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Department of Anthropology Seminar Series - Dr Michael Anusas

Our speaker will be Mike Anusas, University of Edinburgh. Also an Associate on the Knowing From the Inside Project. His title is A life surficial: design sociality in the rub

The first of this term’s seminars will be presented at our usual time of 3-5 pm tomorrow, Thursday January 25th. Exceptionally, however, it will take place in the Sir Duncan Rice Library, Floor 7, Meeting Room 1, where it will form part of the programme of a 2-day KFI project workshop on ‘Anthropology and Geometry’.


Refreshments will be served. All welcome! 


Our speaker will be Mike Anusas, University of Edinburgh.

His title is A life surficial: design sociality in the rub 


Here’s an abstract of Mike’s talk:


In this seminar I will present an understanding of social life through an attention to surfaces. This is an approach to considering the social which arises from reflecting on my doctoral fieldwork with product designers. In considering a specific location - an industrial studio and workshop in Glasgow - I will explore how practices of language, gesture, drawing, imaging and making can be understood not as distinct phenomena, but rather as different types of surface transformations. Thus, through the folds of cerebral sentience, flesh, skin, fabrics, materials and media, surfaces rub-up against one another and different sorts of expressions arise. These surficial expressions might emanate energy, exchange matter or cohere into specific sorts of form. Thus, what we regard as socially ascertainable and perceptible is the presence of form; which, for product designers is often expressed through the geometry of the object.  However, such form is not a projection of mind enacted on inert matter, but rather a moment of per-form-ance where sentient and energetic matters coalesce to a degree so as to become communicable. Thus, this discussion delves into the lives of practitioners in a design studio, where surfaces are ever present and meaningful, and hopes to open up a different way of understanding sociality as ‘a life surficial’. This discussion is informed by my work with fellow Aberdeen Anthropology alumnus Cristian Simonetti as we finalise an edited collection on Surfaces: anthropological transformations of body, materials and earth for Routledge. The ideas in this paper are informed by my my recent doctoral thesis Beyond Objects: An Anthropological Dialogue with Design, work with Tim Ingold and the writings of Vilém Flusser and Kengo Kuma. 


Mike Anusas is Lecturer in Design and Media Theory at the University of Edinburgh, having previously held posts at Glasgow School of Art and the University of Strathclyde. He has just completed his doctorate in Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. His work is concerned with how materials, media and forms are socially shaped and how design influences social and environmental relations and structures of power. A key part of this work is a critique of the object, and an exploration of alternative modes of perception and formation through notions of line, surface, textile and energy.







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