Research: Empire, ​psychoanalysis​

Britain’s Dream-catchers and the truths of Empire: This is such an excellent article and links intrinsically to what I’ve been looking at in S&O…

Two paragraphs, in particular, that may prove useful at some point to refer to:

“Informants on at least three continents reported that the stages of sexual development that Freud made famous – oral, anal, genital – were nowhere to be found; children did not pass through a latency period, for instance, or a phase of fascination with excretory functions. Seligman’s dream-collectors in the Naga Hills and in Nigeria even gainsaid the relevance of such fundamental concepts as libido and repression. Sexual mores were so much less restrictive than in the West, they reported, that unconscious minds there were much less intent on subverting them.”

“The common thread running through all the accounts was a twist on the Oedipal story. The oppressive patriarch, a largely fantasied figure in the European context, was here embodied in the very real force of the ‘white man’ and the colonial state behind him. This was a strikingly deromanticised vision of empire, in which only habits of deference and fear of reprisal constrained the urge to throw off tyrannical shackles. Seligman had, it turned out, chronicled the psychic wounds of colonialism, revealing a political order fundamentally at odds with Britain’s self-understanding” (Linstrum, 2017)


Research: article on consciousness​ linking Buddhism to neuroscience

The message on this article sounds very similar to passages from Rovelli’s book where reality is described as “restless swarming of things; a continuous coming to light and disappearance of ephemeral entities”. (2014)

In Buddhism, the matter/consciousness duality, the so-called mind-body problem, is a false problem given that neither of them has an intrinsic, independent existence. According to some Buddhist teachings that analyze phenomena at a more contemplative level, the primordial nature of phenomena transcends notions of subject and object or time and space. But when the world of phenomena emerges from primordial nature, we lose sight of this unity and make a false distinction between consciousness and the world. This separation between the self and the non-self then becomes fixed, and the world of ignorance, samsara, is born. The birth of samsara did not happen at a particular moment in time. It simply reflects at each instant, and for each of our thoughts, how ignorance reifies the world.

Rovelli, C, 2014 7 Lessons of Physics, Penguin, London

Research: Text vs speech

I’ve been thinking about how images can be described as taciturn. I wonder if this is a trait in contemporary photography or something to do with the limits of photography itself.  Further to recent thoughts about how symbols help or at times over-help to distance us from our emotions I thought the following was a relevant possibility worth looking into.

“Beliefs that are communicated by voice make the communicator seem more reasonable, even human, according to Schroeder, an assistant professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. But those same beliefs are stripped of the humanizing elements when the opinions are communicated on a piece of paper.”


“Schroeder thinks her research can help explain — and maybe alleviate — the rise in polarizing political opinions.

“In some ways, technology is making more of our interactions text-based,” Schroeder said. “Many people receive the majority of their news from social media now. This can be dehumanizing, and may increase polarization. It’s easy to imagine how this could become cyclical; dehumanization leading to more polarization leading to more dehumanization.”” (Nutt, 2017)

Research: Education and Oxford House work

A bit of retrospective research here but this is so relevant that I must save it. The work is incredibly detailed and I have not yet read the full document, only the article that introduces it. I was quite taken with how well the author sums up what I was saying yesterday in terms of the fractious atmosphere we witness on social media, although Astle’s net is far wider.

“The root causes of the West’s culture wars are many and complex. But chief among them is the fact we live on a dangerously overheating and ever more densely populated planet where conflict and persecution, flooding and drought and vast inequalities of opportunity and wealth have displaced 65 million people and created a migrant population greater than that of Brazil. Amid the backlash to this unprecedented movement of people from poorer to richer nations, liberalism is in full retreat, while nationalism, nativism and protectionism are all on the rise. And with an angry populist politics on the Right feeding off, and feeding, an intolerant and censorious strain of identity politics on the Left, our ability to transcend our hardwired instinct to tribalism — to put our shared humanity before our group loyalties — is once again being severely tested.” (2017)

I have included the italics because I was annoyed when attending a talk last year, where an artist and academic denied the idea of tribalism. Denying it, imagining there is some possible ‘idel’ where everyone loves each other, is less than helpful, naive and rather foolish. It also prevents us from addressing ways to overcome groupishness.

I linked to another article shared by the RSA in preparation for Nexus; education is one of their key concerns.

Full article below

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Research: Democritus, reality, critical thinking

I am reading Reality is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli (2016 – English edition) and am quite flabbergasted but also excited to learn that atoms were conceived of circa 460 BC by a person known as Democritus. And that he and his cohort even knew that the earth was round rather than flat, and that we humans were NOT the centre of the universe at all, AND that reason rather than superstition was probably more reliable when thinking about all this phenomena. Democritus wasn’t the first to have worked all this out but he is the earliest example we have in writing, because his work is quoted later by others. His actual texts have all been lost, which is a dreadful loss to humanity but at least his ideas have lived on, no thanks to radical Christianity which did its best to wipe those ideas from the face of the planet. What happens to us humans? We have, it turns out, collectively been aware of these truths for far longer than I had understood, and yet it took until the Scientific revolution nearly 2000 years later to return to it, and even today there are those who insist all this science malarkey is not ot be trusted and even dangerous.

Before Democritus though there were the thinkers of Miletus, who as reported by Rovelli, ‘discovered’ critical thought. “Perhaps the decisive discovery is that of a different style of thinking, where the disciple is no longer obliged to respect and share the ideas of the master but is free to build on those ideas without being afraid to discard or criticise the part that can be improved” (5)  I LOVE this. What a wonderful thing for me to read and be reminded of, and to internalise as I worry about the way in which I have questioned and criticised some of the ideas in the course folder of the module I am working on. Despite my fears, I remind myself constantly of the importance of living in pluralist society and that differing opinions and debate are crucial, and should be welcome. But it can be hard in the current climate to remember this. Social media, I believe, plays a big part in entrenching people dogmatically and aggressively in certain camps, despite also appearing to offer some positive qualities. I recently read an article titled, Social Media is tearing society apart in The Times about, “Jaron Lanier [who] is the Silicon Valley guru who coined the phrase “virtual reality”. He is one of the pioneers of VR and one of its greatest evangelists. He is also its prophet of doom. “Never has a medium [social media] been so potent for beauty and so vulnerable to creepiness,” he writes in his new book.” (Whitworth, 2017) He goes on to suggest that unchecked, social media has the potential to entirely destroy the civil project we humans have been at for millenia. “You can change people’s character, you can make them more irritable, you can make them xenophobic. In fact the negative is easier to invoke than the positive. And so this tends to naturally attract actors who benefit from seeking that result, either to destabilise a nation that is perceived as a foe or to try to corral people into a peer group, political or business or whatever. This technique tears society apart.” (Whitworth, 2017)

And so it seems today, more than ever, if one were to give value to even a small part of Lanier’s thesis, we really need to get in touch with the routes of critical thought, be brave enough to criticise current and emerging ideologies, even ones that we feel most aligned with, to do so in a constructive and adult manner, and be prepared to receive questions and admit flaws in one’s own arguments. I was asked in one of the exercises on my course to come up with a manifesto in relation to my photography and I think this ideal would have to be at the very top of it.

I look forward to reading the rest of Reality is Not What it Seems.

Image (c)SJField 2017


Whitworth, D. 2017 Social Media is Tearing Society Apart (paywall) [Accessed 19 November 2017)

Wikipedia [Accessed 19 November 2017)

Rovelli, C. (2016). Reality is Not What it Seems – English Edition. 2nd ed. London: Penguin, p.5.



Research: Crewsdon, Leibowitz and fascistic​ art

This article made me consider the level of persuasion in western capitalistic advertising.

“If we accept that Leibovitz’s and Crewdson’s photographs are obverse and reverse of the same coin, we might as well spell out how Leibovitz’s depictions of the wealthy and successful in heroic, vaguely fascist poses is related to Crewdson’s depictions of the rest in non-heroic, dejected poses. It’s the country’s underlying myth that sustains, no: necessitates the celebrity pictures. You cannot, after all, maintain the illusion of a country where you will enjoy success if you work hard enough without showing that this is in fact doable (the lottery operates using the same idea: your chances of winning are negligible, but someone does win, and you could be that person).”