Wednesday 8 June 2011, 18:43
Editor's note: This episode of Thinking Allowed is now available to listen to on the Radio 4 website - PM.
'Nice to see you in the flesh' said the man in front of me in the Wellcome Collection buffet queue.
'Oh well, it's nice to be here', I said hoping to stave off the usual remarks which follow evidence of my incarnation.
'You're a bit older than I expected' said my new friend, selecting a slice of lemon cake.
'Well', I said amiably 'That's rather what they said when they interviewed me for the job on Thinking Allowed. They said "you've got a good face for radio"'.
My new friend nodded as though he'd heard the joke before and turned to more practical matters.
'You're doing the debate in the big auditorium.'
'That's right', I told him, as we waited for our coffees to gurgitate. 'It's a discussion based on the present exhibition. The one over there in the main hall. "Dirt. The filthy reality of everyday life". '
'What's to discuss?' said my friend.
'Well', I said. 'There's the whole question of how you define dirt. Whether you, for example, agree with anthropologist Mary Douglas that dirt is defined by its inability to fit into customary categories, that it is nothing more or less than "matter out of place".'
I paused while my friend ordered the cold milk to go with his Americano.
'And then, of course, there's the association between dirt and hierarchy and the historical changes in our attitudes to cleanliness and hygiene, and the present-day ecological problems of waste disposal.'
We moved away from the till together and I wondered if it might now seem discourteous to abandon my companion.
'I hope you'll forgive me not being sociable', I said, 'But we record the programme in half-an-hour and I need to write brief introductions for the panellists - for historian Amanda Vickery, anthropologist Adam Kuper and cartoonist Martin Rowson. And I also need to check over my questions. To tell the truth I'm a bit worried about the manner in which the historical and the anthropological perspectives are going to come together: And there's also the slight problem of whether or not to treat the hygiene movement as genuinely progressive or regard it as a movement which can be readily appropriated by groups such as German national socialists who used it as a way to stigmatise "uncleanly others". '
'Well', said my friend 'Let's hope it's a good programme. There's one thing for sure.
'What's that?' I said.
'Whatever happens, you won't be short of words.'
I smiled and looked through the tables for my escape avenue. 'Well, nice to have met you', I said moving away.
'And you', he said. 'Especially in the flesh'.
Join me and my three guests for that discussion at 4pm today or after the midnight news on Sunday or on our readily downloadable podcast. You won't find us short of words.
Laurie Taylor presents Thinking Allowed.
Wednesday 8 June 2011, 07:50
Friday 10 June 2011, 11:15