The October Anthropologist project, ‘Baristas Under Brexit‘ was part of the inaugural Brent Biennial, held 19 September – 30 December 2020.
The team conducted research into the lives of Southern and Eastern European immigrants who worked as baristas in London cafes. The project examined their invisible contributions and how their educational and cultural backgrounds were essential to the carefully crafted café culture in London.
Our interviews uncovered stories about their lives and labour histories, including discriminatory barriers that prevented Southern and Eastern European baristas from using their education and employment skills in London’s labour market. The project ultimately revealed multiple layers of what it meant to be an European immigrant in London today in the shadow of Brexit and in the midst of the global pandemic.
Working with Abäke, a transdisciplinary graphic design collective, our team analyzed and translated the research findings into a series of visual assets using the lexicon of specialist London cafes. Research findings and the visual assets were presented online on 3 October 2020 as a culmination of the project.
The October Anthropologist is a global anthropological consultancy that specializes in conducting anthropological research for a wide variety of purposes: from public art and education to innovation and design. Nazima Kadir, the principal, is an anthropologist with a PhD from Yale who has over 20 years of experience conducting anthropological research and translating the findings interactively with stakeholders. Her book, "The Autonomous Life," published by Manchester University Press, was based on 3.5 years of living and working in a squatters' community in Amsterdam and shortlisted for the BBC Ethnography award. It was featured on Radio 4 and Wired magazine.
Åbäke is a collective established in London in 2000. Much of their work concentrates on the social aspect of design and the strength that collaboration can bring to a project.
Supported by the 2020 Culture Fund.
Baristas Under Brexit: Research Finding Presentation
On Sat 3 October 2020, the October Anthropologist presented Baristas Under Brexit, an exhibition of anthropological research communicated through visual art and music.
The October Anthropologist team conducted research into the lives of Southern and Eastern Europeans baristas in London. They examined their invisible contributions and how their educational and cultural backgrounds are essential to the carefully crafted café culture in London.
From interviews uncovering their lives and labour histories, the findings reveal multiple layers of the immigrant experience in London today. This includes discriminatory barriers that prevent Southern and Eastern European baristas from using their education and occupational skills in London’s labour market.
In this film, the team uniquely communicate the research through art and music. As well as showcase a series of visual assets inspired by the lexicon of specialist cafes created by Abäke, a transdisciplinary graphic design collective. The Migranti, London-based European musicians, perform songs from the 1920s in their original languages that capture the emotional essence of the baristas' stories.
Image courtesy The October Anthropologist and Åbäke, photographs courtesy Hydar Dewachi.