Accepted Paper:

Power and agency in visual anthropology  
Thera Mjaaland (Former University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the photographic portrait series Ethiopian Encounters from Tigray in North-Ethiopia, and which traverses the field of art and anthropology, I will discuss power and agency in visual research.

Paper long abstract:

Interpreted from the colonial perspective of power, archival photographs relating to the portrait tradition have received a lot of attention over the past couple of decades. However, photographing in the Tigrayan context of highland Ethiopia has meant being obliged to share authority with a people who have demanded to take control over their own self-representation. In my photographic portrait series Ethiopian Encounters, which traverses the fields of art and anthropology, I came to understand portrait photography as a discursive social practice that pointed to socio-cultural dynamics that were not explicitly expressed in daily life. The methodological strategy, which provided access to the mediation of visibility and invisibility, exposure and containment in social life, is based on a repositioning of the photographing anthropologist from a detached observer to a social agent in a photographic encounter. I will use this encounter in the photographic situation as a point of departure for discussing power and agency in relation to cross-cultural communication. At issue is also the fact that, when required to anonymise interviewees and participants, it becomes difficult to acknowledge peoples contributions to our research, which in itself could be seen as a reaffirmation of an asymmetrical power relation.

Panel P007
Producing and transmitting knowledge audio- and/or visually [VANEASA]