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All Announcements Archives - Society for Visual Anthropology

Aynur Kadir

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June 23, 2017

Tattoo(ed) Histories: Transcultural Perspectives on the Aesthetics, Narratives and Practices of Tattoo

June 23, 2017 | By | No Comments

What is known today as tattooing in Euro-American societies was encountered during colonial encounters and was introduced to Western European/North American societies by sailors and missionaries who had travelled to Polynesia and Japan. Preserved skins and ancient artworks reveal, however, that tattooing practices date back to ancient history and have been practiced around the globe.

In the early and modern history of the tattoo in Euro-American societies, it was mostly members of lower classes and subcultures who were tattooed, for example criminals, soldiers, sailors and prostitutes. As a result, tattoos were commonly defined as ‘savage’ and/or stigmatized, and were marginalized and deemed indicative of a person’s low social status. This also affected colonized people who were labeled ‘backward’ due to their tattooing practices. People holding powerful positions often branded prisoners, i.e. enslaved people, as a way of exercising power and control over ‘unruly’ bodies (Caplan 2000).

Over the course of the twentieth century, particularly since the 1950s, the popularity of tattoos has been growing worldwide. For example, European youth cultures started to refer to tattoos as marks of difference and resistance to fashion in the 1990s. In this context so-called “tribals” became popular images, which engage and reproduce primitivist discourse (Klesse 2000). Today tattoos and tattooed bodies seem to be omnipresent among a variety of social groups and can no longer be considered marginal appearances.

Although fashion and anti-fashion are common incentives for tattooing, motivations indeed are manifold: to decorate, assign or achieve a specific social status; to define group insiders and outsiders; to express and create identities; to heal, protect or divert spirit attacks. Tattooing may be considered as a means to reduce the permeability of the body and to reinstate boundaries of self and other, individual and society (Turner 2007).

Not only tattoo images are important in these contexts, but so are the process and practice of tattooing. In some societies, the relevance of tattoo is based on its being a proof that a specific ritual has been conducted. In others, tattooing is not considered as an individual practice and group tattooing is a rite of passage that creates group identity through shared pain experiences. Different stages of tattooing have to be taken into consideration when approaching tattoo, as suggested by Alfred Gell (1993). Tattoo narratives in such contexts may become part or constitutive of a person’s or group’s (oral) history.

Chapters in this edited volume will analyze the relevance of tattoos in the construction of socio-cultural bodies, lives and histories, both among individuals and groups, in the past and at present. As the editors seek to overcome a Eurocentric and North American bias in the study of tattoo, contributions from a diverse range of disciplines and research contexts are welcome.

Questions that the edited volume might address include, for example:

  • How do tattoo images and practices facilitate representations of self and other? How do they performatively (re)create biographies and histories?
  • How are tattooing experiences narrated and tattoo images discussed?
  • What do tattoo aesthetics and practices reveal about the often separately used categorizations of life-writing and life-imaging?
  • How does the permanence of tattoos affect the socio-cultural construction of bodies and histories? Do tattoos maybe even challenge ideas of permanence and continuance?
  • How are images and practices of tattoos linked to other modes of body modification, such as piercing, scarification, branding, cutting, binding or cosmetic surgery?

We are looking forward to receiving relevant paper proposals from a wide range of theoretical positions and disciplines. We invite proposals of ca. 300 – 500 words, a tentative title and a short biographical note of the contributor(s) as a single pdf before August 31, 2017. Please send proposals and inquiries to the following address: s.kloss@uni-koeln.de (Dr. Sinah Kloß, University of Cologne). Accepted contributors are expected to submit their full chap­ters of 6000 – 8000 words by February 28, 2018. The edited volume will be submitted for publication to a major academic publisher in early 2018. Routledge has expressed interest.

 

Contact Info:

Dr. Sinah Kloß

Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies
University of Cologne
Albertus-Magnus-Platz
50923 Cologne
Germany

Contact Email:
Kate Hennessy

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May 4, 2017

Announcing the 2017-2018 SVA/Robert Lemelson Fellows!

May 4, 2017 | By | No Comments

Congratulations to our inaugural cohort of the SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellows! 

  • Donagh Coleman (UC Berkeley, joint UCSF program), “Tudam Death and the Tibetan Ontological Body”
  • Saudi Garcia (New York University), “Visualizing Dominican Blackness: Digital Media Infrastructure and Insurgent Black Consciousness in Santo Domingo”
  • Camilo Leon-Quijano (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales), “Photographic Commitment: Exploring Rugby-women’s Empowerment Through Multimedia Approaches”
  • Page McClean (University of Colorado, Boulder), “Conectividades: The Social Life of Chile’s Southern Highway”
  • Steve Moog (University of Arkansas), “Behind the Scene(s): Collaborative Visual Ethnography in Indonesia’s Do-it-yourself Punk Rock Scene”
  • Reese Muntean (Simon Fraser Univesity), “Virtual Reality Documentation of Salak Yom: Crafting 3D & Virtual reality Applications to Communicate Traditional Knowledge & Cultural Values”
More information on the SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation here: LINK
Aynur Kadir

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April 5, 2017

SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship Program 2017-2018

April 5, 2017 | By | No Comments

Fellowship Details and Application Instructions

The SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowships are designed to provide graduate students working in the field of visual and multimodal anthropology with funding to pursue exploratory research for planning their doctoral dissertation research and/or methods training to prepare for their doctoral dissertation research. Research projects supported by the funding should have the potential of advancing the field of visual anthropology. Normally, fellows receive their awards after their first or second year of graduate training as they begin to develop their dissertation research projects. We expect to award up to six fellowships in 2017 with each fellow up to an amount of $6,000 depending upon need. Of the total amount granted, up to $2,500 may be used for video/film equipment.

Eligibility:    

o   Fellowships are open to all graduate students without regard to citizenship or place of residence.

o   Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate program at the time of application and during the period of the fellowship.

o   Applicants’ proposed research must be in the field of visual anthropology, broadly defined, but they do not need to be students in departments of anthropology.

o   Applicants cannot have completed more than four years of graduate education, including all institutions that they have attended.

o   Applicants must be current members of the Society of Visual Anthropology (SVA), a section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as of April 25, 2017.

Details on joining the AAA and the SVA can be found at www.Americananthro.org. (Note: If the applicant is not a current member, we suggest submitting the membership application well in advance to be sure that the membership is current by the deadline.)

The funding cannot be used to collect data for the fellow’s master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Fellows are prohibited from accepting the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship in conjunction with any other summer or research funding for the same projector over the same time frame as the proposed research supported by the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship.

All fellows are required to attend the 2017 AAA Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, D.C. (November 29-December 3, 2017).

Permissible Uses of Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship

Funding: Financial support can be requested to support all travel expenses, including airfare, ground transportation, and visa application fees; living expenses and housing; fieldwork expenses such as gifts for participants, translator and field assistant fees; and all other reasonable and justified expenses. Funds may not be used to pay for graduate school tuition. Budgets must include financial support up to a maximum of $600 to attend the 2017 AAA Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, D.C.

Funding cannot be used to support language training in more commonly taught languages, such as Spanish, French, and Arabic. Some funding can be used to support language instruction for languages where formal instruction is limited, but the focus of the project should be on pursuing exploratory research rather than strictly language instruction. Funding can be used for methods training, but the methods in question must be tied directly to the larger research project and it will be this project that is the focus of the selection committee’s review. Proposals for general methods or statistical training, for example, are unlikely to be funded. We expect to fund proposals between $3,000 and $6,000. You may request a larger amount than the stated limit, but it is very unlikely that an award over $6,000 will be made.

Application  components:

(1)  Application form: Download the fellowship application form from the Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship website,or from here.  complete the form using Adobe Acrobat or Reader, and save it with your last name in the title.

(2)  Project statement: In 750 -1,000 words (excluding references), please describe the specific research activities or training that you will carry out with support from the SVA/Robert Lemelson Foundation Fellowship. Explain in detail how you will use your time, including any preliminary data you will collect and analysis you are considering. Please specify the ways in which this preliminary research and/or methods training has the potential to make your dissertation research more successful. Please indicate whether you have ever spent time in the field site in question. If so, please indicate the length of time and experience you have there, and how this bout of research will be different from previous visits. Finally, your proposal should specifically address how your research program has the potential to advance the field of visual/multimodal anthropology. The statement should be single-spaced, and use a 12-point font and one-inch margins on all sides. Any references included should be narrowly focused, and should not exceed 300 words.

(3)  Brief curriculum vitae: In one single-spaced page, provide details on your education with dates of enrollment; any research funding, fellowships, and awards you may have received, including amounts and dates, and any academic publications and presentations you may have completed. Include details on prior employment, volunteer work, and other experience only if it is directly relevant to the proposed research. Other information, such as teaching experience, should not be included.  

(4)  Budget and budget justification: In one single-spaced page, provide a detailed and specific budget with justification for the items and amounts included. Justification should include mention of how costs were estimated. Your budget must include support up to $600 for attendance at the 2017 AAA meetings, and this amount can be listed as a single item in your budget.

(5)  Letter of recommendation: Applicants must obtain a letter written in support of their application from a faculty member familiar with their work and research aspirations. Normally, this will be the chair of the student’s graduate research advisory committee. Please provide the attached information sheet to the individual who is writing the letter. It is the applicant’s responsibility to be sure that the letter is received by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Only one letter of recommendation will be accepted.

Deadline and submission details:

Deadline for application submission: 5 pm EST on Tuesday April 25, 2017

Your application should consist of only two files: (1) a PDF of the completed application form (section #1 above), and (2) a single PDF file that includes sections #2 (project statement and references), #3 (curriculum vitae), and #4 (budget and justification). Please include your last name in the name of both files. To submit your application, please email both files as an attachment to the SVA’s President, Stephanie Takaragawa (takaraga@chapman.edu) by the deadline. Applications received after this time and date will not be reviewed. We expect to contact awardees by the end of April, and hope to contact all applicants by May 1, 2017. Please contact Stephanie Takaragawa with any questions or if there are any changes to your application, such a receipt of other funding. 

2017-2018 SVA/RLF Fellowship Application Form

Aynur Kadir

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March 4, 2017

The Kenneth W. Payne Prize for outstanding anthropological scholarship by a student on a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered topic

March 4, 2017 | By | No Comments

The Kenneth W. Payne Prize

 

for outstanding anthropological scholarship

by a student on a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans* topic

 

call for submissions

deadline for submission: June 1, 2017

 

The Kenneth W. Payne Student Prize is presented each year by the Association for Queer Anthropology (AQA) to a graduate or undergraduate student in acknowledgment of outstanding anthropological work on 1) a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans* topic, or 2) a critical interrogation of sexualities and genders more broadly defined. The Prize includes a cash award in the amount of $500. Submissions are encouraged from graduate or undergraduate students in any of the four fields of anthropology. To be eligible for consideration, work should have been completed since June 2016 and while the applicant was still enrolled as a student. Research papers as well as visual media (e.g. documentary film) are eligible for submission for this competition. Papers should be no longer than 40 pages, double-spaced, and typed in 11 or 12 point font; published papers or works accepted for publication will not be accepted for review. Visual media should run no longer than 60 minutes; media projects already under contract for commercial distribution will not be accepted for review.

 

THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS IS JUNE 1, 2017. Submit an electronic copy of the print submission as a Word (*.doc) or RTF (rich text format or *.rtf) attachment to payne.prize@gmail.com on or before the indicated deadline. Visual media projects should be available for download from an accessible website; send an email to payne.prize@gmail.com identifying the visual media project and indicating its accessibility. In either case, include with your email message a statement showing your intent to enter the 2017 Kenneth W. Payne Prize competition, and a 100-200 word abstract. Include your name, address, department and university, telephone number, and email address in the body of the email; in addition, indicate the stage of your graduate or undergraduate work at the time the submission was developed. You will receive a confirmation email that your submission has been received within a week of its receipt. Please only send duplicate copies or emails if you have not received a response after two weeks.

 

The committee intends to organize a roundtable from outstanding Payne Prize submissions at the 2017 annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Submissions will be judged according to the following criteria: use of relevant L/G/B/T/Q and/or feminist anthropological theory and literature, potential for contribution to and advancement of L/G/B/T/Q studies and our understanding of sexualities worldwide, attention to difference (such as gender, class, race, ethnicity, nation), originality, organization and coherence, and timeliness. The award will be presented to the winner at the AQA Business meeting during the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (Washington, DC) November 29 – December 3, 2017.

Members of the 2017 Payne Prize Committee: Brooke Bocast (University of the Witswatersrand), Michael Connors Jackman (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Tayo Jolaosho (University of South Florida – 2017 Payne Prize Committee chair), Richard J. Martin (Harvard University) and Shaka McGlotten (Purchase College-SUNY).

Kate Hennessy

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December 22, 2016

Announcing Writing with Light – an anthropological photo-essay initiative

December 22, 2016 | By | No Comments

Writing with Light is an initiative to bolster the place of the photo-essay—and, by extension, formal experimentation—within international anthropological scholarship. As a collaboration between two journals published by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Cultural Anthropology and Visual Anthropology ReviewWriting with Light is led by an editorial/curatorial collective that aims to address urgent and important concerns about the sustained prominence of multimodal scholarship and how that changes what anthropologists can and should see as productive knowledge. This initiative addresses as a central concern the development of appropriate criteria for evaluating these forms of multimodal scholarship. By focusing on the singular form of the photo-essay, we aim to interrogate the synergistic combination of images and words, while also considering the photo-essay’s narrative affordances and its capacity to go beyond storytelling. In sum, we believe that focused attention on the photo-essay might help us to rethink a broader array of anthropological questions regarding issues of mediation, representation, methodology, etc. and and potentially shift how anthropologists conceive of the discipline itself

For submission guidelines, please visit: https://culanth.org/photo_essays
Aynur Kadir

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November 27, 2016

InDigital Latin America Conference II

November 27, 2016 | By | No Comments

March 16-18, 2017 Save the Date

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InDigital Latin America Conference II

                                                                      Media as Witness: photograph by Krakrax Kayapó, 2015.

Location: Vanderbilt University Campus, Nashville TN.

Co-Sponsored by Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University

 

Indigenous Engagement with Digital and Electronic Media

The study of Indigenous media is a relatively new and rapidly expanding field combining innovative research in anthropology with theoretical perspectives from media studies. Currently the field is evolving at such a “dizzying” rate that it is nearly impossible to keep track of all the innovations, novel applications, and sociocultural impacts transpiring. We invite researchers and media makers to join us to share and discuss these rapid changes in Indigenous media with a focus on Latin America.

 

Call for Abstracts

untitled0000We are interested in a variety of topics and approaches (ranging from viewer/user agency to media effects), including, but not limited to how different groups may engage and be impacted by media as they:

 

  • Watch, interpret, or create television messages
  • Fashion, comprehend, and interact with radio texts
  • Construct and view their own cultural representations on film and upload them to the Internet
  • Build websites to archive culture materials
  • Construct social networks in cyberspace among themselves and other groups
  • Utilize cell phones to not only communicate but also film in culturally appropriate manners
  • Preserve disappearing languages
  • Encourage intergenerational dialog and cultural transmission
  • Record events for political leverage
  • Explore new marketing or consumption opportunities
  • Are simply expressive and creative in conceptualization of cultural identity through media

 

Keynote Speaker: Amalia Córdova (Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s Film and Video Center and New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies)

Conference discussants: Elizabeth Weatherford (Smithsonian) and Faye Ginsburg (NYU)

 

We welcome presentations on:

     Institutional analysis of Indigenous media (e.g. the evolution of traditional and new spaces and platforms for expression of Indigenous concerns, the impact of transnational networking with other Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples);

 

     Textual analysis (e.g. content analysis of themes, genres, representations, as well as current thinking on authenticity of Indigenous media in terms of hybridity and indigeneity); and

 

     Audience/reception studies (e.g. the dynamics of media engagement and consumption in local communities in terms of technological constraints, issues of ownership and access, signification of technology as material object and communication modality, displacement of public activities, creation of new habits of spectatorship, and impact upon worldviews).

 

 

Several special sessions are planned to:

Showcase Indigenous films (screenings by Kayapó filmmakers and others)

Explore the emergence of hybrid music forms (including performances of Kaya-pop and Mayan hip-hop)

Commemorate the contributions of the late Terence Turner to Indigenous Media

Explore the emergence of a Pan-American Indigenous media exchange (the Inuit-Latin American connection).

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Kiabieti Kayapó (left) and Terence Turner (right)

at InDigital Latin America I, 2015

 

Registration and Transportation/Lodging information may be found on the conference website.

my.vanderbilt.edu/indigitalconference2017

 

For more information, please contact Richard Pace

richard.pace@mtsu.edu

 

Aynur Kadir

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November 10, 2016

LIVE Broadcast Premiere of “T​ashi’s Turbine”​ on PBS WORLD Channel

November 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

With wind, there is light in darkness. The remote Nepalese village of Nyamdok is without electricity, and therefore the residents suffer without light and the life that comes with it. Friends Tashi and Jeevan are on a mission to build wind turbines with what limited resources they have in the harsh conditions of the Himalayas so that opportunities are created for the community. Will the lightbulb flicker on? A mitabh Joshi’ s “ Tashi’s Turbine” premieres on #DocWorld Sunday, Nov. 13 at 10/9c, only on WORLD Channel. #TashisTurbine http://bit.ly/DW_TTurbine

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Stream the premiere of TASHI’S TURBINE via WORLD Channel’s Facebook this Sunday, November 13th at 10/9c. Joining us will be filmmaker Amitabha Joshi and special guest Tashi Bista — they’ll be answering your questions throughout the live stream.

TASHI’S TURBINE is a Vacant Light production. The film is funded by the Center for Asian American Media, through support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Aynur Kadir

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November 10, 2016

A PITCH SESSION FOR ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMMAKERS: DEVELOPING YOUR STORY, INTEGRATING YOUR RESEARCH, FINDING FUNDING AND DISTRIBUTION

November 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

REGISTER NOW for NEW SVA WORKSHOP at AAA!

THURSDAY, 11/17, 1 – 5pm, SVA WORKSHOP # 3-0700

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.

 

Workshop: A PITCH SESSION FOR ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMMAKERS:

DEVELOPING YOUR STORY, INTEGRATING YOUR RESEARCH, FINDING FUNDING AND DISTRIBUTION

 

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.

Following the Pitch session, Leslie Aiello, from the Wenner-Gren Foundation will make a brief presentation about the Fejos Ethnographic Film Fellowship.

To participate, you must register for workshop #3-0700; $20 student, $40 nonstudent

JURY

Alice Apley, Executive Director, Documentary Educational Resources (DER)

Sarah Elder, Director, DRUMS OF WINTER; Prof. Doc. Film, SUNY Buffalo

Seth Kramer, Director, THE ANTHROPOLOGIST, Ironbound Films

Camilla Nielsson, Filmmaker/Anthropologist, Director, DEMOCRATS

PITCHING PROJECTS

THE BURNING: AN UNTOLD STORY FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIGRANT CRISIS

Writer/Director/Producer/Editor – Isabella Alexander

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Synopsis – This character-driven documentary follows the journeys of Phino, Yasmineno, and a boy called Bambino. It invites audiences inside a hidden refugee crisis unfolding on the other side of Europe’s borders. Morocco is the primary crossing point for all Africans fleeing war and poverty in their home countries, but for the past decade, Europe has been working against international human rights conventions to mold Morocco into the final destination for all African migrations north. Brutally beaten back by guards at every attempted crossing, hundreds of thousands who have burned their pasts in hopes of a better future now find themselves trapped only miles from their dream.

 

»PLAGUE OVER DENMARK«

An ethnographic film about radicalization, contagion, and healing with Danish Muslims at the Grimhøj-mosque

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Directed by: Christian Suhr

Produced by: Persona Film / Eye & Mind

Synopsis: Between 2009-2012 I studied and filmed the healing practices of Muslims in my hometown Aarhus, Denmark, not knowing that only few years later the community would be described by politicians at the highest level of government as “a plague over Denmark,” “a dark Islamic force,” “a violence- and death glorifying cult,” “who preaches messages about hatred,” and who “spreads messages which aim at undermining our democracy.” This film is about the spread of hatred and fear; about conversations that should be possible, but seem increasingly impossible; and about how Feisal, Abu Bilal, and Abu Hassan—three of my closest informants—manoeuvred through the last seven years of escalating religious and political turmoil.

 

THE MAKING OF A KING

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Director/Producer: Nicole Miyahara

Synopsis: The Making of a King explores the relatively unknown subculture of drag kings in Los Angeles during the height of drag queen popularity. Although drag queens are widely known and largely accepted, drag kings are also artists who question gender and notions of societal norms with their performances. They are fighting for equal pay and showtime within their own drag community.

 

BADZU VILLAGE

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Director: Tami Blumenfield

Synopsis: In southwest China’s Na villages, families that once stayed together in matrilineal, multigenerational households are now splintering into multiple smaller family units. Many family members spend time working outside these villages, a phenomenon that creates numerous tensions and challenges for the younger generations as they strive to find their own path. Badzu Village explores how members of one family are navigating this shifting terrain, drawing on close relationships between the anthropologist-filmmaker and several generations of women in the family to offer a deeply personal window into their lives.

 

MIGRANTI DI DENTU, MIGRANTI DI FORA (MIGRANTS FROM WITHIN, MIGRANTS FROM AFAR)

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Director: Francesco Dragone, Produced by Awen Films in collaboration with Kriolscope

Synopsis: Migranti is an ethnographic documentary examining complex issues of race, class and belonging in the context of migration in and from Cabo Verde. By following the stories of three migrants, Evandro a Cape Verdean fisherman who migrates from Fogo Island to Santiago Island, Mamadou, a Senegalese who settles in Cabo Verde working as a tailor and Alcindo, a native from Praia, the capital city of Santiago Island who migrates to the US in search of better life conditions, this documentary attempts to analyze their crisscrossing migratory routes.

 

 

TO LOVE A RAT

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Producer/Director: Darcie DeAngelo

Synopsis: This project portrays the story of explosive detection rats and their handlers learning to de- mine. It takes place in Cambodia, a country contaminated with millions of landmines and follows an underfunded NGO, APOPO, that implements rats as new biological technologies for landmine detection. The videos reveal the process of learning a new technology when the technology in question is an unpredictable and, sometimes unwilling, animal. The project’s significance lies in its story of co-species learning and friendships when stakes are fatally high.

 

Aynur Kadir

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October 25, 2016

Master Class & Workshop with Director Camilla Nielsson (4-0320)

October 25, 2016 | By | No Comments

Master Class & Workshop with Director Camilla Nielsson

Friday November 18, 9:00 am-12:00 pm

 Location: Minneapolis Convention Center, Room: 205B
Abstract:
The Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) is offering for the first time a “master class”/workshop for students and early career filmmakers. Inaugurating what the SVA hopes will be an annual event, the master class/workshop will this year be offered by Camilla Nielsson (Upfront Film, Denmark), anthropologist and director of the award-winning documentary “Democrats” (2014). Nielsson will give a 2-hour master class on documentary filmmaking strategies, including concept, story and development, production and postproduction, and how best to convey anthropological intent throughout the filmmaking process and final product. The master class will be open to both SVA and non-SVA members in the early career or student category.
Learning Objective 1:

develop film ideas and concepts with anthropological intent that work!

Learning Objective 2:

evaluate the pros and cons of different filmmaking strategies for particular project settings.

Learning Objective 3:

plan out high end ethnographic and documentary film work with a low end budget.

Organizer
Ulla Dalum Berg (Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
Email: uberg@rci.rutgers.edu

Organizer
Stephanie Takaragawa (Chapman University)
Email: stephanie.takaragawa@gmail.com

Presenter
Camilla Nielsson (Upfront Films)
Email:cn@upfrontfilms.dk
Aynur Kadir

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October 21, 2016

Multimodal Ethnography and the Possibilities for Engaged Anthropology

October 21, 2016 | By | No Comments

In our scholarship, we strive to strike a balance between anthropological theory-building and social engagement. To do so we use digital technology – inexpensive cameras and social media platforms – in our respective ethnographic projects. Our turn to the digital began during graduate school when we, along with faculty and fellow graduate students, imagined and developed camra. camra is a University of Pennsylvania organization dedicated to multimodal and community engaged research. Here we briefly discuss the ways in which digital technologies provide avenues toward achieving a more collaborative and engaged anthropology. Collaboration has been part and parcel of our discipline since its inception. The digital offers a way to explicitly broaden the scope of collaborative engagement in ways that allow not only for greater participant involvement but also to foster cross-disciplinary projects that put anthropologists in conversation with colleagues in the academy and beyond who grapple with the pressing issues of our time.

Taken from Sweet Tea, portraying E. Patrick Johnson’s performative work on the lives of Black Gay men in the South and his long term relationships with them (2015).
Sweet Tea, portraying E. Patrick Johnson’s performative work on the lives of Black gay men in the South and his long term relationships with them. Photo courtesy Nora Gross

camra was launched in 2011 as a forum connecting graduate students with established scholars interested in legitimizing non-textual production. Our small collective first organized a speaker series followed by a media festival at UPenn that celebrates scholarship at the intersection of ethnography and the audio-visual.  As we developed camra, Philadelphia community-based organizations were eager to learn, partake in and integrate our digital approach to knowledge production. Various institutional actors within and outside of the University of Pennsylvania reached out to us to see if camra members were interested in partnering to create audio-visual work. Projects emerged that allowed camra members to experiment with a digital methodology before they began their dissertation work.

From Dattatreyan’s collaborative film project, Cry Out Loud: Hafes is getting to know the equipment on a wintry day in Delhi (2013).
From Dattatreyan’s collaborative film project, Cry Out Loud: Hafes is getting to know the equipment on a wintry day in Delhi.Photo courtesy E. Gabriel Dattatreyan

In 2013, two camra members developed a filmic and photographic essay on the after-effects of an asbestos plant in Ambler, Pennsylvania (Tarditi and Zuberi). camra members also worked with the Penn School of Design and the Ward to create two short oral history films about Tindley Temple Church, one of the oldest Black Methodist churches in Philadelphia. Other projects that emerged include an HBO-funded short documentary series, two experimental metafilms featuring the travels of a Rastafarian community in South Africa, a PEW-funded film on scientific racism and the Morton Skull collection, the film project Sweet Teabased on E. Patrick Johnson’s performative scholarship concerning the lives of Black gay men in the south and a curated installation in collaboration with Ethnographic Terminalia.

Shankar with students as they begin participatory photography project (2013).
Shankar and students’ participatory photography project. Photo courtesy Naveen Kumar

camra influenced each of our unique audio-visual ethnographic projects as well. In 2012, Dattatreyan began an ethnographic project in Delhi, India with young migrants who were coming of age in an era of post-economic liberalization. He produced several music videos with his youthful participants as well as a feature length film with a group of young Somali refugees, focusing on the racialization of Africans who make the city their home. They screened the film at Khoj Arts in South Delhi to a large audience soon after a series of violent racialized incidents against Africans living in South Delhi. The screening fostered a dialogue around the politics of difference amongst a broad spectrum of South Delhi’s residents. Dattatreyan’s forays into audio-visual projects enabled participant driven ethnographic opportunities, created public discussion around pressing social issues and have fostered ongoing collaborative projects with Delhi based artists and academics around the growing salience of race and racism in urban India.

In 2013, Shankar began research in Bangalore, India working with both NGO personnel and rural youth to understand the changing nature of development. He conducted a participatory film and photography project intended to complicate simplistic representations of village life. Youth in one field site worked in groups of three to articulate what they found curious about their rapidly changing lives. They effectively reversed a dominant gaze that traditionally saw them as impoverished, deficient, and “in-need-of-development” through their playful performances on and off-screen. The collaboration also produced a traveling photography exhibit mounted at their school as well as several university contexts. Shankar’s theoretical insights were heavily influenced by these visual co-productions and shifted how he articulated ideas of aesthetics, auteurship and value.

From Shankar’s participatory photography project: Naveen, ninth standard student, takes shadow selfie against the backdrop of his home (2013).
Naveen, ninth standard student, takes shadow selfie against the backdrop of his home. Photo courtesy Naveen Kumar

Both camra and our work parallel the multimodal turn in anthropology. Ethnography, as a method by which to understand and engage the world, creates opportunities for collaborative knowledge ventures. We suggest that the digital image is opening the aperture of social life in a way not seen before. What we once perceived as bound and local is now clearly saturated with global connection. Here we use aperture and saturation to point to the relationship between the ways we see as anthropologists and the choices we make when we take photographs or film. What our work with camra has pushed us to confront is how our discipline should grow as we explicitly and consciously open its aperture in a media saturated world and strive to consciously integrate ways of seeing that challenge disciplinary understandings while engaging with the pressing problems plaguing our world. Given this, perhaps the question at hand is how we might open the aperture of anthropological knowledge without risking oversaturation. One answer, suggested here, is to consciously integrate the digital into our anthropological imagination, both as theory and practice, an approach that attends to global circulation, audience, collaborative praxis and the ethical and engaged possibilities therein.

 

 

camra members included above are Sandra Ristovska, Emily LaDue, Kate Zambon, Mariam Durrani, Matt Tarditi, Jabari Zuberi, Tali Ziv, Corrina Laughlin, E. Gabriel Dattatreyan, Nora Gross, Arjun Shankar, Andrew Hudson, Melissa Skolnick

Jens Kreinath and Jennifer Reynolds are the editors for the Society for Visual Anthropology

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