ISSUE 44 : AUTUMN 2001
INTRODUCTION: THE PROJECT OF MASS OBSERVATION
The original Mass-Observation archive
was transferred to the University of Sussex in 1970 as the result of negotiations
between the then vice-chancellor of Sussex, Asa Briggs, and Len England, at that
time Director of Mass-Observation UK Ltd. Set up by Tom Harrisson, the archive
became known as 'The Tom Harrisson Mass-Observation Archive' after his death.
It was only then that Charles Madge re-involved himself in the project, apparently
due to his reservations about working for the government, and M-O's lack of social
KEYWORDS: Dorothy Sheridan, Mass-Observation, Sussex University, Tom Harrisson, Charles Madge
Surrealism can be seen as a formative
influence both upon the origins of sociology in Britain, and upon a war-time and
post-war new realism that was concerned with the portrayal of working-class culture.
This can be seen in the surrealist humour of the original manifesto of Mass-Observation,
'Anthropology at Home'. Madge's 'Bourgeois News', as well as Malinowski's work,
emphasises the importance of surrealist humour as a means of achieving the 'home
coming' of anthropology, in order to gain a new sense of proportion with regard
to our own institutions, beliefs, and customs.
KEYWORDS: surrealism, Mass-Observation, Humphrey Jennings, Charles Madge, automatic writing, documentary film, new realism, surrealist humour, David Gascoyne, modernist poetics, superimposition
Methodological and interpretative
problems contributed to a relative failure of the Mass Observation dream project
to identify 'dominant images'; and, contrary to expectations, the project showed
no evidence that the air-war years significantly affected the British psyche.
Miller argues that dreams represent a form of indirect communication of that which
is repressed in a society, and serve as testimony to forces that remain hidden
in more official forms of documentation, and they should therefore be considered
KEYWORDS: Mass-Observation, Dream Reports, Governmentality, Biopower, Gestalt, The Blitz, Peter Burke, Reinhart Koselleck, Charlotte Beradt, Michel Foucault, The Third Reich of Dreams
A sense of anticipation of modernist
change is recurrent in Charles Madge's poetry, and while he had an ambivalent
relation to modernism, he wrote in the 1930s of his desire to be caught up in
the irresistible current of the new. Madge was capable of conceiving a modernism
joined to mass expression and asserted the historical necessity of socialist realism.
He saw Mass-Observation as a deflection from individual to collective consciousness.
The article also looks at the way time and space are expressed and connected in
KEYWORDS: Modernism, socialist realism, mass consciousness, temporality, Mass-Observation, Charles Madge, May The Twelfth, 'The Disappearing Castle'
Madge's poems are animated by
questions about the persistence of poetry as a meaningful horizon of social being.
This essay explores ways in which Madge's commitment to poetry suggests a revision
of some canonical conceptions of the politics of modernist poetry, and the continuing
relevance of poetry for radical social formations.
KEYWORDS: Charles Madge, 'Of Love, Time and Places', Mass-Observation, historicity, Charles Darwin, ellipse, modernist poetry, Hegel, aesthetic, 'Pandaemonium'
One of the few constants of Madge's
varied career from 1932 to the late 1970s was his interest in the environment
of the working-class home. His work on Mass-Observation, his economic research
with Keynes, and his town planning work as Social Development Officer at Stevenage,
can be seen as part of a continuous development in which each setback is met with
a change of tactics, geared towards the same overarching strategic aim of the
transformation of society.
KEYWORDS: Mass-Observation, Charles Madge, materialism, John Keynes, poetry, home, Social Development, New Towns
Mass-Observation is unjustly remembered
in mainly negative terms by the majority of social anthropologists in Britain,
and largely neglected by postmodernists. However it can be considered the intellectual
predecessor of postmodernism, which replicates many of the original aims and insights
of M-O. Had it been conceived later, M-O might have been better received within
the current heterogeneous and experimental climate of the social sciences.
KEYWORDS: Mass-Observation, surrealism, social anthropology, postmodernism, Bronislaw Malinowski, Charles Madge, Tom Harrisson, Raymond Firth, May the Twelfth
The documentary film movement was
a social democratic project which opposed traditional class and gender structures
by giving voice to the ordinary. Like Mass-Observation, there are issues of verisimilitude,
but it is this subjectivity which, whilst limiting its role as objective social
history, makes Mass-Observation rich in anthropological terms, and makes the documentary
KEYWORDS: documentary film, social history, Ruby Grierson, Edgar Anstey, Arthur Elton, mise en scene, Housing Problems, Today We Live, They Also Serve, Give the Kids a Break, Mass-Observation, Modernity
Looks at the question of observation
and testimony in relation to the diaries kept by volunteer Observers, and the
ways in which these unpaid volunteers (to be contrasted with Harrisson's team
of radical amateur anthropologists) rose to the challenge of providing an 'anthropology
of ourselves'. Focusing on three diarists in particular - Nella Last, Edward Stebbing
and Naomi Mitchison - Jolly opens up the function of diary-writing, both for the
project of Mass-Observation and for the diarists themselves. She explores the
thesis that 'a cultural sociology of writing is part of the logic of M-O itself',
and discusses the current work of the Mass-Observation Archive in this light.
KEYWORDS: mass observation, diarists, Nella Last, Edward Stebbing, Naomi Mitchison
In an article that looks at mass
observation from a different angle, Karen Fang argues that surveillance is the
distinctive characteristic of the city state. In an illuminating account of Hong
Kong cinema before and after re-unification, she describes the inter-relationships
between new technologies of surveillance, law enforcement and the media, and concludes
that Hong Kong is 'the product of a police-entertainment industrial complex'.
KEYWORDS: Hong Kong, cinema, mass observation, surveillance
A selection of