Sociology of Spiders

A tiny spider on a centre of an orange wall, in a halo of light

A diminutive spider accompanied by its tiny shadow had me captivated as I pondered the sociology of spiders and fear.

Spiders inspire irrational fright, despite the fact that most spiders can’t harm humans. The small percentage that can are not usually found in our homes and they don’t specifically seek us out for attack. Yet even I overreact at the sight of a spider at home (or in my swag during a recent camping trip!).

Our collective fear of spiders in urban areas is culturally determined, and it far outweighs the risk posed. Spiders feature as focus and metaphor for different types of fears in Western societies. Even amongst educated people, spiders are a source of disgust and anxiety. Why might that be the case?

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Art and About

With handmade goodies, llamas in Newtown, a Mexican mural, and weird commemorative plates, this visual sociology for September 2018 is a doozey! Let’s start with the highlight John Mawarndjul’s work.

Highlight: John Mawurndjul, Lorrkkon 1985-2008

John Mawurndjul, Lorrkkon (1985-2008). These are ceremonial logs that have been hollowed out and painted to honour the dead. 22 September

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Vivid Festival 2018 and Other Delights

The Vivid Festival, which lights up the streets of Sydney over June, is a big feature for this month’s visual sociology for June-July 2018. We marvel at the wonder of an enchanted Cinderella-esque Sociology of Trolleys. We meet a cool watermelon and other creatures along the way. The highlight of the past two months is Dark Emu. Guess who had front row tickets to this vanguard work by Bangarra Dance Theatre?

Dark Emu

Based on Bruce Pascoe’s wonderful and important research into Australia’s pre-history – the agrarian and aquaculture innovation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prior to invasion is the focus of this beautiful dance performance.

“This work cultivates a physical and visceral response to Uncle Bruce Pascoe’s book and our deep Australian knowledge. Whether we embrace it or not, we are this country – we are of the land, the water, the stars & the dark in between. As Australians awaken from a kind of collective amnesia, these are stories, ideas and practices we should all be able to access, learn from and respect… I feel like Australia is ready…. Dark Emu is a sense that we are part of something greater.” – Yolande Brown, co-choreographer.

“We’re told every day that the world is falling apart around us, but maybe if we just gripped onto something that was there before all this, it would ground us a little. Dark Emu reminds us to take a breath and cling to our piece of land.” – Daniel Riley, co-choreographer.

You must experience this work. The choreography and music are stellar. The dancers carry large props to phenomenal effect – from large rocks, to wood that is rearranged into shelter for the women and later fences to entramp them. A dizzying sequence centres on blow flies representing the contempt of the colonisers for the traditional custodians and their land, which they tried to destroy.

Played in Sydney until 14 July then touring nationally.

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Thelma: Film Review

Let me tell you about Thelma, screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival. A young woman, the titular Thelma, has led a sheltered and conservative Christian upbringing in the country. She rocks up to university having never really partied, including no alcohol or drugs, and without experience with dating. While she has a strong bond with her parents, especially her dad – with whom she shares all her deepest thoughts – she is very lonely in her new environment. That is until she meets the vivacious Anja.

As it turns out, Thelma starts to be attracted to Anja, who promptly breaks up with her boyfriend. It seems Anja begins to fall in love with Thelma too. Thelma struggles with self loathing and tries to deny her sexuality and at the same begins to have inexplicable seizures that baffle doctors. Around this time, I was thinking: if I have to watch another ‘internalised homophobia’ horror (oh, forgot to mention it’s promoted as a horror), I’m going to throw my popcorn at the screen. (Except not really as someone would have to clean it up.) But the film goes in an unexpected direction. Continue reading Thelma: Film Review

The Ranger: Film Review

The Ranger is a hark back to 80s horror films. A group of young punks run into trouble during a concert and retreat to an abandoned holiday cabin, inexplicably located deep in an isolated area of a national park. Will they be okay? Highly unlikely. The film was very silly, with plenty of hammy humour and over the top gore. It was fun. 6/10.
It was preceded by a short, The Shopper, directed by Dev Patel and story by Aussie Leigh Whannell. Another slasher flick with dark humour about a seemingly bored housewife who has an emotionally abusive husband. But maybe not for long. Also 6/10.

A Vigilante: Film Review

TW VAW: ‘A Vigilante’ at the Sydney Film Festival is an affecting film about a woman who has survived intimate partner violence and now rescues women and children from violence. Written and directed by an Australian woman, Sarah Daggar-Nickson, it is a bleak but visually arresting story. Sadie (excellent Olivia Munn) lives a solitary existence and accepts little payment for her services. Most of the violence occurs offscreen or it is retold by survivors – the latter is devastating. The group counseling scenes where women share their stories of leaving violence are painful to watch, but told with great love, respect and care. These are common tales but society turns away from this reality. It was heartening that financial abuse was part of the story, as this is one of the many complex reasons women cannot simply leave. The scenes of violence showing Sadie’s husband are harrowing and triggering because the dialogue and cruelty are vivid. As a story of empowerment, it is difficult to reconcile: most women cannot turn to violence to escape violence. In a superhero origin story perhaps the narrative might be seen as an origin story. But the film is not that. It is presented as a hyper real revenge tale. As a feminist statement, however, this ultimately feeds into the cultural expectation that women need to save themselves or be saved, when the fact is that violence against women and children is a structural issue requiring massive social changes. Regardless, the story treats survivors with compassion. I’m ambivalent about its aim and resolution. I’m glad I saw this and you should also watch it. Then read up on the tireless work of survivors, case workers, shelters, and advocates for whom violence and its aftermath is a daily reality. 7/10

The Heroes We Deserve

A handmade market, existential sociology of trolleys, new superheros for the ages – Blackie Blackie Brown and El Jalapeño – plus lots more for the visual sociology of May 2018!

Finders Keepers

Gorgeous afternoon at the Finders Keepers market! Bought lots of handmade goodies from these women makers. 5 May

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Sydney Writers Festival: “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit”

The Sydney Writers Festival had wonderful speakers for the panel, “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit”. This panel doubled as a podcast recording for Pretty For an Aboriginal, facilitated by host Nakkiah Lui (her podcast co-host Miranda Tapsell was in Darwin starring in a new film!). Guests were novellist Zinzi Clemmons, author Aminatou Sow, poet Cleo Wade and editor and author Glory Edim.

Below is a highlights summary of the discussion, and the subsequent input from sociologist and author Flavia Dzodan, whose work, as it turns out, was stolen for the title and impetus of the panel. Continue reading Sydney Writers Festival: “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit”

Dialogue of the Titans

I attended Dialogue of the Titans with Prof Megan Davis and former High Court Justice Michael Kirby. Hosted by the University of New South Wales Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous. “A dialogue between two extraordinary human rights defenders on holding a United Nations Human Rights Mandate.” An excellent event looking at the work of the United Nations as well as the practicalities (terrible travel conditions for all volunteers, which especially restrict members from developing nations).

There was also discussion of why Australia does not have a bill of rights (terrible). Plus why it’s a problem that Australia rejected the Uluru Statement, the outcome of consultation led by, and with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia, which recommended a voice to parliament. Most nations with Indigenous populations have a version of this mechanism that ensures Indigenous people can comment on laws before they’re passed.

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