“The Illusionists” Elena Rossini’s film: The Emergence of a Global, Standardised Body Image


A couple years ago, I came across Elena Rossini’s Kickstarter campaign for a film titled “The Illusionists”. The film received sufficient backing and has been created over the past two or three years. Last week, Elena Rossini made the film available to backers and soon it will distributed more widely.


The film is comprised of historic juxtaposition images and film-clips that demonstrate not only the sexualisation of the female body in advertising and film but also the emergence of a standardised, global body image. This is most clearly and dramatically shown in the examination of the Japanese pop-group AKB 48.

Rossini uses AKB 48 as prototype for what we can expect if the recent development of the global media, celebrity and advertising continues in the same strides it has over the past few decades. Some bodies will disappear as Susie Orbach, who is interviewed in the film, says, and the Western image of the body that pervades media representation all over the world, will displace other representations of the body. And as the film powerfully shows by referring to the beauty products and their sales figures media representations increasingly have in impact on people’s actual body image and the work they conduct in order to shape their body to simulate the body of the media.

The content of the film also links nicely to current academic discussions about beauty and aesthetic judgement. Whilst in the past aesthetics was often considered as a category dealt with mainly in the arts more recently there has been considerable discussion about “practical aesthetics“, musical aesthetics, and everyday talk about beauty, aesthetics and fashion. The film neatly complements these discussions and the ways in which images of beauty and the sense of beauty change over time. Following Elena Rossini it seems that these changes are often driven by the ways in which bodies are represented in popular culture, including advertising, magazines and film. Further research on the relationship between body images, popular culture and celebrity culture might be interesting to pursue.

Phenomenology-based Ethnography: Special Issue Journal of Contemporary Ethnography #sssi #emca #sociology

ethnography, Phenomenology, publication

Interaction, Organisation & Technology

Two or three years ago, I met Gary Alan Fine, the ethnographer and sociologist who wrote such wonderful books on restaurant kitchens, young orators in high school debating societies, mushroom collectors and many more. We came to talk about varieties of ethnography and one of its German variations: “Phenomenology-based Ethnography”. This form of ethnography pervades German qualitative sociology but is less well-known in Anglo-Saxon sociology. It has been developed by the late Anne Honer and Ronald Hitzler together with other  German sociologists and ethnographers of whom a good number studied with Thomas Luckmann, the famous student of Alfred Schutz, at the University of Konstanz (Germany). Gary Fine wondered whether it was possible to put together a Special Issue and encouraged me to approach the editor of the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Charles Edgley, with the idea. With the wonderful support of Charles Edgley this Special Issue edited by myself and Ronald Hitzler, has now been produced…

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Everyday Aesthetics, Practical Aesthetics

aesthetics, art, interaction, lifestyle, taste

In sociology and in particular interactionist approaches there has recently been lot of interest in ‘everyday aesthetics’ and ‘practical aesthetics’. At the Participations 2015 conference in Basel in June a panel was organised by Saul Albert and Yaël Kreplak that explored how aesthetics and aesthetic judgement feature in dance (Saul Albert @saul; Leelo Keevallik), in the camera-work in TV productions (Mathias Broth), in the installation of art works (Yaël Kreplak) and in the performing arts (Darren Reed). Save for the panel at the Participations conference, there have been various publications that play into these debates: about a decade ago Christian Heath and I published “Configuring Reception”, a paper that introduced “practical aesthetics” as a practice through which people in everyday situations like museum visits produce situations in which they see and make sense of works of art and constitute them as aesthetic objects. Most recently, Lucia Ruggerone and Neil Jenkings published a paper in Symbolic Interaction “Talking about Beauty” in Symbolic Interaction where they examine participants self-reported aesthetic appreciations in relationship to their life-style.