Saturday 30 November 2019

Bob Adelman's Understanding of Patriotism

Patriotism. It seemed to me that the greatest failing of the country had been its been its treatment of black people. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the country was really quite paralyzed on the race mater. The court had spoken in 1954 but Congress was controlled by Dixiecrats, and no president in 100 years had said that segregation was wrong. I think that some people think that segregation was just some way that the races were separated. But, in fact, it was an organized system of terror. If a black person in the Deep South wanted to vote or use segregated accommodations or many other things... if he defied the customs, he ran the risk of losing his job or getting attacked, either by the authorities or by the Klan. It was awful and so un-American, really. These were our brothers and sisters who were being mistreated. I thought that the race question was the biggest unsolved problem of America. So that’s why I say it was patriotism.
(Bob Adelman on what drew him to document the civil rights movement)

Growing up in New York, were you surrounded by other people who felt the same way you did?

In the North, I think there was a general feeling that things like lynchings and poll taxes and discrimination were bad things. Though they were sometimes practiced in the North. Discrimination could be very ugly there, too. Especially, if a black family after WWII bought a house in an old white neighborhood. They could be terrorized or burned down. Racism wasn’t just a southern problem. But I guess I came from idealistic people. My mother, who I lived with in the suburbs of New York City — I remember as a little boy, it was raining and I was complaining because I couldn’t go outside, and so she said, “Oh, but it’s good for the farmers.” Which would not be a typical response. I’m not religious, but I guess I’m culturally Jewish and I certainly was very much inspired by the prophets. We’d just seen the Holocaust, so the idea of any kind of racial stigmatization was awful.

Did you feel like your photography and involvement in the movement was subversive?

No, I don’t think so. Obviously, the powers that be — particularly in the South, the local government and police — their job was to enforce segregation. And many, many people in the South supported it. In the context of challenging local authorities, it was subversive. I was regularly arrested for photographing, sometimes it was a good thing. Sometimes when people were about to get ugly or violent, getting arrested was a better alternative. Gunnar Myrdal in “The American Dilemma” said segregation was so un-American and that as soon as most Americans actually understood what segregation was, it would fall away. And in a profound sense, that what the civil rights movement did. It revealed to the country just what the underpinnings of segregation were, which were the systematic suppression of participation in public life.

Your website makes a poignant statement about your work: “His subjects knew which side he was on. And he stayed the course.” How did you or do you view the role of photojournalism during that time period? How did photography — and in your case, impassioned photography — interact with the movement itself?

I think that all art is a way in which we hold up experience and look at it. Photography does it in a very immediate way. I hoped that photographs of mine would help change opinions and understandings. That we would, by our concerted efforts, show how wrong and despicable these practices were. And, in fact, thats what did happen. The country was frozen, but when the students protested [in Birmingham in 1963], I thought that it was sheer genius. By taking their bodies — our bodies — and putting them where they were forbidden to go, that was the lever that would really break the system. I had great faith in that tactic and of course the rightness of breaking these barriers.

How long did you follow the movement as a photographer?

I started taking pictures in the ‘50s on my own, and I started volunteering with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in 1961. And I guess by ‘63 I’d say, my pictures starting appearing in papers quite regularly, like Newsweek and Life.

Were you surrounded by other photographers early on, or were you mostly surrounded by activists?

Oh, I had friends in the movement and friends who were photographers. Our great inspiration was always Martin Luther King, who I came to know. I was very involved in the movement. Rudy Lombard was one of my close friends. Dorothea Lange was a mentor of mine. I was friendly with [civil rights photographer] Bruce Davidson. Alfred Eisenstaedt said photographers are like spiders, they don’t hang out with each other. But I had photo friends, and artists — Jim Rosenquist, the painter, Larry rivers.

What is one of your most memorable moments following the movement from the South to Washington?

I took the iconic photo of Martin Luther King in Washington. That certainly was one of the greatest moments, for me, in American history! For 50 years I wondered why I was the only person there to capture that moment. I think by not being a member of the press, but being active in the movement, I was able to go up the stairs and get past the guards because they knew me. I had no press credentials. All the press were in the gallery, in front of the podium at the Lincoln Memorial. So the podium was on the steps and I guess because I wasn’t a press member, I was able to take the picture. That was the place to be.

I’d heard the doc speak so many times, and I knew he was going to say something amazing. The March on Washington was two things. One, it was a celebration because race was on the national agenda. Kennedy said segregation was wrong. What began as a movement of a few hundred or thousand was suddenly a mass movement. So we wanted to celebrate all that. But it was also a protest. Congress was still controlled by Dixiecrats. How they were going to be brought around was a very big “if.” When the doc delivered the Dream speech, I remember I put the camera down and was thinking that speech was so powerful and delivered in the shadow of Lincoln. His truth is marching on. I really believed that it was possible that Congress would somehow come around. The momentum would be very difficult to ignore.

Another moment was when I took the Birmingham photographs of the water hosing, which were very symbolic. Black bodies were being hosed by white firemen. In the past, when the authorities would hose people, they’d just run away. But this was a different time. Instead of being intimidated and frightened, they gathered and stood up to the hoses. It became emblematic of what was going on. Terror was going to be resisted and not given in to. I gave that photo to the doc, and he looked at it and he said it was startling that out of such pain was such beauty.

What do you hope is the impact of showcasing these photographs today?

I hope the show is a toolkit for young people on how to go about transforming things. People need to be trained and organized and have stated goals. In order to bring about change, a lot of work goes into getting other people together and having demonstrations and picketing and hanging posters. People’s right to peacefully protest is one of the most American parts of the Constitution.

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- interview excerpts via
- photographs by (People's Wall, Worlds's Fair, New York, 1965) and of Bob Adelman via and via

Friday 29 November 2019

STEM, Gender, and Stereotypes

"Women have been found to be under-represented in fields where it is believed that innate talent is the main requirement for success and where women are stereotyped as not possessing this talent."
UNESCO (2017:43)

Various reasons are considered when discussing gender inequalities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Self-selection bias is seen as the major reason for girls not considering STEM professions since they believe they would be incompatible with their gender. Girls encounter explicit and implicit STEM-related gender stereotypes throughout the socialisation process; two stereotypes prevail: Boys are better at maths and science and engineering careers are masculine domains. These stereotypes are internalised but even if not, having people around them who hold such beliefs can undermine the girls'confidence, performance, and intention to pursue a STEM career. Often, parents (particularly mothers) can reinforce negative stereotypes about girls in STEM and discourage their daughters. Similarly, (female) peers who see STEM subjects as inappropriate for women have a discouraging effect. Teachers play a crucial role, too. In one study, they were found to be "the only significant predictor of girls' interest and confidence in science". 
(UNESCO, 2017)

Related posting:
::: Women, Maths & Stereotype Threat: LINK

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- UNESCO (2017). Cracking the code: Girls' and Women's Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). LINK
- photograph of Iranian women before the Islamic Revolution by A. Abbas/Magnum Photos via

Thursday 28 November 2019

Dutch Masters Revisited

Museums in the Netherlands have started ditching historical terms and adding portraits of black people to what was formerly "a sea of all white and mostly male faces" in order to "promote inclusion and social equity". Amsterdam Museum will no longer use the term "Dutch Golden Age" (via) to describe the Dutch Republic, a world power in the 17th century with a prosperous economy, and "a flourishing of art, culture and intellectual thought", a term that also "losses over the ugly realities of Dutch ascendancy" such as the involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade - about 600.000 enslaved Africans were traded by the Dutch (via).

“The Western Golden Age occupies an important place in Western historiography that is strongly linked to national pride, but positive associations with the term such as prosperity, peace, opulence, and innocence do not cover the charge of historical reality in this period. The term ignores the many negative sides of the 17th century such as poverty, war, forced labor, and human trafficking.”
Tom van der Molen

"We will continue to work with people in the city to uncover underexposed stories and perspectives of our shared history.”
Daniel Boffey

“We believe that the Golden Age is, in a way, the story of the winners, and it hides the colonial past of the country. It hides slavery, but also it covers up poverty more generally. Not everyone participated in the Golden Age, not at all.”
Margriet Schavemaker

“If you want to protect an open and democratic system, it will mean that you have to promote greater inclusion of what you understand as ‘Dutch,’” and that means telling new stories, and coming up with new terminologies. There is an implicit hierarchy built into many of the Dutch cultural institutions, and that has to be made explicit.”
Karwan Fatah-Black

“If you talk about the Golden Age, people think they know what that story is about. What we forget to tell is that it was only about 1 percent of society. People in Holland were stricken by poverty, there were internal wars going on, and on top of that there was slavery as well. The people in the Netherlands today are not just descendants of that 1 percent; they’re descendants of the 99 percent as well.”
Jörgen Tjon A. Fong

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photograph by Sandra Lousada (Rothko exhibition, 1961) via

Saturday 23 November 2019

"... stand up against the bullies ..."

"It's not mental to believe that most of us find racism disgusting and the many can easily outweigh the few with the smallest effort. Vote, be counted, stand up against the bullies (...)."
Ricky Wilson

::: Love's Not a Competition (but I'm Winning): LISTEN/WATCH
::: Coming Home: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Never Miss A Beat: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Falling Awake: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Good Days Bad Days: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Everything Is Average Nowadays: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Hole In My Soul: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Modern Way: LISTEN/WATCH
::: People Know How To Love One Another: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Every Day I Love You Less and Less: LISTEN/WATCH
::: We Stay Together: LISTEN/WATCH

photograph of the Kaiser Chiefs by Danny North via

Thursday 21 November 2019

Britpop. A (not so subtle) tribute.

"The genre of Britpop, with its assertion of Englishness, evolved at the same time that devolution was striking deep into the hegemonic claims of English culture to represent Britain. It is usually argued that Britpop, with its strident declarations of Englishness, was a response to the dominance of grunge. The contributors in this volume take a different point of view: that Britpop celebrated Englishness at a time when British culture, with its English hegemonic core, was being challenged and dismantled."
Joni Stratton

In the 1990s, Britpop, or the era of "Cool Britannia", became an important part of national identity. It re-branded Britain (via), music and lyrics were "uniquely British" (via).
“Cool Britannia” as an identity was established by the Government. In 1997, New Labour established a landmark victory and promoted themselves as a new start for a Britain that was fast becoming ravaged by unemployment and poverty. New Prime Minister Tony Blair attempted to build on his image by holding a reception at Downing Street for the great and the good on the British art and music scenes and both the Government and the media used the event to highlight the fact that the public should be proud of what was becoming established as a cultural high point for the arts in Britain. (via)
Blur, Oasis and Pulp were "The Holy Trinity of Britpop". While Oasis came from working class background and wrote songs about unemployment, dole checks, cigarettes, alcohol, and an absent father (via), and Pulp responded with "a certain romanticism of working-class culture" (via), Blur were billed as so-called "posh boys" from London with university education. Media, in fact, turned "the battle of the bands from a musical debate into a class war" (via) between the working-class northeners Oasis and the middle-class southerners Blur (via). Britpop finally became known for "highlighting working class Britain and bringing it to the forefront of national identity", blowing "against the repressive forces of political correctness, class division and petty snobbery". The dress code - baggy sports clothing, trainers and Parka jacket - were part of it (via).
Some critics say that the representations of British identity were not authentic and reinforcing "a nostalgic and chauvinist cultural turn which privileged whiteness and to a lesser extent maleness" and that Britpop was marketed by Tony Blair's New Labour (via). Others, again, speak of a proto-feminist movement coming out of Britpop (via) and point out that its representation of national identity was more complex and that non-white and non-English Britpop musicians were there but widely ignored in the academic critique (Lueders, 2016). One thing is clear, Britpop is fantastic. And, it is not really over since a great many bands in the post-Britpop era are influenced by it ... showing discontinuities but also continuities between post-Britpop and the first-generation Britpop (Collinson, 2010).

Britpop Selection:

::: The Bluetones: Slight Return LISTEN/WATCH
::: The La's: There She Goes LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: What If LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Boo Radleys: Wake Up Boo! LISTEN/WATCH
::: Travis: Tied to the 90s LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Charlatans: The Only One I Know LISTEN/WATCH
::: Supergrass: Going Out LISTEN/WATCH
::: Blur: The Universal LISTEN/WATCH
::: Oasis: Champagne Supernova LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony LISTEN/WATCH
::: Super Furry Animals: Something 4 the Weekend LISTEN/WATCH
::: Pulp: Disco 2000 LISTEN/WATCH
::: Cast: Sandstorm: LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: What You Say LISTEN/WATCH
::: Oasis: Roll With It LISTEN/WATCH
::: Travis: Why Does It Always Rain on Me? LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: Sugar Coated Iceberg LISTEN/WATCH
::: Supergrass: Sun Hits the Sky LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: You Showed Me LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Verve: Lucky Man LISTEN/WATCH
::: Supergrass: Alright LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: Life's Too Short LISTEN/WATCH
::: Pulp: Babies LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Verve: Sonnet LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: All I Want LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Boo Radleys: Wish I Was Skinny LISTEN/WATCH
::: Echobelly: Great Things LISTEN/WATCH
::: The Lightning Seeds: Ready or Not LISTEN/WATCH

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- Collinson, I. (2010). Devopop: Pop-Englishness and Post-Britpop Guitar Bands. In A. Bennett & J. Stratton (eds.) Britpop and the English Music Tradition (163-178). London & New York: Routledge.
- Lueders, C. (2016). Britpop's Common People - National identity, popular music and young people in the 1990's. University of London: Doctoral Thesis, LINK
- photographs of Richard Ashcroft via and Damon Albarn via

Wednesday 20 November 2019

"The art world is simply not the liberal, progressive bastion that it imagines itself to be."

According to a study that looked at 26 art museums and institution in the US and an analysis of the global art market ranging from 2008 to 2018, only 2% of global art auction is spent on work by women. In addition, five artists make up 40.7% of these 2%, with Yayoi Kusama accounting for 25%. 11% of the art acquisitions for permanent collections were by women, i.e., 29.247 of 260.470 acquisitions.(via).

"The art world is simply not the liberal, progressive bastion that it imagines itself to be."
Helen Molesworth

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photograph (Picasso exhibition, Tate Gallery, 1960) via

Saturday 16 November 2019

Stereotyping - a Distancing Mechanism

"Stereotyping involves the representation and evaluation of others in ways that ratify and endorse unequal social relations. It does so by making such representations appear fixed and unchanging as well as in stark contrast to the identities of those who engage in and perpetuate them. Stereotypes diminish the social standing of those targeted, reducing them to a particular attribute or disposition that either demeans them or confines them to achievement only in association with this attribute or disposition. This acts as a distancing mechanism, radically separating those stereotyped from those among whom the stereotypes circulate and are reproduced. Stereotyping always occurs within a two-way, but one-sided relationship, and operates in favor of the existing status quo."
Pickering (2015)

Read the whole paper:
Pickering, M. (2015). Stereotyping and Stereotypes. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism: LINK

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photograph by the amazing Vivian Maier via

Friday 15 November 2019

Narrative images: Socialite Gathering (1964)

"At this socialite gathering in Dallas, the maid was just another piece of furniture." (Kelen, 2012). The photograph was taken by Bob Adelman in Texas, Dallas in 1964.

- Kelen, L. G. (2012). This Light of Ours. Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement. University Press of Mississippi
- photograph via

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Meet Me in Cannes

No, I won't be at the Cannes Film Festival, and I won't walk the red carpet, and tabloids won't be bothered about what I wear ... But I'll be on Campus International de Cannes where I will be talking about ethnic stereotypes in character design.

In the past years, I analysed stereotypical African and Asian characters in popular European comics and animated cartoons from the 1930s to the 21st century. One conclusion: Both African and Asian characters still represent "the Other", uncivilised, black monkey-like, and yellow buck-toothed people.

15 November 2019
Campus International de Cannes

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photograph of Annie Girardot in Cannes (1972) via

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Quoting Damon Albarn (II)

"I was looking through stuff not that long ago, and I found a front page of the Sun from the Britpop era. I’d written on a bit of it in Biro when I was doing Parklife: ‘Anglo-Saxistentalism’. I thought: ‘That’s weird – that’s what I’m talking about now.’ In the most crass form, we say we want our country back. But you need to know what your country is before you want it back. And part of that is understanding who we are. We’re Vikings. We’re Anglo-Saxons. We’re French, Belgian, Nigerian, Caribbean, Ghanian, Somalian, Pakistani. To say, ‘We’re just this’ seems ridiculous to me. That’s all. That’s my biggest problem with [Brexit]: don’t limit yourself, guys. I don’t think we can afford to have that attitude. We need to be very outward-looking."
Damon Albarn

Blur on YouTube:
::: There's No Other Way: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Chemical World: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Beetlebum: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Young and Lovely: LISTEN/WATCH
::: To the End: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Charmless Man: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Under the Westway: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Parklife: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Girls and Boys: LISTEN/WATCH
::: End of a Century: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Music is My Radar: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Lonesome Street: LISTEN/WATCH
::: She's So High: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Country House: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Stereotypes: LISTEN/WATCH

Related postings:
::: Quoting Damon Albarn: LINK
::: Hallelujah Money: LINK

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photograph via

Monday 4 November 2019

An Abstract. A Nice One. On Populism.

This paper posits four possible reasons there may exist a fundamental, non-incidental connection between populism and the rhetoric of bullshit, as defined by Frankfurt as speech whose truth value its speaker is indifferent towards:

1) “Bullshit as Sincerity”: Populists’ claim to authentically represent “the people” and their “folk” values, combined with their wholesale rejection of the intellectual class and their values, makes them value sincerity over accuracy, leading them to construct statements with little regard for their veracity;
2) “Bullshit as Symbolism”: populist communication is frequently primarily meant to convey symbolic, unarticulated messages, leading literal meaning to be overlooked;
3) “Bullshit as Partisanship”: populists’ audiences are likely to assess their claims as true regardless of content, giving populists incentive to be construct statements without regard for the truth;
4) “Bullshit as Unfalsifiability”: Populists regard as unfalsifiable a central claim – the exclusivity of their claim to popular representation - and will thus tend to bullshit whenever contradicting evidence arises.
Based on these connections, possible strategies for combatting bullshit propagated by populists is discussed.
(Green, 2019)

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- Green, A. (2019). Speaking Bullshit to Power: Populism and the Rhetoric of Bullshit; link
- photograph of preacher with bible in London's Speaker's Corner taken by Philip Wolmuth in 1993 via

Friday 1 November 2019

The Corner Shop Stereotype + Cornershop

"Few stereotypes are more enduring than that of the Asian shopkeeper. The image is that of a hard-working businessman with strong family loyalties and Thatcherite values, who makes a small fortune by exploiting every niche in the market. It is an image of success which politicians often hold up as proof of 'opportunity Britain' where even penniless immigrants can make it through hard graft and business flair. It is also, according to a new study, a myth." (via)

In their paper published in 1980, Aldrich et al. describe Asian shopkeepers in Britain as an economically segregated sector that serves "a socially segregated population" (Aldrich et al., 1980). The number of these shops started declining once the first generation of immigrants retired and their children were not willing to take over the family business saying, "I am not going to work 16-hour days in a corner shop for peanuts and get all that abuse from people who are no better than me, and in some cases are not as good." (via).
This picture of Asian entrepreneurs busily working towards their own self-defined goals and seemingly immune from the constraints imposed by the surrounding social environment is entirely consistent with a view which frequently underpins studies of Asian communities in Britain. In explaining Asian relationships with white society and especially the acute segregation of the two groups, many writers emphasise what might be termed the "principle of minority group autonomy". Segregation from the white majority, it is argued (or implied), should be seen not so much as a consequence of white rejection but rather as an expression of minority free choice.
Aldrich & McEvoy (1980:8)

In the 1990s, Asian bands started entering the British mainstream music industry, bands that were "extremely uncomfortable with the idea of using their Asianness to promote themselves" fearing that it would have a negative impact on how Asians were viewed by society and foster negative stereotypes (Hyder, 2004). One of them was Cornershop founded by Tjinder Singh. His parents had emigrated to England, "where he was born and raised in Wolverhampton, with a foot in both cultures. Sort of." The name of the band is an ironic comment on the British Asian corner shop stereotype.
I think it’s also an element of growing up outside those two cultures as well. I don’t consider myself either one of those. But that was a good thing. It meant that I was a lot more open about things.
It was rough. . . . There was [racism]. But I did a lot of other things that helped me have a wider view of some things early on. Like playing on the chess team, traveling a lot with them. . . . My [friends] were pretty mixed, in the main nationalities that you get in England--African, Caribbean, Asian [Indian], English. . . . I quite liked that. I used to tend to get to know everyone.
Tjinder Singh
Like he says in one of his songs, he’s kind of a walking contradiction or puzzle or paradox. I think a lot of his makeup is [from] not being accepted by either parts of his family to maybe parts of the music communities in England.
David Byrne on Tjinder Singh

Cornershop on YouTube:

::: Brimful of Asha: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Sleep on the Left Side: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Soul School: LISTEN/WATCH

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- Aldrich, H. E., Cater, J. C., Jones, T. P. & Mcevoy, D. (1980). Business development and self-segregation: Asian enterprise in three British cities; LINK + LINK
- Hyder, R. (2004). Brimful of Asia. Negotiating Ethnicity on the UK Music Scene. Routledge.
- photographs of Cornershop via and via