Newsletter February 2024

Dear all,

Welcome to our newsletter!

Have a look at what we have in store for you in the first few months of 2024. We have been working hard on putting together our program and as always welcome suggestions from people who would like to organise events at the museum. We are also looking forward to seeing you all (mostly online) but sometimes offline too in the new year!

Fetish and Value

“When I conceived the idea of writing my own ‘Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value’ in the late 1990s, I originally … imagined its appearance would be followed by irate critiques from many of the principals insisting I had got their core arguments wrong, and a flurry of productive debates. Nothing of the sort ensued.” David Graeber (2013) from “It is Value that Brings Universes into Being.”

In this reading group we will process David’s (and his teacher’s) ideas about value into a format accessible to a wider audience.

We will start by reading smaller pieces by David to assemble the conceptual apparatus and learn to shift into his researcher mindset. When we feel ready enough we will progress onto the book itself – “Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value”. Anyone is welcome to bring in the piece they think would contribute.

The group will be led by Stas Kraev. It will begin with a reading of David’s essay “Fetishism as social creativity“.

This reading group will meet on February 1, March 7, April 4 and May 2.

The Virtues of Diogenes, a three-part adventure

A three-part series exploring the societal implications of interpersonal relations through the character of Diogenes and a merry band of legends. The question is, do you have the virtues to succeed at this quest? 

This will be part role play, part reading group where we will be introduced to a handful of real and mythological characters from the period of Diogenes as they meet on a distant island. Bring your imaginations and your best ancient accents to the land of Hercules and Alexander the Great. Will we change history or repeat mythology? Will we discover utopia or encounter beasts? Will it all be about men and horses, or will we decolonise these legends? 

In this first session Anni will present her paper ‘A developmental perspective on social status: children’s understanding of hierarchy in Nanjing and London’ followed by a discussion where we will explore how power emerges through interpersonal relations in different contexts. This will provide key material to guide us in exploring the world of Diogene’s philosophy epitomised in the tale of when he met Alexander the Great. One can interpret this tale as reflecting Graeber’s argument that “the focus on hierarchical systems in anthropology has come at the expense of attention to interpersonal status dynamics” as Anni has noted in the opening of her paper which addresses this challenge. We will then conclude the session by being introduced to the world of Diogenes, some key characters, their virtues and the landscape in which they are living. Drawing on his doctoral reading of the archaeological and historical record of the period Diogenes was said to live in, Avi will facilitate attendees to add the final touches to the historical and mythological world of Diogenes.

This event will be held online on February 8, March 21 and April 11 at 20:00 (London time).

David Graeber’s Birthday: Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

On David Graeber’s birthday, this reading group will reflect on Graeber’s most widely read book, Fragments of An Anarchist Anthropology. The meeting will be hosted by James Schneider.

This event will be held online on 12 February, 2024 20:00 (London time)

Bullshit Jobs, Part 4

Is your job killing you? Do you feel the crush of spiritual violence when at work? Are you a duct-taper, box-ticker, taskmaster, flunky, or goon? We’ve got the place for you. Join us. Bullshit Jobs: A Reading Group, where your humanity will be restored.This event will be held online on 15 February, 2024 20:00 (London time)

Pedagogies of Care

Hosted and curated by Andris Brinkmanis, senior lecturer and the course Leader of BA in Painting and Visual Arts at NABA in Milan and Visiting Professor for the Art Academy of Latvia Curatorial Course, this series of encounters will be designed around the legacies of historical figures – from Francisco Ferrer Guardia, Asja Lacis, Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin, to Ivan Illich, Palle Nielsen, bell hooks and David Graeber, among others. Be it theatre, art, anarchist thought or anthropology, many of these important personalities shared common aspirations. 

What contemporary practices align with this historical lineage and trajectory, aptly coined by Illich as ‘deschooling’? Contemporary actors such as The Freedom Theatre in Palestine, Grupo Contrafile in Brazil, but also indigenous communities and activist groups, are examples that will help us to understand and locate those contemporary ‘pedagogies of care’ in action, which also go well beyond this very complex and problematic notion. 

What do these true educational resources, from which we may learn collectively, have in common and how do they differ from the mainstream pedagogical approaches based on competition, separation and control? When and with the help of which tools can active care become a communal social and political instrument, providing voice and agency, rather than depriving of it? How can notions such as attention, observation, dialogue and listening become key strategies leading towards the creation of new shared ontologies, opening up new scenarios and providing different horizons? 

This series of talks will explore the topic in collaboration with invited guests as well as the community around the David Graeber Institute.This event will be held online on 29 February, 2024 20:00 (London time) and then on the last Thursday of each month. 

Housekeeping Committee

This is a group of people who assist room curators in taking care of their rooms. If you have the time and interest to help someone realize their vision, their educational efforts, please join us. Write us an email if you want to join in. The next one takes place on 28 February, 2024 at 18:00.

Past events at the David Graeber Institute 

Michael Hudson’s talk

Our reading group on Michael Hudson’s ‘The Collapse of Antiquity’ finished up with a very special guest – Michael Hudson himself! Keep an eye out on our social media for the videos.

Bullshit Jobs, Part 3

The Bullshit Jobs reading group continued in January. We had some special guests and discussed critical stances on the book.

Vygotsky, Play and Experience

Kyrill Potapov gave a short intro to the thought of Vygotsky and we discussed “On the Problem of the Psychology of the Actor’s Creative Work.“

Upcoming events at the David Graeber Institute 

Seminars of Care

Elke Krasny and Nika Dubrovksy will continue Seminars of Care in February 2024. Following the first session of Seminars of Care on November 19, The David Graeber Institute will continue the series with the second session on February 24, 2024 at 18:00 (London time). The meeting will explore Marxist feminists’ analyses of caring labor and David Graeber’s proposal to integrate it all into a new form of labor theory of value together with Silvia Federici, renowned scholar, teacher, and feminist activist. Federici’s most famous book, Caliban and the Witch, has been translated in more than 20 foreign languages, and reconstructs the history of capitalism, highlighting the continuity between the capitalist subjugation of women, the slave trade, and the colonisation of the Americas.

See you soon, 
Your Museum