Finding A Different Kind of Closure

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Most pants are made to visually disappear into the background of an outfit. A pair of grey flannel trousers set the stage for your shirt, tie, and jacket, just as jeans serve as the foundation for almost causal ensemble. In the summer, however, when it’s too warm for layering, your shirt and trousers ought to do more than usual. I like slightly atypical tops this time of year. I’ve also been looking for pants with more distinctive closures. 

Almost all trousers you’ll come across have a simple button- or zip-fly closure, with more sophisticated ones coming with what’s known as a “French fly” (also called a waist stay). That’s the hidden, interior tab that attaches to an extra button or two inside your pants, which relieves strain from the top of your zipper and allows the fly to lay flat. Some designers, however, pillage archives to come up with more unique systems. Some are easily wearable; others admittedly less so. 

The more daring ones, such as Margiela’s “sailor pants,” often take after historical dress. Those multi-button designs are modeled after something Regency-era men used to wear on the whipping seas. And while they were once a favorite of Beau Brummell, they’re all but unwearable today except for men who have a lot of time on their hands. Similarly, while heritage-inspired brands such as Engineered Garments have made their versions of Thai fisherman pants – also known as Sabays, which is Thai for “comfortable” – the loose, wraparound style is maybe a little too close for comfort to culottes (unless you’re David Sedaris anyway). Blurhms’ wrap pants, I think, are a better alternative if you like that style. I just wish theirs fit a bit fuller. 

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Not all atypical closure systems are so odd. The easiest to wear are Gurkhas, which come from when the British occupied North Africa and India – a time that left a terrible political legacy, but nevertheless continues to inspire in terms of style. They’re typically high waisted, made from heavy drill cotton, and characterized by their unique belting system. That weird rigging once allowed British officers to easily cinch their trousers as they lost weight. I love how they draw to mind all those beautiful safari images in old Banana Republic catalogs, before Banana Republic was bought out by The Gap.

You can find Gurkha pants and shorts these days at shops such as J. Peterman, What Price Glory, and Silvermans. If you don’t mind the price, Eidos also has some terrific ones this season made out of tonal navy seersucker. I just wish the roller buckles would stay cinched (they don’t have prongs like the originals). If you’re resourceful, you could replace them for a couple of bucks. Rubinacci also has a model they call “Manny,” which looks like it would be easier to wear with sport coats. 

For something simpler and more relaxed, you can always go with drawstring pants. So long as you avoid anything that looks too close to Champion sweats, I think they go well with loose tops and unlined loafers. Stephan Schneider and Hartford have drawstring pants with slim leg lines, although I prefer the looser cuts at Old Town, Document, Frank Leder, and Epaulet (the last slimmed down their model from what you see in that photo, but the original fit is available via made-to-order).

I also really like Eidos’ “Agy Pajama Pants,” which draw from Rajasthani culture. When I interviewed Eidos designer Antonio Ciongoli a few days ago, he said of them: “Classic means a lot of different things to different people. If you go to India, you’ll see these everywhere on the street. If you see them, and think they’re beautiful, why wouldn’t you want to incorporate them into your wardrobe?” I’ve been thinking about getting a pair to wear with Blurhms’ thermal shirts and Singh & Sons’s suede slip-on shoes. Something for lounging around outside at a cafe when it’s too hot to do anything else. 

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More than any other design though, I’m really into self-belted pants these days (like the ones you see above). They’re easier to close than Gurkhas, cleaner looking than drawstrings, and add a bit of visual interest to whatever else you’re wearing. I bought a wide, Melton wool pair from Tomorrowland last season and – while they’re not as easy to wear as slim gray flannels or jeans – they feel great with chunky sweaters and slightly oversized topcoats. The wider belt not only looks more refined than the options above, but it also allows for more precise cinching, so the waist never feels too tight. 

The only problem is finding the right cut. Sage de Cret has them in shorts this season, but I can’t wear shorts. Niche has a model called “Over Pants,” but they look like they might be too baggy. Comoli has also done them in the past, but they don’t look to be available anywhere at the moment. The best options I’ve seen are from Lemaire, pictured above, which will be coming out next spring. For something a little cleaner and more tailored, Mark Cho recently designed a self-belted, D-ring trouser with Pommella, which would work better with a soft-shouldered sport coat and button-down collar. Those will be available at Pommella’s trunk shows at The Armoury

To be sure, most of your trousers should probably have standard closures, but man can’t live on bread alone. While it’s always easier to have the focus of attention on the top half of your outfit, sometimes it’s nice to wear something a little more interesting below the belt. Or, in this case, just at the belt line. 

(photos via The SartorialistMaxminimus, Unionmade, Eidos, Life Magazine, Gentry, Old Town, Mark Cho, Theo Osborn, Five, Anderson & Sheppard, Alpha Shadows, BarneysEpauletNepenthes, and Kanye West

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Source: http://dieworkwear.com/

Aura: Calico Unveils New Line of Mystical Watercolor Wallpaper

Have you ever seen those surreal, hazy portraits known as “aura photography” that claim to capture the essence of a person’s soul based on the colors that appear around them on an overlaid print? To take these pictures, you’d have to get your a hands on the rare camera that Guy Coggins invented back in 1970. The camera collects data from its subjects by having them place their hands on two boxes, both of which have been fitted with biofeedback receptors to measure the electromagnetic fields around them. This data is then converted into frequencies and finally into a corresponding set of colors. Mystics and spiritualists explain that “aura” is a term used to embody the invisible emanations psychics can see when they look at different people.

Aura Photography

Sourced from Huffington Post

Whether they can actually reveal the characteristics of people’s personalities or not, these photographs are undeniably beautiful. Their blotted hues blend into each other and resemble watercolors diffusing across a piece of paper. Just about anyone — regardless of their metaphysical beliefs — can enjoy their soothing colors.

Aura Collection - Anja

One day, Rachel Cope, the co-founder of Calico Wallpaper, stumbled upon an aura photograph that her partner had taken when he was just a child. Cope found that the image stuck in her mind as if begging her to be put to creative use. More than happy to oblige it, she created a collection of striking modern wallpaper designs, which she has named “Aura” in reference its subtle, luminous vitality.

Aura Collection

“Calico Wallpaper’s Aura Collection reveals these unseen fields,” the company muses. “Drawing on the practice of Kirlian photography, we worked with the experimental design studio The Principals to create an interactive installation that could capture a subject’s Aura. Using conductive sensing, we were able to render the inherent electricity in our bodies and invisible attributes of space visible, and explore the spectrum of Aura’s ever-changing colors. We transformed the resulting images into large-scale wallpapers to create a series of seven colorways that reflect the intangible qualities of energy and light.”

Aura Collection - Anja

Sourced from DesignMilk

The installation in question features panels lined with Aura wallpapers and an interactive chandelier that emits various sounds based on the movements of the people walking directly beneath it. The exhibition debuted at this year’s Sight Unseen Offsite, a show that displays the work of several high-end design studios.

Aura Collection - Saha Aura Collection - Vishu

Some of the Aura collection’s available colorways include a deep indigo that fades into cerulean blue, a muted pink and gold that recalls a sunset disappearing over the horizon, a shimmering lavender, and the dark hues of an approaching storm. Each roll of wallpaper is printed on Type II vinyl, given a Class A fire rating and 10-week lead time, and features custom, non-repeating artwork. If you’d like to take a closer look at a particular pattern before committing to a full-scale print, you can always order an 8 x 10 inch sample.

Aura Collection - Mani

What do these mystic colors evoke for you? When you look at them, do you see human characteristics and emotions or just an abstract beauty that would look great on your walls? According to Calico, “The Aura Collection is inspired by the process of revelation – it translates unseen energies into visual imagery. Each colorway offers a glimpse into a key element of our inner essence, the core qualities that drive and influence us, and connect us to the cycle and flow of the universe.”

Source: http://dornob.com

Aura: Calico Unveils New Line of Mystical Watercolor Wallpaper

Have you ever seen those surreal, hazy portraits known as “aura photography” that claim to capture the essence of a person’s soul based on the colors that appear around them on an overlaid print? To take these pictures, you’d have to get your a hands on the rare camera that Guy Coggins invented back in 1970. The camera collects data from its subjects by having them place their hands on two boxes, both of which have been fitted with biofeedback receptors to measure the electromagnetic fields around them. This data is then converted into frequencies and finally into a corresponding set of colors. Mystics and spiritualists explain that “aura” is a term used to embody the invisible emanations psychics can see when they look at different people.

Aura Photography

Sourced from Huffington Post

Whether they can actually reveal the characteristics of people’s personalities or not, these photographs are undeniably beautiful. Their blotted hues blend into each other and resemble watercolors diffusing across a piece of paper. Just about anyone — regardless of their metaphysical beliefs — can enjoy their soothing colors.

Aura Collection - Anja

One day, Rachel Cope, the co-founder of Calico Wallpaper, stumbled upon an aura photograph that her partner had taken when he was just a child. Cope found that the image stuck in her mind as if begging her to be put to creative use. More than happy to oblige it, she created a collection of striking modern wallpaper designs, which she has named “Aura” in reference its subtle, luminous vitality.

Aura Collection

“Calico Wallpaper’s Aura Collection reveals these unseen fields,” the company muses. “Drawing on the practice of Kirlian photography, we worked with the experimental design studio The Principals to create an interactive installation that could capture a subject’s Aura. Using conductive sensing, we were able to render the inherent electricity in our bodies and invisible attributes of space visible, and explore the spectrum of Aura’s ever-changing colors. We transformed the resulting images into large-scale wallpapers to create a series of seven colorways that reflect the intangible qualities of energy and light.”

Aura Collection - Anja

Sourced from DesignMilk

The installation in question features panels lined with Aura wallpapers and an interactive chandelier that emits various sounds based on the movements of the people walking directly beneath it. The exhibition debuted at this year’s Sight Unseen Offsite, a show that displays the work of several high-end design studios.

Aura Collection - Saha Aura Collection - Vishu

Some of the Aura collection’s available colorways include a deep indigo that fades into cerulean blue, a muted pink and gold that recalls a sunset disappearing over the horizon, a shimmering lavender, and the dark hues of an approaching storm. Each roll of wallpaper is printed on Type II vinyl, given a Class A fire rating and 10-week lead time, and features custom, non-repeating artwork. If you’d like to take a closer look at a particular pattern before committing to a full-scale print, you can always order an 8 x 10 inch sample.

Aura Collection - Mani

What do these mystic colors evoke for you? When you look at them, do you see human characteristics and emotions or just an abstract beauty that would look great on your walls? According to Calico, “The Aura Collection is inspired by the process of revelation – it translates unseen energies into visual imagery. Each colorway offers a glimpse into a key element of our inner essence, the core qualities that drive and influence us, and connect us to the cycle and flow of the universe.”

Source: http://dornob.com

Aura: Calico Unveils New Line of Mystical Watercolor Wallpaper

Have you ever seen those surreal, hazy portraits known as “aura photography” that claim to capture the essence of a person’s soul based on the colors that appear around them on an overlaid print? To take these pictures, you’d have to get your a hands on the rare camera that Guy Coggins invented back in 1970. The camera collects data from its subjects by having them place their hands on two boxes, both of which have been fitted with biofeedback receptors to measure the electromagnetic fields around them. This data is then converted into frequencies and finally into a corresponding set of colors. Mystics and spiritualists explain that “aura” is a term used to embody the invisible emanations psychics can see when they look at different people.

Aura Photography

Sourced from Huffington Post

Whether they can actually reveal the characteristics of people’s personalities or not, these photographs are undeniably beautiful. Their blotted hues blend into each other and resemble watercolors diffusing across a piece of paper. Just about anyone — regardless of their metaphysical beliefs — can enjoy their soothing colors.

Aura Collection - Anja

One day, Rachel Cope, the co-founder of Calico Wallpaper, stumbled upon an aura photograph that her partner had taken when he was just a child. Cope found that the image stuck in her mind as if begging her to be put to creative use. More than happy to oblige it, she created a collection of striking modern wallpaper designs, which she has named “Aura” in reference its subtle, luminous vitality.

Aura Collection

“Calico Wallpaper’s Aura Collection reveals these unseen fields,” the company muses. “Drawing on the practice of Kirlian photography, we worked with the experimental design studio The Principals to create an interactive installation that could capture a subject’s Aura. Using conductive sensing, we were able to render the inherent electricity in our bodies and invisible attributes of space visible, and explore the spectrum of Aura’s ever-changing colors. We transformed the resulting images into large-scale wallpapers to create a series of seven colorways that reflect the intangible qualities of energy and light.”

Aura Collection - Anja

Sourced from DesignMilk

The installation in question features panels lined with Aura wallpapers and an interactive chandelier that emits various sounds based on the movements of the people walking directly beneath it. The exhibition debuted at this year’s Sight Unseen Offsite, a show that displays the work of several high-end design studios.

Aura Collection - Saha Aura Collection - Vishu

Some of the Aura collection’s available colorways include a deep indigo that fades into cerulean blue, a muted pink and gold that recalls a sunset disappearing over the horizon, a shimmering lavender, and the dark hues of an approaching storm. Each roll of wallpaper is printed on Type II vinyl, given a Class A fire rating and 10-week lead time, and features custom, non-repeating artwork. If you’d like to take a closer look at a particular pattern before committing to a full-scale print, you can always order an 8 x 10 inch sample.

Aura Collection - Mani

What do these mystic colors evoke for you? When you look at them, do you see human characteristics and emotions or just an abstract beauty that would look great on your walls? According to Calico, “The Aura Collection is inspired by the process of revelation – it translates unseen energies into visual imagery. Each colorway offers a glimpse into a key element of our inner essence, the core qualities that drive and influence us, and connect us to the cycle and flow of the universe.”

Source: http://dornob.com

Decolonization is political action, not an act of historical circumstance.

As an archaeologist who is invested in the project of decolonization, I admit to being wary of its overuse within anthropological discourse to such a degree that it is depoliticized. Decolonization must remain a political project. As Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang succinctly reminded us in the first issue of the journal Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society“Decolonization is not a metaphor.” (2012)

Recently The National Archives (UK) Blog posted a piece entitled, “Decolonising Archaeology in Iraq?” by Dr. Juliette Desplat. Whereas I am a big fan of archival research, in particular Dr. Desplat’s ongoing work on making the archive more publicly accessible through her blog posts, I was a bit perturbed by the generous use of the word decolonizing. Decolonization must be protected as a political act. The use of the word as a descriptor is naively violent if used to illustrate the manner by which bureaucracies articulate themselves in the post-colony — those are not acts of decolonization, more often than not they are in their first instances replications of previous power structures. Decolonization must continue to be thought of and contextualized as a mode of political action that, alongside dismantling colonial structures of power, provides the space for the oppressed to occupy equitable power relations. It is about reparations, it is about social justice, it is about equity, and it is about claiming power socially, politically, and psychologically.

My main concern with The National Archives (UK) post was that it was purely descriptive about the colonial archaeologists working in Iraq, their words/letters/notes, and their petulant reluctance to abide by the new rules. With the focus on description, there was a lack of criticality; for example, any mention of Iraqi archaeologists or inspectors reproduced the dismissive tone found ripe in the archive. This was perhaps unintentional, but still problematic and unacceptable. Replicating racialized sterotypes of the other is ethically problematic, and if it is uncritically presented, it continues to travel through citation embedded within other concerns, like that of excavation and artifact movement. This packaged sensibility will continue to be reproduced, for example in Paul Barford’s blog in which he re-presents Desplat’s work under the title “The beginning of the end of excavation archive partage in Iraq.” The reproduction of her work, once again without a critical lens, just continues the cycle of archival reproduction without any sense that such replication could have contemporary consequences if treated without a context or analysis.

The National Archives (UK) post started with the citing of the 1924 Antiquities act which provided quite a bit of latitude for foreign archaeologists to take back materials to the metropole and museums (the Act was written up by Gertrude Bell in 1922 while she was Honorary Director of Antiquities for Iraq). Upon Iraq’s independence (1933) however, the rules changed and archaeologists were no longer permitted to take artifacts out of Iraq and Iraqi inspectors were required on teams. These new rules caused quite a bit of frenzy among archaeologists and their home institutions (like the Oriental Institute and the University of Pennsylvania among others, see FO 371/16923), with memorandums of concern being written to the Foreign Office, and even a veiled threat by Sir Leonard Woolley who “thought it was a strong statement from the Iraqi government, and one that could discourage foreign expeditions to return to the country.” (Desplat 2017)

Unsurprisingly, the archival record posted on the blog makes archaeologists sound like bratty, over privileged school boys who are only interested in their research and antiquities over and beyond the sovereignty of a nation of people. The archival memorandums posted on the blog illustrate the ways colonial epistemic muscle expected itself to continue to work in the postcolony. The clarity of expectations is the most interesting part of the archival material. If the Iraqi’s were going to make all these demands on foreign expeditions then they themselves had to prove their own modernity in order to gain the respect of the colonists. “George Rendel, the Head of the Eastern Department at the Foreign Office, emphasized the ‘serious injury which [the law’s] adoption would obviously occasion to the cause of archaeology in general’. He also thought that ‘the attitude adopted by the Iraqis in this matter [would] be regarded by many as a test of whether Iraq is really a modern and progressive State’ (FO 371/16923).” (Desplat 2017)

Why must Iraqi’s pass a test of modernity to claim their own heritage? This doomed-from-the-start set up if often how patronizing colonialisms find their way into epistemic foundations of archaeological teaching. How many times have I heard, Why should we repatriate these artifacts to [insert post-colony here] if they themselves cannot take care of them?

This blog post is not read in a vacuum, as concerns related to museums and museum collections are not relegated only to archaeologists. On my screen, the tab next to The National Archive post is an interview of Nicholas Mirzoeff by Inês Beleza Barreiros on BUALA. Barreiros does a great job in bringing together some key insights as questions leading Mirzoeff  to outline and clarify his visual activist agenda which he brings to three main points, “empty the museum, decolonize the curriculum and open theory.” I will not expound on all of what these three points entail, but I bring this up just to say that his idea around emptying the museum is literally just that – all expropriated cultural materials should be returned to their appropriate owners. For all those of us involved in repatriation issues and the politics around cultural property, we know it is not that simple nor as easy, even though it should be — and it is also not a new hot button issue or the theory fad of the decade. It is one that communities world wide have been fighting for since archaeologists started taking their things.

Curiously however, although national shifts in excavation regulations in the postcolony are common, as was the case in Iraq, when it comes to indigenous rights and repatriation, there is a particular form of violence that emerges even within the postcolony. The nation state is most anxious and precarious when confronted with indigenous sovereignty; this is true in postcolonial settings, such as in India, as well as in settler colonies such as the United States. The State then, whether a postcolonial or a settler colony, responds with such violence toward indigenous interests that it permeates all forms of interaction, from military action to scientific research.

I was reminded of the violence of science in a recent book by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh entitled, Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits, in a passage that brought tears to my eyes and profoundly disturbed me, “In his final days, the last Yana Indian begged that his body be respectfully buried. Instead, Ishi’s museum friends dissected him “for science,” shipping his brain to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It sat on a storage shelf for decades in a jar of formaldehyde.” (2017: 14)

This is what makes decolonization imperative and necessarily political. It is not just about a blog post that should not have used the word decolonising in it’s title. It is about recognizing, acknowledging and witnessing the violence that decolonization is a response to. Decolonization is not historical circumstance, it is and must be understood and protected as a political act.

NOTE: I would like to acknowledge and appreciate Morag Kersel for bringing Desplat’s blog post to my attention. I would also like to restate that I think Dr. Desplat’s archival blogging is fantastic, it just needs to be allowed to be more critical. I hope The National Archive (UK) blog can find in itself some allowance for criticality.

Source: https://savageminds.org

Aura: Calico Unveils New Line of Mystical Watercolor Wallpaper

Have you ever seen those surreal, hazy portraits known as “aura photography” that claim to capture the essence of a person’s soul based on the colors that appear around them on an overlaid print? To take these pictures, you’d have to get your a hands on the rare camera that Guy Coggins invented back in 1970. The camera collects data from its subjects by having them place their hands on two boxes, both of which have been fitted with biofeedback receptors to measure the electromagnetic fields around them. This data is then converted into frequencies and finally into a corresponding set of colors. Mystics and spiritualists explain that “aura” is a term used to embody the invisible emanations psychics can see when they look at different people.

Aura Photography

Sourced from Huffington Post

Whether they can actually reveal the characteristics of people’s personalities or not, these photographs are undeniably beautiful. Their blotted hues blend into each other and resemble watercolors diffusing across a piece of paper. Just about anyone — regardless of their metaphysical beliefs — can enjoy their soothing colors.

Aura Collection - Anja

One day, Rachel Cope, the co-founder of Calico Wallpaper, stumbled upon an aura photograph that her partner had taken when he was just a child. Cope found that the image stuck in her mind as if begging her to be put to creative use. More than happy to oblige it, she created a collection of striking modern wallpaper designs, which she has named “Aura” in reference its subtle, luminous vitality.

Aura Collection

“Calico Wallpaper’s Aura Collection reveals these unseen fields,” the company muses. “Drawing on the practice of Kirlian photography, we worked with the experimental design studio The Principals to create an interactive installation that could capture a subject’s Aura. Using conductive sensing, we were able to render the inherent electricity in our bodies and invisible attributes of space visible, and explore the spectrum of Aura’s ever-changing colors. We transformed the resulting images into large-scale wallpapers to create a series of seven colorways that reflect the intangible qualities of energy and light.”

Aura Collection - Anja

Sourced from DesignMilk

The installation in question features panels lined with Aura wallpapers and an interactive chandelier that emits various sounds based on the movements of the people walking directly beneath it. The exhibition debuted at this year’s Sight Unseen Offsite, a show that displays the work of several high-end design studios.

Aura Collection - Saha Aura Collection - Vishu

Some of the Aura collection’s available colorways include a deep indigo that fades into cerulean blue, a muted pink and gold that recalls a sunset disappearing over the horizon, a shimmering lavender, and the dark hues of an approaching storm. Each roll of wallpaper is printed on Type II vinyl, given a Class A fire rating and 10-week lead time, and features custom, non-repeating artwork. If you’d like to take a closer look at a particular pattern before committing to a full-scale print, you can always order an 8 x 10 inch sample.

Aura Collection - Mani

What do these mystic colors evoke for you? When you look at them, do you see human characteristics and emotions or just an abstract beauty that would look great on your walls? According to Calico, “The Aura Collection is inspired by the process of revelation – it translates unseen energies into visual imagery. Each colorway offers a glimpse into a key element of our inner essence, the core qualities that drive and influence us, and connect us to the cycle and flow of the universe.”

Source: http://dornob.com

Decolonization is political action, not an act of historical circumstance.

As an archaeologist who is invested in the project of decolonization, I admit to being wary of its overuse within anthropological discourse to such a degree that it is depoliticized. Decolonization must remain a political project. As Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang succinctly reminded us in the first issue of the journal Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society“Decolonization is not a metaphor.” (2012)

Recently The National Archives (UK) Blog posted a piece entitled, “Decolonising Archaeology in Iraq?” by Dr. Juliette Desplat. Whereas I am a big fan of archival research, in particular Dr. Desplat’s ongoing work on making the archive more publicly accessible through her blog posts, I was a bit perturbed by the generous use of the word decolonizing. Decolonization must be protected as a political act. The use of the word as a descriptor is naively violent if used to illustrate the manner by which bureaucracies articulate themselves in the post-colony — those are not acts of decolonization, more often than not they are in their first instances replications of previous power structures. Decolonization must continue to be thought of and contextualized as a mode of political action that, alongside dismantling colonial structures of power, provides the space for the oppressed to occupy equitable power relations. It is about reparations, it is about social justice, it is about equity, and it is about claiming power socially, politically, and psychologically.

My main concern with The National Archives (UK) post was that it was purely descriptive about the colonial archaeologists working in Iraq, their words/letters/notes, and their petulant reluctance to abide by the new rules. With the focus on description, there was a lack of criticality; for example, any mention of Iraqi archaeologists or inspectors reproduced the dismissive tone found ripe in the archive. This was perhaps unintentional, but still problematic and unacceptable. Replicating racialized sterotypes of the other is ethically problematic, and if it is uncritically presented, it continues to travel through citation embedded within other concerns, like that of excavation and artifact movement. This packaged sensibility will continue to be reproduced, for example in Paul Barford’s blog in which he re-presents Desplat’s work under the title “The beginning of the end of excavation archive partage in Iraq.” The reproduction of her work, once again without a critical lens, just continues the cycle of archival reproduction without any sense that such replication could have contemporary consequences if treated without a context or analysis.

The National Archives (UK) post started with the citing of the 1924 Antiquities act which provided quite a bit of latitude for foreign archaeologists to take back materials to the metropole and museums (the Act was written up by Gertrude Bell in 1922 while she was Honorary Director of Antiquities for Iraq). Upon Iraq’s independence (1933) however, the rules changed and archaeologists were no longer permitted to take artifacts out of Iraq and Iraqi inspectors were required on teams. These new rules caused quite a bit of frenzy among archaeologists and their home institutions (like the Oriental Institute and the University of Pennsylvania among others, see FO 371/16923), with memorandums of concern being written to the Foreign Office, and even a veiled threat by Sir Leonard Woolley who “thought it was a strong statement from the Iraqi government, and one that could discourage foreign expeditions to return to the country.” (Desplat 2017)

Unsurprisingly, the archival record posted on the blog makes archaeologists sound like bratty, over privileged school boys who are only interested in their research and antiquities over and beyond the sovereignty of a nation of people. The archival memorandums posted on the blog illustrate the ways colonial epistemic muscle expected itself to continue to work in the postcolony. The clarity of expectations is the most interesting part of the archival material. If the Iraqi’s were going to make all these demands on foreign expeditions then they themselves had to prove their own modernity in order to gain the respect of the colonists. “George Rendel, the Head of the Eastern Department at the Foreign Office, emphasized the ‘serious injury which [the law’s] adoption would obviously occasion to the cause of archaeology in general’. He also thought that ‘the attitude adopted by the Iraqis in this matter [would] be regarded by many as a test of whether Iraq is really a modern and progressive State’ (FO 371/16923).” (Desplat 2017)

Why must Iraqi’s pass a test of modernity to claim their own heritage? This doomed-from-the-start set up if often how patronizing colonialisms find their way into epistemic foundations of archaeological teaching. How many times have I heard, Why should we repatriate these artifacts to [insert post-colony here] if they themselves cannot take care of them?

This blog post is not read in a vacuum, as concerns related to museums and museum collections are not relegated only to archaeologists. On my screen, the tab next to The National Archive post is an interview of Nicholas Mirzoeff by Inês Beleza Barreiros on BUALA. Barreiros does a great job in bringing together some key insights as questions leading Mirzoeff  to outline and clarify his visual activist agenda which he brings to three main points, “empty the museum, decolonize the curriculum and open theory.” I will not expound on all of what these three points entail, but I bring this up just to say that his idea around emptying the museum is literally just that – all expropriated cultural materials should be returned to their appropriate owners. For all those of us involved in repatriation issues and the politics around cultural property, we know it is not that simple nor as easy, even though it should be — and it is also not a new hot button issue or the theory fad of the decade. It is one that communities world wide have been fighting for since archaeologists started taking their things.

Curiously however, although national shifts in excavation regulations in the postcolony are common, as was the case in Iraq, when it comes to indigenous rights and repatriation, there is a particular form of violence that emerges even within the postcolony. The nation state is most anxious and precarious when confronted with indigenous sovereignty; this is true in postcolonial settings, such as in India, as well as in settler colonies such as the United States. The State then, whether a postcolonial or a settler colony, responds with such violence toward indigenous interests that it permeates all forms of interaction, from military action to scientific research.

I was reminded of the violence of science in a recent book by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh entitled, Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits, in a passage that brought tears to my eyes and profoundly disturbed me, “In his final days, the last Yana Indian begged that his body be respectfully buried. Instead, Ishi’s museum friends dissected him “for science,” shipping his brain to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It sat on a storage shelf for decades in a jar of formaldehyde.” (2017: 14)

This is what makes decolonization imperative and necessarily political. It is not just about a blog post that should not have used the word decolonising in it’s title. It is about recognizing, acknowledging and witnessing the violence that decolonization is a response to. Decolonization is not historical circumstance, it is and must be understood and protected as a political act.

NOTE: I would like to acknowledge and appreciate Morag Kersel for bringing Desplat’s blog post to my attention. I would also like to restate that I think Dr. Desplat’s archival blogging is fantastic, it just needs to be allowed to be more critical. I hope The National Archive (UK) blog can find in itself some allowance for criticality.

Source: https://savageminds.org