Why do I find this beautiful?


First, the denial of what iron is, I guess. Such rigid material. Yet it was worked and worked until it answered to an aesthetic sensibility that says ‘Whatever! We like curly shapes!’.


Second, there is an elegance here that, even after so many layers of paint, cannot be undone.


And then there is the fact that this fence -- some fence in some place --is ‘a mere detail’, the kind of detail that usually goes unnoticed. The building that you see shimmering behind this iron fence is in fact an impressive baroque church in Salvador da Bahia. But those churches, well, they can speak for themselves.


In the places where I work -- two anthropology departments at Amsterdam universities -- I encounter a wide-spread conviction that our reports on the-world-out-there can do without beauty. Or if this is not a conviction (for I guess that putting it like that might raise a storm of protest), there is at least an institutional negligence of what it takes to produce beauty. Time. Focused concentration. Freedom to let one’s mind wander. Endless honing and polishing.


Whatever the reasons for the academic disregard of beauty, I’m committed to bring it back in.