EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P065)
Reassembling the visual: from visual legacies to digital futures [VANEASA]
Location U6-1B
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Catarina Alves Costa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) email
  • Roger Canals (University of Barcelona) email
  • Julia Binter (University of Oxford) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Since its beginnings, Anthropology has taken an interest in visuality. Still, this has not produced any unified field of research but rather a multiplicity of areas seen as disconnected. This panel welcomes researches aiming to integrate different aspects of the visual in anthropology.

Long Abstract

Anthropology's interest in visuality has produced a multiplicity of areas that have been seen as disconnected: the study of visual culture (religious images, tattoos, art craft and so on), the use of visual methods (photography, cinema, video, drawings) and of visual means for anthropological writing (photo essays, ethnographic cinema, webpages and the like), the interest in the act of seeing (a leading force for the anthropology of the senses emergence), and, finally, the reflection on what has been called "regimes of visibility", that is, the aspects of reality each culture openly shows and those that remain unseen. We strongly believe that now it is time to discuss ways to reassemble the visual within anthropology. Besides this, we assume that its urgent to reconnecting the visual with the discipline as a whole and, therefore, with the major theoretical and methodological and political challenges that it has to face. Indeed, the study of the visual and the production of visual materials must be reintegrated within the discipline: visuality should not be considered a specialization nor a subfield, as the so-called "visual anthropology" has been often regarded, but a structural element of the anthropological endeavor. This panel welcomes researches aiming to integrate different aspects of visual in anthropology in an innovative way to give answer both to the questions posed by our contemporary world - in which images are so crucial-, and to the classical theoretical problems of our discipline.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

A Song from "Why, oh Moon": revisiting concepts of "indigenous" media using an ethnography of a popular Santali video clip

Author: Markus Schleiter (Heidelberg University)  email

Short Abstract

Together with artists of the "indigenous" community of the Santal, I participated in the production of a music video album in India. I will ask how this kind of ethnographic encounter can trigger a need to critically question presumptions about "indigenous" media.

Long Abstract

In the debate on the role of "indigenous media", authors consider such media to be a fruitful means of fostering local traditions and values (see Wilson & Stewart 2008), without engaging with the confinements of the category of "indigenous" media or the ambivalences of the concept of "indigeneity" (Li 2001, Ginsburgh 2002, Shah 2010, Forte 2010). I will acknowledge the costumes, tunes and instruments such as the flute as popularized audio-visual elements of Santal "tradition" in the album "Why, oh Moon" (Chak Cho Chando). However, my ethnography on the media practices of producing the songs reveals that these "markers" of tradition mainly result from the artists' distancing themselves from their own culture. I will argue that when indigenous pop songs are evaluated as being based on mediatized traits of "indigenous culture", the album can truly be part of a revitalization of Santal culture. At the same time, however, to young Santal people a hit song on the album becomes a means of evoking the culturally specific emotions of joint village dances and their contiguous forms of romancing, which run counter to a conservative understanding of Santal values. As a consequence, I will reflect on the extent to which my "involvement" in the production (and consumption) of "indigenous" media allows me to identify the field of the cultural production (Bourdieu 1992) of such media, their disconnection from belonging and community, and, concurrently, the pitfalls of the category of "indigenous" media.

Digital images, painted colour: on line sales of Australian central desert Indigenous art

Author: Diana Young (University of Queensland)  email

Short Abstract

My current research concerns central Australian Indigenous art practices and their relationship to money, consumption and exchange. Here I consider the circulation of digital images of paintings on line and the effect that this has on both the maker’s earnings and on the way paintings are made.

Long Abstract

This paper grows from my current research in which I try to understand more about the consumption practices of Indigenous artists living in central Australia. The artists' use of their earnings is a way of learning about changing attitudes to, and ideas about, the relationships between materiality, money, consumption and exchange. How do paintings ask for what they want? Most paintings are about 'Country' with its aesthetic and spiritual power. Some are about everyday events in the service centre town of Alice Springs or on other bush settlements.

Except perhaps among the most senior people, digital imagery - especially personal access to smart phones and tablets - is highly desired. Here I'll develop some ideas about the qualities of colours in digital images and the reciprocal interplay with where, when and for who paintings are made.

Many paintings are sold through web sites. These sites may belong to private commercial dealers or to community run and owned art centres. In this paper I trace how images of paintings get onto web sites in the first place and what the circulation of these digital images can do to the reputation of the painters (and the lack of interest that many show in this) and how other kinds of digital images are sought out by people who paint, to soothe them on hard days. There is, I'll show, an inter- cultural contestation of imagery threaded throughout.

Sources of contestation: the role of digital images for female online entrepreneurship in Sudan

Author: Griet Steel (KU Leuven, IARA)  email

Short Abstract

Inspired by anthropological theories of vernacular image (re)production and regimes of visibility this paper aims to analyze the contested role and ambivalent trajectories of digital images of typical female consumer goods for online vending practices of Sudanese women in the city of Khartoum.

Long Abstract

The relatively easy and unlimited possibilities of sharing images through Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook has facilitated many Sudanese online vending initiatives. A growing number of Khartoum's well-educated women develop digital communities to circulate images of cosmetics, fashion accessories, traditional dresses and perfumes in order to sell these commodities online. Most vendors take these low quality images with their own smartphones or they simply reproduce images from online catalogues of eBay and Alibaba. In general, there is lots of contestation on the representativity of the pictures; customers complain about misleading images and the fact that what they see on the screen is not what they get delivered at home. A second strand of contestation is related to the public visibility of the images which has exposed online businesses to unfair forms of competition as images and original fashion designs are recurrently reproduced by other vendors and consumers. In addition, there is continuous debate on what can be seen and shown online in a Muslim society where women have less public visibility. In this paper, I take the commercial images circulating on women's vending platforms as a starting point to scrutinize the highly contested power, meaning and value of the visual in the life worlds of Sudanese women. I follow the digital routes and routines of images to analyze its ambivalences for online vending modalities. With these empirical insights the paper aims to contribute to anthropological debates on vernacular image (re)production and 'regimes of visibility' engendered by new media.

Viral backgrounds: intimacy and iconography in the Armenian Diaspora

Author: Rik Adriaans (Central European University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper compares the circulation of souvenirs and internet memes in the Armenian diaspora in Los Angeles. Whereas souvenirs bring an idealized past into the intimacy of domestic space, internet memes are shown to reconfigure this relation by launching present-day domesticity into public culture.

Long Abstract

This paper compares two regimes of image circulation in the Armenian diaspora: the material regime of souvenirs and the digital regime of diasporic internet memes. The diasporic household in Los Angeles is analyzed as a multi-generational assemblage permeated by both material and digital forms of circulating visual culture. Whereas souvenirs from Armenia bring the public iconography of an idealized past into the intimacy of domestic space, the internet meme unleashes everyday tensions and sources of embarrassment into diasporic public culture. While the producers of souvenirs in Yerevan are engaged in pictorial practices that consist of imagining the homeland as seen from the perspective of diaspora tourists, the practices of montage of second-generation Armenian-American producers of internet memes engender an emergent reflexive patriotism that is demystifying in its unveiling of everyday problems in the community. The 'going viral' of the backgrounds of diasporic life, however, leads to periodic attempts at its containment, especially when sources of embarrassment risk spilling over into mainstream public culture.

The accelerated dialectical movement between public and intimate visual forms enables a rethinking of the relation between cultural intimacy and public culture, as the circulation of diasporic internet memes is shown to redraw the boundaries between these realms. The manipulation of national iconography through everyday practices of montage also reconfigures the experience of diasporic time and space, as controversial features of present-day American-Armenian popular culture take on an iconic status comparable to that of the pantheon of national heroes of the past endorsed by diasporic establishment.

Deaf visualities: an anthropological study of different ways of seeing

Author: Rebekah Cupitt (KTH Royal Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

Deafness is a way of being, a culture, and it has its own way of seeing. Not just a disability, anthropological studies of deaf people and deaf visualities challenge a fragmented visual anthropology in new and compelling ways.

Long Abstract

Being deaf is a way of being, a culture and has social implications. It can be argued that deaf ways of seeing lie at the foundations of deaf ways of being, that deaf culture has its own visuality and that this itself leads to a deaf visuality that is waiting to be explored anthropologically. Tied strongly to language and the embodied nature of communication in sign language, an in-depth anthropology of deaf visualities can offer a link between visual anthropological studies of the image, material products of culture and the act of seeing. This paper presents three explorations of deaf ways of seeing from a cultural perspective and argues for a differentiation from hearing ways of seeing. The three empirical examples are drawn from fieldwork at Swedish Television's editorial for programming in Swedish Sign Language. This is a unique site that captures various areas of what has been labelled the multiple and disconnected areas of visual anthropology, and promises to re-connect them.

Pictures of class struggle: a video ethnography about local labour and global capitalism during the "thyssenkrupp acciai speciali terni" steel plant strike in Terni, central Italy

Author: Matteo Saltalippi (Goldsmiths University of London)  email

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on the production of a documentary made by the anthropologist and the filmmakers, together with the social actors’ visual contributions. It aims to be a democratic space exploring class struggle, and the dialectical relation between global capitalistic forces and local labour.

Long Abstract

Drawing on the existent literature on collaboration between filmmakers and anthropologists, the paper analyses the making of Biographies of Struggle, a collaborative documentary (which a brief excerpt will be shown during the presentation) shot in 2014 during the TK-AST industrial disputes, which concerned 550 redundancies and lead to forty-five consecutive days of strike.

Outside the gate in the factory forecourt, the workers overstepped the boundary of the protected production sphere and filled the public space, "to transform an economic struggle into a political one" (Farocki 2002). The best way to capture this "multiplicity in movement" (Lazzarato 2009) was through visual media, using raw footage as a series of fieldwork notes, and archival material to be further investigated.

The documentary, placed between art and documentation, aims to channel art's symbolic capital towards the construction of anthropological knowledge: its agency (Gell 1998) takes place on a mutual basis, in a mutual "language" shaped by the agent and the recipients. Born from the collaboration between two local filmmakers and the anthropologist, the documentary capitalizes on the workers' search for visibility for their cause, thus becoming a gatekeeper in their lives, producing invaluable methodological and theoretical fieldwork data. The filmmaker's ability of shaping a visual language and the anthropologist's research skills merged with social actors' own images of symbolic reproduction (recorded with their own smartphones cameras and included in the final editing) producing a multi-angled representation of working-class struggle, serving as pedagogical tool able to speak also to a larger audience outside the academia.

Crafted visions: reassembling the visual gestures

Author: Pedro Antunes (CRIA-ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)  email

Short Abstract

The making of three films documenting cultural embodied practices – singing, cookery and ritual – will be here thought as new dialogical approaches to recapture those traditional gestures, and as anthropological works reassembling multiple visual dimensions to render those (un)seen present.

Long Abstract

Three ethnographic films using innovative approaches, withdrawing from experimental video techniques (Pasqualino and Schneider 2014) and observational cinema methods, will be thought as means to reframe old community making practices. Using a 'polifonic' (Clifford 1988) approach the film Fado Tropical (Catarina Faria 2013) traces the life stories of Fado singers in Brazil, re-presenting voicing-diasporas jarring the nationally branded Portuguese 'authentic' Fado. The film Luís da Rocha (Inês Mestre 2013) shows the production and degustation of sweets, using "asynchronicity" modes (Heuson and Allen 2014) of enhancing and enchanting audio-visually, techniques used in the confection of receipts that flavor the local identity. Divino, Ferido e Chagado (Pedro Antunes 2015) documenting a folk ritual re-enactment of Christ's Last Supper, shows a local conflict triggered by its re-mediation (Bolter and Grusin 1999) for a TV show, trying to render them 'traditional', in line with the show-real aesthetics. In a context where cultural expressions are often curt-circuited by politics of heritage-making or (un)seen as "spurious" forms, this communication will reflect on how the creative gestures of their 'actors' and their ways of making sense of those practices, were dialectically used in the crafting of the films; will also outlook its 'corporal images' (MacDougal 2005) as a means to unravel the intimacies and morosely engagements in their practices, being pastry, ritual, fado or film making; and how its screening contributed to the production of "regimes of visibility" in the contemporary uses of their 'unofficial heritages' (Harrison 2013).

Participatory audiovisual post-production as cultural studies: audiovisual extension of ethnographic fieldwork for a dialogic approach

Author: Federico Varrasso (Paris West Nanterre University)  email

Short Abstract

Based on a participatory visual ethnographic survey conducted between 2009 and 2013 in an Afro-Caribbean fieldwork, this paper aims to question image "co-construction" and visual study as an interdependent approach to explore identity dynamics in cross-cultural context.

Long Abstract

Visual representation is certainly one of the major contemporary vehicle of cultural exchange. Historically, colonial representations and some ethnographer's works offer a singular example on how exogenous representation can interact with endogenous ones. With modern audiovisual technologies the process between "observation", "interpretation" and "restitution" is drastically shorten, so we can use image co-construction to acquire advanced experiments on representations process such as identity constructions directly from fieldwork. The paper aims to examine participatory audiovisual post-production as an extension of ethnographic fieldwork and a tool for a shared form of restitution once the subjects observed in the field are returned to the filmed images and then we proceed to cross between data from that confrontation, visual culture data and ethnographic data from the field. The "image" in this context becomes primarily a support for a dialogic investigation. Following this methodology, the investigation with religious community raised the representation that the subjects have of their practice and of their religious and social identity in the foreground. This by enlarging the fieldwork temporally, spatially and symbolically to visual representation they produce "in" and "out" of the direct observation field and temporality. Working in such a dialogic circle between ethnographic filmed fieldworks, analyses of visual culture, inquiry with subjects based on recorded image viewings, and participatory constructions of audiovisual representations, we reach three audiovisual restitution's who reflects three steps of the survey pursuing the goal of an understanding and a shared audiovisual representation of what is the "field".

Reassembling the visual: digital photographic archives and anthropological research

Author: Gustavo Racy (Universiteit Antwerpen)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation shares the first insights of the research on photographic archives and capitalism particularly in terms of the methodological and theoretical contributions that archive research may bring for taking on visual material in anthropological research.

Long Abstract

As I started to research digital archive photographs in order to empirically address the relation between capitalism and visual culture, I was confronted both with methodological and theoretical questions regarding the meaning of archives and its use in anthropological research. Taking on digital photographic archives in São Paulo showed me how much the instruments through which we access, produce or transmit visual material are webbed within power relations. As much as the digital archive broadens the realm of public access to knowledge, it also remains as a device whose contemporary origins date back to imperial nineteenth-century Europe. As academics of rhetoric have pointed out, the passing between analogical and digital technologies operated a profound change in the way we relate to materiality, affecting the relations of proximity – affective, geographic and virtual – between our objects of analysis and us. Digital archives multiply, for instance, the mutual access to different collections. In the case of photographs, it provides us with immediate reproduction. These structural changes demand a coherent perspective for addressing visual archives in both the methodological and theoretical levels. By contextualizing one of the archives of São Paulo, I will focus on presenting such perspective by addressing the changing relations of proximity, in the methodological level, proposing a critically engaged stance that allows us, through the archive to reassemble the visual in anthropology. This involves proposing of a consistent methodology for archive research, but also the meta-theoretical understanding of the archive that permits the awareness of its limits.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.