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SVA Blog - Society for Visual Anthropology

Aynur Kadir


February 13, 2018

National Association of Student Anthropologists (NASA) Call for Proposals 2018 Meetings of the American Anthropological Association

February 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

The National Association of Student Anthropologists (NASA) warmly invites students to submit abstracts for individually volunteered papers, posters, sessions, roundtables, and workshops to be considered for inclusion in the NASA program for the 117th Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. This year’s meeting will be held in San Jose, California from November 14-18, 2018 and the topic is “Change in the Anthropological Imagination: Resistance, Resilience, and Adaptation.”

Please note the deadline—April 16, 2018 at 3:00 p.m.—for the submission of abstracts for the AAA meetings. A smaller number of proposals for late-breaking sessions will be accepted between August 13 and September 14, 2018, for review by the AAA Program Committee. The AAA meetings website provides a description of the various kinds of proposals that may be submitted. You must be a current member of the AAA and the NASA section and have registered for the 2018 Annual Meeting in order to submit any abstracts to NASA for review.

In keeping with the AAA guidelines, all session proposals will be reviewed by the NASA Program Committee for consideration as invited sessions. NASA encourages prospective organizers of invited sessions to consider co-sponsorship with other AAA sections, and to indicate those potential sections as part of their submission.

As students, we are able to organize our own sessions at the AAA Annual Meetings just as established scholars are, and all AAA student members are welcome to submit abstracts to the NASA section for review. This can help you gain experience in organizing a panel of related papers, presenting your research at a national conference, and networking with other professionals in your field.

Please contact the NASA Program Committee with any questions about proposals:

  • Belinda Ramirez (University of California, San Diego), Chair:
  • Lesly-Marie Buer (University of Kentucky):
  • Peter Lee:

    Applications for AAA Meetings-Related Exemptions and Waivers:

  • Anthropologists outside the U.S. and Canada and non-anthropologists seeking to attend the 2018 Annual Meetings of the AAA may apply for an Exemption of the AAA Membership Requirement. Meeting Registration Fees would still be required. Deadline for submission of applications is March 29, 2018:
  • Undergraduate students may apply to work as volunteers at the AAA meetings and, if accepted, will have their registration fees reimbursed at a later time. Students interested in this opportunity must first register for the meetings, and submit an Application for Student Volunteers in August 2018.
Aynur Kadir


February 13, 2018

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STUDENT ANTHROPOLOGISTS (NASA) Call for Nominations for Officer and Committee Positions

February 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

Call for Nominations for Officer and Committee Positions:
President-Elect ● Secretary-Treasurer ● Newsletter (Anthropology News) Editor ● E-Journal Editor ● Graduate Representative-At-Large ● Undergraduate Representative-At-Large ● Nominations Committee Chair ● List-Serv Editor ● Communications Officer ● Nominations Committee Member

The National Association of Student Anthropologists (NASA) is seeking students who are interested in being nominated as candidates for positions that will be open in 2018. We welcome nominations from both undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in anthropology. While elected positions must be filled by NASA members in good standing, if you are not currently a NASA member we would like to encourage you to join and submit a nomination! Please visit the NASA website,, for information on membership and to complete the brief online application.

NASA’s purpose is to “stimulate and encourage the interests and involvement of both graduate and undergraduate students in anthropology.” Working with NASA is a great way to gain leadership experience, and is an excellent opportunity to network with other students, professors, and professionals in anthropology and related disciplines. Nominees are encouraged to bring and develop their own ideas for how NASA can better serve the interests of its student membership.

The NASA Nominations Committee will form a slate of candidates from the nominees for each position. NASA members will then vote for the candidates in the spring. In accordance with NASA bylaws, nominees, if elected, will serve two-year terms, which will begin in November 2018 at the Annual Meeting, and end in November 2020. The following summaries describe the duties of the open positions:

Officer Positions and Committee Seats

  • PRESIDENT-ELECT: Serves a one-year term as President-Elect, followed by another year as President; is responsible for internal

    communications within NASA; coordinates activities of committees and facilitates NASA’s transition into the following year.

  • SECRETARY-TREASURER: Is responsible for the submission and maintenance of NASA’s annual budget as well as the timely dispersal of meeting minutes and other pertinent communications; ensures both timely communication amongst NASA members and a

    lasting record of NASA activities for future members of the Association.

  • NEWSLETTER (ANTHROPOLOGY NEWS) EDITOR: Is responsible for NASA’s presence in Anthropology News; will solicit contributions

    for the student column in addition to using the column for NASA information dispersal and may from time to time be involved in

    additional NASA information dispersal activities.

  • NASA E-JOURNAL EDITOR: Is responsible for editing and producing NASA’s web-based journal; will solicit articles and work with the

    E-Journal’s committee and the AAA Publications representatives to create and disseminate the journal.

  • GRADUATE REPRESENTATIVE-AT-LARGE: Actively represents all interests of graduate NASA members; solicits new members; attends to student questions and creates student networks throughout the year; effectively disseminates scholarship and

    professional opportunities and traditionally chairs a NASA Committee.

  • UNDERGRADUATE REPRESENTATIVE-AT-LARGE: Actively represents all interests of undergraduate NASA members; solicits

    new members; attends to student questions and creates student networks throughout the year; effectively disseminates

    scholarship and professional opportunities and traditionally chairs a NASA Committee.

  • NOMINATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIR: Posts the annual call for elections; organizes and disseminates election applications and

    information; submits the Nominations Committee’s recommendations for the election slate to the NASA Membership for

    vote (November-January).

  • LIST-SERV EDITOR: Follows announcements/opportunities from a range of AAA list-servs on a daily basis and forwards those

    announcements/opportunities relevant to anthropology students to the NASA list-serv members in a timely manner; updates NASA website calendar with upcoming deadlines for opportunities posted on the list; manages new list-serv members subscriptions and requests to unsubscribe.

  • COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER: Is responsible for the maintenance of NASA’s website; ensures timely external communication to current and potential NASA members and other interested publics via social media; seeks information for the historical record and maintains NASA’s records. (Officer should have basic knowledge of WordPress and/or HTML, or be willing to learn it.)
  • NOMINATIONS COMMITTEE MEMBER (TWO): Works closely with the Nominations Committee Chair and is responsible for coordinating the election of NASA’s officers.

    DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS: Applications must be received by email no later than Wednesday, February 14, 2018.
    HOW TO APPLY: Nominations materials must include a Biographical Sketch and Platform Statement, and must be formatted in accordance with the following guidelines. Please submit your application by e-mail to the Interim NASA Nominations Committee Chair,

Peter Lee, at by Wednesday, February 14, 2018 using “NASA Nomination” as the subject line. Please include the following four (4) items in the body of your e-mail application:

  1. Position you seek to be nominated for.
  2. Biographical Sketch exactly as follows; include bold headings (CVs will not be accepted):

a. FULL NAME (highest degree earned, institution where degree was earned, year degree was earned) Positions held (most recent first): Title, (dates from-to) Name of Institution; Interests and/or Activities: (Limit 3); Significant publications (limit 3 – most recent first): Title, co-authors/editors if applicable, where published, year published.

b. Example:
I. WANNA WYN (PhD, University of Whereiwannabe, 1969) Positions held: Grand Inquisitor (1989-Pres) Search the World Over, Inc.; Leader of the Pack (1978-1989) Wearethebest University; Asst Leader of the Pack (1970-1978) Whimsy College; Interests and/or Activities: ritual, migration, presented paper at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Presenting Papers; Significant Publications: I Didn’t Really Know What I Was Talking About, but Now I Do (with Yule Shirley Wyn, PhD), The Perfect Press, Inc., In Press; “Trust Me, I know what I am talking about” (with Imrunin Aginstya, PhD) Journal of Ultimate Knowledge, 1988.

  1. Platform statement: The platform statement must be approximately 200 words in length. Statements significantly over 200 words will be cut down to 200 words before publishing.
  2. Digital Picture. If available, please provide a digital picture of yourself for the spring ballots.
Kate Hennessy


January 10, 2018

AES/SVA Spring Conference Deadline extended!

January 10, 2018 | By | No Comments

The AES-SVA 2018 Spring Conference deadline has been extended to Friday January 19, 2018, 5pm EST. We apologize for any technical difficulties you may have encountered!

Please consult for updated instructions on how to submit sessions to the CFP portal: .

Aynur Kadir


January 8, 2018

SVAFMF Submissions Open

January 8, 2018 | By | No Comments

The Society for Visual Anthropology screens the best ethnographic films and video productions at our annual SVA Film & Media Festival, held in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting. This gives independent filmmakers as well as distributors broad access to a market of several thousand anthropologists and educators.

Ethnographic film and video defined broadly as works created as the result of ethnographic fieldwork or those which use, are informed by, or illustrate the principles of anthropological theory or methods.

For more information about American Anthropology Associations and its annual meetings, please visit:

Awards & Prizes

The SVAFMF bestows a number of awards each year, including the festival’s highest recognition, the Jean Rouch Award given for collaborative and participatory work. Other category based awards include Best Feature, Best Short, Best Student Film (graduate and undergraduate) and Best Interactive Media (websites, games, installations etc..).

Rules & Terms

(Please read carefully before submitting)

For the past several decades, the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film and Media Festival has screened outstanding work by students, professional anthropologists, and professional filmmakers at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting.

The 117th American Anthropological Association annual meeting and the 2018 SVA Film & Media Festival will be held from November 14-18 at the San Jose Convention Center
San Jose, CA.

In 2017 we received 203 submissions and we accepted and screened 38 films at our festival in Washington DC. In total, 34 hours of programming was accepted.


The SVA Film & Media Festival accepts entries in the following categories:
Shorts – works less than 40 minutes in length
Feature length – works greater than 40 minutes in length
Interactive Media – websites, installations, games (please contact organizers with questions)

While the vast majority submissions are non-fiction, the festival accepts experimental, dramatic, narrative, and other genres as long as they fall within the broad category of ethnographic media as defined in our mission statement.

Special consideration and reduced entry fees are given for works created by students and current members of the Society for Visual Anthropology.

Submissions sent as “student work” must have been completed while the submitter was enrolled in an accredited educational institution. Proof of student status may be requested. Submissions in noncompliance may be disqualified without refund.

Submissions submitted as created by an “SVA Member” must have a named Society for Visual Anthropology member in a key production role (filmmaker, photographer, or director) or as the central narrator/interlocutor in the film. SVA Members may submit films to any category free of charge. Pieces done in consultation with an anthropologist should be submitted as regular films. Submissions in noncompliance may be disqualified without refund.

The festival jury, comprised of anthropologists and film scholars, selects work to be included in the festival on the basis of anthropological relevance and value to the field. Low budget and shorter works receive as careful attention as high budget or longer works.

Filmmakers will be notified about the status of their submissions (via email provided on FilmFreeway) by July 1st.

FilmFreeway is the official and only way to submit entries for the SVA Film & Media Festival. If communicating with us via email at, please always include your tracking number in your email.

Please note that you do NOT need to also register a film/video submission on the American Anthropological Association (AAA) website if all you are doing is submitting a film/video/media production through FilmFreeway. Films and media productions chosen for the festival by the jury will be forwarded by the SVA Festival Committee to the AAA Program Committee.

We invite all makers whose works are programed to attend the film and media festival and conduct a brief Q&A sessions after their screening. However, SVAFMF is unable to provide travel support or accommodations for any of its participating filmmakers.

We encourage academic filmmakers attending the SVA Film & Media Festival to register for the AAA meetings, however AAA registration is not mandatory to exhibit your film (should it be selected) in the SVA Film & Media Festival.

Kate Hennessy


November 23, 2017

The SVA Remembers Richard B. Freeman (1959-2017)

November 23, 2017 | By | 2 Comments

Richard B. Freeman (1959-2017)

Our friend and colleague, Richard Freeman passed away unexpectedly in October, due to complications from cancer. Richard was involved with the Society for Visual Anthropology for at least two decades and was elected to serve on the Board beginning at the end of the 2017 meeting. Richard was an avid photographer and excellent visual researcher, he published in VAR and also notably in the volume Viewpoints (2009), edited by Mary Strong and Laena Wilder. Trained as both a photographer and anthropologist, Richard returned to school and became a librarian, finding a means for combining his passion for anthropology, research, media practice and technology. Since 2012 Richard was employed at the University of Florida as an Assistant University Librarian and the Anthropology Subject Specialist in the Smathers Libraries. There he was able to lend his skills and talents to projects in Oaxaca (with Bill Wood) as well as in Haiti and Miami (with Ben Heblethwaite). Richard was very interested in the role of archiving big data for social science and humanities research, and had recently uploaded his data on Vodou in Haiti and Miami to the Digital Library of the Caribbean, a multi-institution self-upload collection which he eagerly promoted as an example of the future of digital research ( Richard chaired panels and round tables and offered workshops on this topic at national meetings as well as at U. Florida. Most recently he convened a panel on “Data Management for Anthropology in the Digital Age” at the 2016 AAA meetings and was lead editor of a book on the same topic, expected to be published in 2018 (Palgrave).

Over the years Richard regularly attended the annual SVA Visual Research Conference where he is remembered for his insightful comments and supportive nature. This past year he served on the John Collier, Jr Award committee, bringing his critical eye and unique perspective to bear upon the many nominations for outstanding still photography. Richard loved to travel and explore, meet people and listen to music. We could always count on Richard for good conversation on many different topics ranging from his beloved Cubs, anthropology and digital scholarship, photography and camera gear, and his curious and eclectic taste in music from around the globe. His website best reflects Richard’s enthusiastic approach to life, his interests, sense of humor, and his friends (

A remembrance will be held for Richard during the 2017 Visual Research Conference on Wednesday, November 29 at 1:15PM in the Rose Room, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC.

prepared by J. Crowder

Richard chats with Brent Luvaas about his street photography project. Denver, 2016.

Richard engaging with a presenter at the Visual Research Conference in Minneapolis, 2016.

Richard attending the Visual Research Conference in Denver. November, 2015.

Richard sharing his lunch at the Visual Research Conference. Washington, DC. 2014.

Kate Hennessy


November 22, 2017


November 22, 2017 | By | No Comments



Friday, December 1st, 1 – 5pm, SVA WORKSHOP # 4-0770

Location: Marriott, Park Tower 8206

Are you interested in using film for conveying your anthropological research or reaching new audiences? Watch others pitch their projects, think about your own film, learn strategies for funding and distribution and join the discussion.



Six filmmakers have been selected from an open call to pitch their work-in-progress to a jury of funders, distributors and award winning filmmakers. Following a seven minute pitch, each filmmaker will receive feedback from the jury and audience on the effectiveness of the pitch and the substance of the film project – including strategies for visualizing anthropological content and suggestions for developing narrative and structure. Jury and audience awards will be given.

To participate, you must register for workshop #4-0770; $20 student, $40 nonstudent. Use this site for information about how to register (


Alice Apley (Moderator/ Pitch Organizer), Executive Director, Documentary Educational Resources, Co-Director Remembering John Marshall, (2006)

Sarah Elder (Pitch Organizer), Award-winning filmmaker, Uksuum Cauyai: Drums of Winter (1985) – selection National Film Registry (2006), SVA Film Festival Juror, Professor of Documentary Film at SUNY Buffalo, NY.

Ilisa (Lisa) Barbash, Co-director and Producer Sweetgrass (2009), In and Out of Africa (1992). Barbash wrote “Where the Roads All End: Photography and Anthropology in the Kalahari” (2017), co-wrote “Cross-cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Films and Video” (1997) and co-edited “The Cinema of Robert Gardner” (2007). Curator of Visual Anthropology at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Andrea Meditch, Executive Producer, Man on Wire (2008), Encounters at the End of the World (2007), Producer, Grizzly Man (2005) among others. President, Back Allie Entertainment. Developer, Discovery Films and Discovery Channel. PhD in Linguistic and Cultural Anthropology, University of Texas.

David Weinstein, Senior Program Officer, Division of Public Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  He manages grants for films, radio programs, museum exhibits, digital projects, and public engagement. David holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Maryland College Park.  He is the author of The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television (2004) and The Eddie Cantor Story: A Jewish Life in Performance and Politics (2017).



Director / Producer: Jarrod Cann, Co-Producer / Advisor: Dr. Stefan Fiol

Synopsis: LET THE GODS DANCE is a feature-length ethnographic film that follows the life and resilience of a Dalit drummer named Sohan Lal and his family who belong to a marginalized caste of hereditary musicians living in the farmlands of the Himalayan mountains in Uttarakhand, India. Like many drummers from his community, it is Sohan’s duty to invoke ritual possession and dance the village gods, yet he is still seen by most as polluted and untouchable. This film depicts how he and his children endure and resist the narrative that has been placed upon their caste-community for hundreds of years.


Producer: Anna Hedlund,

Directors: Anna Hedlund and Lesedi Rudolph

Synopsis – The documentary explores life in a Hutu rebel camp in the eastern Congo inhabited by the fighters and families of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The film explores the worldview and propaganda spread by FDLR leaders, some of whom played a role in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The film focuses not only on the soldiers experiences of violence, but also their families, all of whom are taught that there was no genocide in Rwanda, uncovering an unexpected truth in the propaganda that they are merely innocent victims of history caught in the middle of a war that was not their doing.


Director & DP: Emily Hong, Producer: Maggie Lemere, Impact Producer: Myanmar-Tsa Ji

Synopsis: Above and Below the Ground tells the story of daring indigenous women activists and rock musicians who come together in the ongoing struggle against the Myitsone Dam and for environmental self-determination across their native Kachinland. Through investigation, protest, prayer, and music, they test the boundaries of tentative democratic reform in Northern Myanmar, and work to create a future in which native peoples have the right to care for and protect their own lands and natural resources.



Director: Veronika Kusumaryati

Synopsis: Set against the turbulent sociopolitical atmosphere of West Papua, the film is a feature-length documentary portraying the lived experience of young Papuans in dealing with their violent past and present, in their struggle with their Melanesian identity, and in their fear and hope of their future under foreign forces’ occupation.



Director, Leila Qashu

Synopsis: This film documents Ateetee, a sung Arsi Oromo women’s indigenous dispute resolution process in Ethiopia through the rituals and conversations with the women who practice Ateetee. Arsi women use Ateetee for several purposes, but principally as prayers for rain and prayers for dispute resolution in the case of gender abuse.



Director: Gwyneth Talley, co-director: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo.

 Synopsis: Binat al-Baroud (or Gunpowder Women) is an observational documentary focusing on the Moroccan women who compete in the traditional, male-dominated equestrian practice known as tbourida. Until now, men wearing traditional clothes, armed with gunpowder rifles, charged their horses about 300 meters before simultaneously firing their rifles in the air. Since 2004, women have become increasingly involved in tbourida performances, participating along with men, and also forming their own groups. The film follows the team captain, Amal Ahamri, one of the first women to start riding in this sport, as she balances work, motherhood, and her passion for horses, and the contradictions that arise within her.

Anandi Salinas


November 20, 2017

VAR SUPPLEMENT: Lucas Bessire on Video Workshops

November 20, 2017 | By | No Comments

The essay “Glimpses of Emergence in the Ayoreo Video Project” describes scenes from a recent Indigenous video workshop in Paraguay, to comment on the forms of perception, imagery, and experience that emerged in the workshop encounter.  The aim of the essay is to write difference through such emergent visual forms in order to craft a larger argument about the visual economies and political lexicons of the present.  Drawing from my first experience participating in a video workshop, it  asks how such workshops may collude with the open-endedness of self and world, to inspire new directions for ethnographic thinking, writing and living.

The best way to further explore the argument is to host a video workshop of your own. Here, I’d like to share some tips for those of you who may be interested in the workshop form, as a site of concrete activity or a thought experiment or both.

  • Gather a small group or groups of people. It may be easiest if you already know each other or share some basic points of reference, but it is not required.
  • Task the group with creating filmic or video imagery that will convey something fundamental about yourselves and your shared worlds to others. You can assign roles, or not. One person can shoot, you can pass the camera around, or all of you can shoot at the same time with multiple cameras.
  • Before shooting, discuss the project until you find a topic, theme, value or question you actually care about and believe is central to who you are as a group. If not, it won’t work.
  • Then, pick a video or film format. It may be easiest to choose a medium that you do not regularly use, or one with an unfamiliar technical limitation, such as Super 8, but any will do.
  • Start with a handful of practice exercises oriented toward representing discrete elements that you anticipate including in your subsequent shooting, such as a character, a process, a color or a mood. After you’ve experimented with your style, then proceed to approaching the topic through sequences and scenes.
  • As your group films, think about provoking and staging as much as finding and revealing. Try to experiment with forms of shooting that use the camera to catalyze, conjure or visualize otherwise latent dynamics, such as the techniques of ethno-fiction, reenactment or docu-fiction.
  • Shoot daily over a span of at least three weeks, if not longer.  It is important to not pre-edit these shoots. Improvise, cover, adjust and save big editorial decisions for later.
  • Screen what you shoot as often as possible, preferably every day or two. If your theme relates to or claims to represent wider communities, include them in these screenings, too.
  • Keep a detailed written journal or diary of the entire process. In it, document your decisions, what is happening, what is surprising or not, and reflect on your role in the process.

Once the workshop concludes, you will probably need a break before you decide if you wish to proceed to editing or not. Regardless, this is a good moment to reflect on the workshop experience by reviewing your journal, and watching some films created in a similar way, as in the case of Ateliers Varan or the stunning work produced by Video Nas Aldeias.  (While some of this work is hard to find, you can stream much of it through many university libraries.) This is also an opportune time to organize a reading group to revisit the questions posed by many visual anthropologists, such as:

  • How does this kind of reflexive video work also become an “art of living,” by troubling, exceeding or enhancing ways of knowing, feeling and relating? Was it fun or not?
  • Did the video workshop intensify any subjective contingencies, expressive possibilities or concept-making energies of your everyday life, or not? If so, how?
  • What, if anything, about your experiment surprised you? Did it destabilize any presumptions you had about yourself, others or the world?  What did it make you think about imagery?
  • What happened when you tried to write about your video experiments?  Which elements of the experience were easily accommodated in the written form of your diary, and which seemed to defy textual limits? What might that suggest about ethnographic genres more generally?
  • Finally, what did you learn about the politics of video making, and its potentials to change social worlds?



Anandi Salinas


November 16, 2017

VAR SUPPLEMENT: Lorenzo Ferrarini on Enactive Filmmaking

November 16, 2017 | By | No Comments

The following activities are designed for undergraduate students and aim at supplementing the article “Enactive Filmmaking” in VAR 33-2 by expanding its themes into a reflection on the role and potential of audiovisual media within sensory ethnography, on the role of the ethnographer’s own experience and on that of technology in mediating its representation.

Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions

Part 1 – Sensory Ethnography analysis

Split into small groups, look at/listen to these sensory ethnography pieces and discuss:

  • The article “Enactive Filmmaking” contains a section on hunting in Burkina Faso and its representation in the film Kalanda (2014). In parallel to reading the text, watch this extract:

    and look at these photographs:

    Can you recognize some of the elements the author was writing about? Do those techniques evoke in you a sense of what hunting in that landscape can be like? What do film and photography do differently? Which aspects of editing, color correction, sound design or photography do you find most suggestive?

  • Watch an excerpt from the film Leviathan by Paravel and Taylor (2012): I recommend 8:34 – 18:47. If the film is not available, watch the trailer:

    What strategies are the filmmakers putting in place? How do they use the camera, what kind of images do they propose? What effects are they trying to elicit in the viewers?

  • Watch one segment of Living the Weather by Lorenzo Ferrarini (2016):

    The film is divided into 5 “variations” of equal length, I recommend #2 starting at 7:55, #3 starting at 15:41 or #5 starting at 31:16.What strategies are used here to deal with sensory experience?
  • Starting from the ideas presented in the article, how do these three different takes on sensory ethnography relate to the representation of the ethnographer’s own experience? How is this related to the subjects’ own experience in each case?
    The article makes some points on sensory ethnography and language. How is this played out in the extra media on hunting in Burkina Faso? What are the differences with the other two pieces and which do you find most effective? Why?

Part 2 – Sensory Ethnography production planning

The article accounts for the process of translating skilled practice and perception into part of a documentary film. This activity now asks you to, in an original and specific manner, do the same for a situation of which you have some experience and in which the sensory aspects are particularly relevant: sports training, crafting, concerts/clubbing, performances, public protests, rituals, or others of your choice.

  • How would you represent the situation in ways that might evoke its sensory experience to people who are not familiar with it? Write a short treatment for a documentary piece, breaking down the relevant aspects that you want to represent.
  • How would you approach representing those aspects? Detail shots types, camera angles and lenses, lighting, color correction, anything that you think could help get those sensations through.
  • Did you remember to cover the acoustic aspects? What sounds would you record and include in the soundtrack of a film? How would you layer them?
  • Look at your list and reflect on the aspects you picked and why you think they are useful to the task of evoking sensory experience. Compare them to the process described in the article and highlight similarities and differences.
  • How could the aspects you selected be relevant to an ethnography of that situation?
    How much of what you represented is only relevant to your experience and how much is shared with others present in that situation with you? How would you integrate their contributions into your piece?

Extra readings

Cox, Rupert A., Andrew Irving, and Christopher Wright, eds. 2016. Beyond Text: Critical Practice and Sensory Anthropology. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Ferrarini, Lorenzo. 2016. “Making Living the Weather.” Online:

MacDougall, David. 2006. The Corporeal Image: Film, Ethnography, and the Senses. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Pavsek, Christopher. 2015. “Leviathan and the Experience of Sensory Ethnography.” Visual Anthropology Review 31 (1):4-11. DOI: 10.1111/var.12056.

Pink, Sarah. 2009. Doing Sensory Ethnography. London: Sage.

Wacquant, Loïc. 2015. “For a Sociology of Flesh and Blood.” Qualitative Sociology 38 (1): 1–11. DOI:10.1007/s11133-014-9291-y.

Anandi Salinas


November 13, 2017

VAR SUPPLEMENT: Jinghong Zhang on Tasting Tea and Filming Tea

November 13, 2017 | By | No Comments

Jinghong Zhang’s article “Tasting Tea and Filming Tea: The Filmmaker’s Engaged Sensory Experience” (VAR 33-2, Fall 2017) explores the difficulty with describing, memorizing and representing the sense of taste. It argues that film can go beyond the limit of describing taste with words to represent and evoke the sense of taste, specifically through the filmmaker’s embodied experience.

Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions

Activity 1 Select one type of food or drink you are familiar with.

Step (1) Describe the smell and taste of this food/drink relying on your memory, and write down your notes. Describe this food/drink again while you are having it. Question: Does your description this time differ from that of last time? Why?

Step (2) Work with another two friends. Let them do the same activities as above, on the same type of food/drink. How much do you three agree or disagree with each other?

Step (3) When your group discussion finishes, have this food/drink once again. Do you tend to more agree or disagree with your friends now? What has essentially shaped your taste sensations and descriptions along the three steps of activities?

Activity 2 Now select one type of food/drink that you and your friends are less familiar with or have never had before.

Step (1) Work with the same two friends. You use a camera to record how they eat the food or have the drink. You describe your evoked sense of taste based upon filming, if there are any. How much does you description share similarities with or differ from that by the two friends?

Step (2) You continue filming with one hand, and join in eating/drinking a little bit with another hand. Keep on communicating with your friends. Upon finishing, could you reflect on which aspect you have had a better focus, eating/drinking or filming? Why?

Step (3) Change positions. Now ask one friend (friend A) to use the camera. You and the other friend (friend B) have the food/drink and are filmed. Compare the taste and smell sensations in three different situations: when one does filming without any tasting experience of the food/drink (you, in step 1 and 2); when one does filming with some tasting experiences (friend A); when one is being filmed while tasting (the three of you).

Questions: How does the use of camera influence your taste sensation? How much is it possible to work on filming and tasting simultaneously? What is a more efficient way for the filmmaker to record a tasting activity while not losing his or her sense of taste?

Activity 3

Watch the footage you and your friends just shot. Watch it four times. Each time focus on only one aspect: 1) vision; 2) sound; 3) touch; 4) taste and smell. Compare your different sensations in different watching. What particular feelings or impressions do you get from the film each time?

Other suggested films for the same activity:

SOMM (directed by Jason Wise 2012)

One short film by Jinghong Zhang, “Tasting Ancient and Modern,” 6 minutes.


Anandi Salinas


October 27, 2017

VAR SUPPLEMENT: Laurian Bowles on Doing the Snap

October 27, 2017 | By | No Comments

Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions

Before reading the article

Bowles argues that “common tourist or journalistic photos” show “African women with a load on her head and a baby tied to her back” (2017:17). Make a brief list of five characteristics of each of these kinds of photographs.

Next, students should peruse promotional materials (websites, your college/university’s study abroad brochures) of nongovernmental organizations, non-profits and anthropology textbooks that focus on Africa and use photographs of women.

Consider the following questions:

  1. How well do these photographs represent similarly or differently from tourist or journalistic photos?
  2. Who is the primary audience for these photographs? What are the goals of these photographs?
  3. What kinds of assumptions do you have as a viewer of these photographs?
  4. What kinds of questions do these photos raise for you about the people presented in the photograph?

Discussion question to answer after completing the reading:

  1. How does Bowles’s work contribute to your critique of these images that you looked at before reading the article?
  2. How successful is the author in bringing greater context to the images that women produced?
  3. How might stories differ between migrant’s families and their friendship groups in Accra?
  4. Porters spend large amounts of time waiting for customers and are expected to move quickly through the market once they are hired. How do these tensions foster creativity narratives? What are some of the ways that porters cope with their boredom?
  5. How does household composition afford women greater work opportunities?
  6. How do porter habits of “doing the snap” help animate women’s labor?
  7. In what ways do the images serve as memory-making devices for porters?
  8. Market women are widely revered in Ghana for their sharp business acumen and financial success. In what ways does Bowles’s study raise questions about who is considered a market woman?

Further considerations:

This next exercise encourages students to think critically about the images they create as part of storytelling practices. The goal is to broaden student’s understanding about the way images foster the circulation of narratives and serve as meaning-making for groups.

Look at the five most recent photographs you’ve taken and briefly brainstorm on the social life of these stories by answering the following questions. Then, make a list of the tags or commentary you made about the photographs if you shared them on social media.

  1. Did you write any tags or comments to the images before you posted?
  2. Do the images have a social life that is not captured in the post information?
  3. How does the structure of an image and the text associated with it produce a particular kind of narrative?
  4. Are there some social significances in the images that are untold in the written text?

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