworks. Historically marginalized groups, groups that rely on subsistence harvesting or small-scale fisheries, and low-income nations tend to be disproportionately exposed to and impacted by increasing chemical and biological contamination in the ocean (Landrigan et al., 2018; Liboiron, 2021), a problem which perpetuates and exacerbates pre-existing inequalities. For example, the worst social-environmental impacts and public health effects of pollution are often experienced and absorbed by Indigenous people, people of color, and women (Landrigan et al., 2018; Liboiron, 2021). Inuit women from the Arctic are still among the most contaminated humans with POPs such as PCB and PFAS, while struggling for food safety and security and being affected by underlying health risks due to chronic and emerging diseases such as breast cancer and endocrine disruption in the face of climate change (AMAP, 2021; Ghisari et al., 2014; Wielsøe et al., 2017). Indigenous populations and small-scale fishers who consume high amounts of fish or mammals are exposed to the effects of methylmercury on their health (Donatuto et al., 2011; Probyn, 2018). Afro-American communities, who have tolerated the burden of colonialism and impacts of top-down government policies for generations, have been disproportionately impacted by offshore oil and gas exploitation in coastal Louisiana where they have faced persistent industrial hazards from the myriad of old pipeline infrastructure that impair coastal marshes and produce health and livelihood impacts (Maldonado, 2018; Randolph, 2021). The golbal nature of the disposal of pollution and other wastes in the ocean reveals patterns of environmental racism, with the dumping of wastes and the breaking of ships often occurring in the lower income countries in Africa and Asia (Frey, 2015; Okafor-Yarwood & Adewumi, 2020; Wan et al., 2021). Oil exploration and exploitation also tends to be more polluting in lower income countries - such as Ecuador, Nigeria or Nicaragua - where corporations take advantage of governance gaps (Alava & Calle, 2013; Allen, 2011; Andrews et al., 2021; Arif, 2019; O’Rourke & Connolly, 2003). (Bennett et al., 2022)

Bennett et al – Environmental Justice in the Ocean 9 2.3.2 Impacts and Distribution The litany of climate change impacts and knock-on effects described above are having substantial but differentiated implications for coastal communities and ocean-dependent populations around the world. Extreme weather events, coastal inundation and erosion, saltwater intrusion, marine heatwaves and HABs can have detrimental effects on economic benefits from the fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and tourism sectors (Bindoff et al., 2019; Misana & Tilumanywa, 2019; Narita et al., 2012; Oppenheimer et al., 2019; Ritzman et al., 2018; K. E. Smith et al., 2021). Shifts in the abundance, productivity and location of fish stocks and shellfish from warming oceans and acidification are affecting fisheries jobs, revenues, and food security for many coastal populations (Cheung et al., 2010; Doney et al., 2020; Fernandes et al., 2017; Lam, Cheung, Reygondeau, et al., 2016; Narita et al., 2012; Tigchelaar et al., 2021). Rising sea levels, combined with increased storm and flooding events, are harming community infrastructure, housing and health in both rural areas and urban centers (Heberger et al., 2011; Liwenga et al., 2019; Rahimi et al., 2020; Ryan et al., 2016) and leading to forced retreat or migration away from the ocean (Ahmed & Eklund, 2021; Dannenberg et al., 2019; Dasgupta et al., 2022; Hauer, 2017; Schwerdtle et al., 2018). Climate change impacts on ecosystems can undermine provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting ecosystem services that are fundamental for human well-being (Doney et al., 2012; E. J. Nelson et al., 2013; Singh et al., 2019; Smale et al., 2019). In short, climate change threatens the human rights of coastal populations and nations to food, livelihoods, health and physical security (Ahlgren et al., 2014; Elver & Oral, 2021; Levy & Patz, 2015). There is substantial evidence that different racial, ethnic, gender, age and socio-economic groups experience the impacts of climate related changes to a greater or lesser extent (Benevolenza & DeRigne, 2019; Bindoff et al., 2019; Dankelman & Jansen, 2010; Flores, Collins, et al., 2021; N. Islam & Winkel, 2017; Thomas et al., 2019). For example, pre-existing social and structural inequalities tend to situate Black populations, women and the poor in more vulnerable positions when it comes to coastal flooding, storms, and other hazards related to climate change (Ahmed & Eklund, 2021; Gotham et al., 2018; Hardy et al., 2017). Communities and groups (e.g., small-scale fishers or Indigenous Peoples) who have a high level of resource dependence - either for livelihoods or food security - will also be more susceptible to changes to ecosystems, ecosystem services and fisheries brought on by climate change (Guillotreau et al., 2012; Lauria et al., 2018; Marushka et al., 2019). Similarly, groups with lower adaptive capacity - due to less access to financial resources, lack of alternative livelihood options, or structural barriers - will experience greater impacts (Cinner et al., 2018; Senapati & Gupta, 2017). Climate change adaptation and mitigation programs can further marginalize local populations when their needs and voices are not taken into account. Managed retreat, for instance, can have disruptive public health implications, including declining mental health, social capital, food security, water supply, and access to health care, that disproportionately affect Indigenous people (Dannenberg et al., 2019). In Bangladesh, climate adaptation projects have excluded and further marginalized women and minorities, and worsened income inequality (Sovacool, 2018). (Bennett et al., 2022)

8th of June was first declared as World Oceans Day in 1992 and designated by the United Nations in 2008. More on the day: LINK
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- Nathan J. Bennett, Juan José Alava, Caroline E. Ferguson, Jessica Blythe, Elisa Morgera, David Boyd, Isabelle M. Côté (2022). Environmental Justice in the Ocean, Working Paper, University of British Columbia, link
- photograph by Pierre Verger via

Friday 7 June 2024

The Shaping of the Face Space in Early Infancy: Becoming a Native Face Processor

Abstract: Face perception remains one of the most intensively researched areas in psychology and allied disciplines, and there has been much debate regarding the early origins and experiential determinants of face processing. This article reviews studies, the majority of which have appeared in the past decade, that discuss possible mechanisms underlying face perception at birth and document the prominent role of experience in shaping infants’ face-processing abilities. In the first months of life, infants develop a preference for female and own-race faces and become better able to recognize and categorize own-race and own-species faces. This perceptual narrowing and shaping of the “face space” forms a foundation for later face expertise in childhood and adulthood and testifies to the remarkable plasticity of the developing visual system. (Slater et al., 2020)

- Slater, A., quinn, P. C., Kelly, D. J., Lee, K., Longmore, C. A., McDonald, P. R. & Pascalis, O. (2010). The Shaping of the Face Space in Early Infancy: Becoming a Native Face Processor. Child Development Perspectives, link
- photograph by Vivian Maier via

Thursday 6 June 2024

The Social Meanings of Men's and Women's Hats

"Until the 1960s, the article of clothing that performed the most important role in indicating social distinctions among men was the hat. The fact that it ceased to fulfill this role in the 1960s suggests that in the nineteenth century, hats, which continued to be worn during the first half of the twentieth century, were particularly suitable for the social environment of the period. Several new types of hats appeared during the nineteenth century and were rapidly adopted at different social levels. Exactly what roles did hats perform? Because hats represented a more modest expense than jackets and coats, they provided an ideal opportunity for "blurring and transforming . . . traditional class boundaries" (Robinson 1993: 39). 


Men's hats were also used to claim and maintain, rather than to confuse, social status, as seen in the fact that specific types of hats became closely identified with particular social strata. Elaborate customs of "hat tipping" as a means of expressing deference to a man's superiors reflected the importance of the hat in marking class boundaries (McCannell 1973). Since men represented their families in public space, men's hats, rather than women's, were used to indicate the status of the family. Women's head coverings during this period were more varied and more individualized than men's (Wilcox 1945). Women's hats exemplified conspicuous consumption instead of relaying coded signals referring to social rank." (Crane, 2000)

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- Crane, D. (2000). Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing, excerpt via
- photography via

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Hunger has a Female Face

49,7% of the world population is female, however, women and girls make up 60% of the 309 million people extremely hungry right now. 126 million more women than men struggle securing their next meal (via). In countries facing hunger due to conflict, women often eat least sacrificing for their families. In two thirds of countries, women are more likely to report food insecurity than men. One in three women has anemia, a diet-related iron deficiency, which can damage organs if it is untreated (via).

photograph by Vivian Maier via

Tuesday 4 June 2024

The Homophobic Climate Index: Estimating Homophobia in 158 Countries

Lamontagne et al. (2018) developed the Homphobic Climate Index including aspects such as institutional (e.g. laws that criminalise same-sex relations) and social (acceptance of homosexuality in population) homophobia. 158 countries - ranging from Sweden to Sudan - were ranked based on how homophobic or gay-friendly they were. The most inclusive countries were Uruguay and countries located in Western Europe. Latin America appeared as a region fighting homophobia, and in Africa, South Africa and Cabo Verde were the most inclusive ones.

The ten most homophobic countries were (in the following order): Sudan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Qatar, Nigeria, Guinea, Iraq, Burundi, Chad. The ten most inclusive countries were: Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Finland, Belgium, France, Uruguay, United Kingdom.

The authors found some interesting correlations. For instance, a 10% change in GDP per capita was associated with a 1% reduction in the index. Also, a higher homophobic climate was correlated with lower life expectancy among men as well as with social inequalities, such as gender equality (measured by share of parliamentary seats held by women) and the abuse of human rights.

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- Lamontagne, E., d'Elbée, M., Ross, M. W., Carroll, A., du Plessis, A. & Loures, L. (2018). A sociological measurement of homophobia for all countries and its public health impact. European Journal of Public Health, 28(5), 96-972, link
- photograph by Diane Arbus via