Tiffany Jenkins presents a history of secrecy driven by a thesis which challenges the conventional wisdom of the moment.
Secrets have never been more suspect. Post Snowden, post Saville, institutions which keep secrets are automatically seen as having something to hide, and openness and transparency are seen as the new imperatives. Any deviation from the new orthodoxy of honesty is punished – by exposure.
But the story of secrecy is not as black and white as our contemporary prejudices would have it. For centuries secrecy has been seen to serve a useful purpose. It has protected citizens from the prying eyes of governments, it has protected the feelings of individuals and kept couples together. It has safeguarded professional integrity, and protected the vulnerable from abuse. Have we lost more than we have gained by abandoning our respect for the power and sanctity of secrecy?
The writer Tiffany Jenkins tells the story of how western museums have come to acquire treasures from around the world, but dismisses the idea of righting the wrongs of the past by returning artefacts. The Zimbabwean writer Tendai Huchu believes the west shouldn’t underestimate the impact of colonisation on cultural identity. Ellen McAdam, Director of Birmingham Museums Trust, discusses the pressures regional museums are under. While the art critic Waldemar Januszczak eschews traditional views of Renaissance art, arguing that far from a classical Italian form, its roots are in the ‘barbarian’ lands of Flanders and Germany.
Should repatriation be part of a wider cultural enterprise to re-write our national and imperialistic historical narrative? Chaired by Michael Buerk with Giles Fraser, Claire Fox, Melanie Phillips and Michael Portillo. Witnesses are Dr Tiffany Jenkins, Mark Hudson and Andrew Dismore.
Beauty and the Brain, Radio 4
Dr Tiffany Jenkins asks what our brains can tell us about art. Can there ever be a recipe for beauty, or are the great works beyond the powers of neuroscience?
Tiffany Jenkins argues that we need more judgement about quality in art, culture and life. She says that judgement about quality is unfashionable in today’s art world, and this is a problem. She believes that only by being clear about how judgements are reached, and discussing them openly, can we hope to reach a consensus on a common culture.
On Front Row the sociologist Tiffany Jenkins explains our fascination with bones of cultural and historic significance.
The Front Row debate on arts funding, Radio 4
Are artists owed a living? John Wilson hosts a public debate with dancer Deborah Bull, playwright Richard Bean, economist Philip Booth, commentator Ekow Eshun, sociologist Tiffany Jenkins and an audience at the Hull Truck Theatre to mark the launch of the BBC’s Get Creative campaign and to open a national conversation exploring the relationship between the state and the arts.
How complex maths has broken free of the laboratory and now influences every aspect of our lives. James Owen Weatherall applauds the take-over of the financial world by physicists, Marcus du Sautoy revels in the numbers and Kenneth Cukier explores how big data will change everything from disease control to bargain buys. But the cultural commentator Tiffany Jenkins sounds a note of caution about a world where everything is measurable.
Discussion with Melvyn Bragg, Christopher Frayling, Matt Ridley, and myself, recorded at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle.
Tiffany Jenkins, author of a paper called Dead Bodies: The Changing Treatment of Human Remains in British Museum Collections and Adam Kuper, Professor of Anthropology at Brunel University discuss the acquisition and restitution of human specimens by museums and the changes in attitudes towards them from outside the museum world as well as from within.
Art and climate change. We discussed the films 2012 and The Road, the exhibition Earth:art of a changing world, protest art, and the book The Magnetic North: Notes From the Arctic Circle by Sara Wheeler. Watch the section on the films here, the section on the exhibition, Art of a Changing World, here , and the piece on the influence of climate change on nature writing here.