Temporary land: climate histories of the East Anglia fenland
My current research takes as its focus a particular British landscape (the East Anglian fenlands), exploring it from an ethnographic and historical perspective. The Fens are a place where the Protestant Work Ethic has been inscribed on the landscape; labour cuts drainage ditches to bleed the peat, and creates productive land where once there was only feckless and lazy swamp. Or, to listen to the story another way: labour attempts to impose man's will on God's dominion, with disastrous consequences for humans and for other species. The Fens remain a contested environment, represented variously as a natural flood barrier, a carbon sink, a key element in Britain's food security, and a tourist attraction. My work explores how wetland is enclosed as a resource, and examines the politics that surround the kind of resource that it becomes.
As part of the Climate Histories network, I collaborate with other researchers in order to better understand environmental change and climate vulnerability and adaptation from a variety of regional and disciplinary perspectives. In this way, we are able to take a global and long-term view of climate, while remaining rooted in the particular experience of humans in different parts of the world. Out of this research, we are developing collaborations with engineers and land economists in order to build our expertise into policy solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Religious life in an English Benedictine monastery
I also retain an interest in the anthropology of Christianity, and my ongoing research in this area aims to provide an ethnographic account of the institutional life of an English Benedictine monastery. I try to reach an understanding of the different elements of monastic life, especially ritual, mysticism, reading (lectio divina), and work. Fieldwork consisted of a year spent in and around Downside Abbey in Somerset, eating in silence in the monastic refectory, learning to make things in the carpentry workshop, drinking tea, and following the daily cycle of prayer. I view the Benedictine monastery as a continuing experiment in Christian living, and argue that the Benedictine monk takes on the role of the 'virtuoso of ordinary Christian life'.
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Seeing the old tools at the bookbinders when I went to have my thesis bound was like stepping back in time. I couldn't resist taking a few photos. The bookbinders (a father and son team) only accept cash, stitch all work by hand and don't have a computer. As a hobby and a research area, I'm interested in web design, interfaces and typography, and especially how technology affects the presentation of the written word and its distribution. So I'm immediately drawn to artifacts linking literacy and technology.
Those tools have a lot of history; among them coats of arms, crests and Masons marks and many are still in use. It's like an untouched museum and yet a completely functional place in high demand in 2011. On the one hand, as someone who really loves books, I want the tradition to be preserved; on the other, as a student on a budget, hand-binding with gold leaf detailing costs too much, uses far too many trees and should have been made obsolete by the ease of sharing a PDF on the web. I guess it's that conflict that makes it so intriguing as a subject (photographic and anthropological).
Glad you liked the photos.
My apologies, I sent you the incorrect link. There are more organized religions in this township then there are in all of California.
THIS is the Catholic Chapel I meant to send you the link to.
I doubt this church enjoys the history and iconography that has become your explorational prerogative, but it is sublime in it's natural beauty and the architect's desire to incorporate the surrounding environs while maintaining the integrity of an authentic house of worship as per traditional aesthetic sensibilities.
Sorry I missed you in Massachusetts.
James, Allison _Childhood Identities_ Edinburgh UP
Young, Malcolm, _In the Sticks_ Oxford UP
Rapport, N. 1995 _The Prose and the Passion: Anthropology, Literature and the Writing of E.M. Forster_ (Manchester University Press).
Rapport, N. 2008 _Of Orderlies and Men: Hospital Porters Achieving Wellness at Work_ (Carolina Academic Press).
So glad to have your input in Biblical Anthropology Group!
If you have a specific topic that you would like to discuss, let me know.
Alice C. Linsley