Lunchtime Talk

Join Eli Elinoff, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, for the second in the Adam Art Gallery’s series of lunchtime talks, devised to elaborate on the histories and uses of the materials and practices Kate Newby draws upon in her full gallery exhibition YES TOMORROW. Elinoff’s talk explores the social properties of one of the most ubiquitous manufactured materials on the planet: concrete.

Known as the “Concrete Bible”, Adam Neville’s nearly 900-page book Properties of Concrete (1963) sought to offer a comprehensive understanding of a material that had asserted itself as one of the most important of the entire century. Though comprehensive in scope, the book has one glaring omission—people. Yet, what could be more social than concrete?

Drawing on examples from an on ongoing collaboration with Dr Kali Rubaii from the Department of Anthropology at Purdue University in the United States, Elinoff explores how concrete shapes social life and how social life permeates through concrete. He will discuss how attention to the social properties of concrete helps us not only understand the social, political, and environmental imaginaries that inform our most seemingly durable infrastructures, but also the ways the contradictions inherent in those visions of the modern world often corrode these structures from within.

Dr Eli Elinoff is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington. He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the intersection of political and environmental change in urbanizing Southeast Asia. He has published work in South East Asia Research, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Contemporary Southeast Asia, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and City. His new book, Citizen Designs: City-Making and Democracy in Northeastern Thailand was published by the University of Hawaii Press in April 2021. His second project, A Kingdom in Concrete: Urban Thailand in the Anthropocene, was awarded a Marsden Fast Start Grant from the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2017.


  • Free


  • Wed 21 Apr


  • 12:00 pm — 1:00 pm


  • Victoria University of Wellington
  • Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
  • Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington, 6012