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Accepted Paper:

The politics of digital visual culture in Romania: from a digital ethnography to a historical media anthropology  
Jonathan Larcher (Université Paris Nanterre)

Paper short abstract:

During the last decade, a new digital visual culture emerged in Romania. The ethnography of this political arena, shaped by “technoracist” sociabilities and cultural “digilantism”, represents an opportunity to think about the shared legacies of both historical and media anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on two research investigations: an ethnography of the visual and digital practices among a Roma community in Romania, and the analysis of a sexist and racialized visual imagery shared on the Romanian digital and broadcast media. Although these images of "Piţipoance" and "Cocalari" are similar in style with those of the respondents, there are no direct links between the images posted by them and those reposted - without their knowledge - by anonymous users. These uses could be described as cultural "digilantism" (Byrne, 2013), or "technoracist" sociabilities (Cervulle, Freitas, 2015).

These practices, despite their widespread presence on the Romanian Internet, surprisingly didn't create interest neither among scholars in Media and Communication - a strong academic field in Romania - nor among Roma activists. These missed opportunities for scholars and activists, considering their knowledge of critical theories (cultural/feminist/visual/ethnic studies), enlightens the theoretical and methodological specificities of media anthropology that analyses connected practices through "pragmatics" and a "thought of the traces" (Derrida, 1987). Unlike agent-based modelling and close reading approaches, a digital and multi-sited ethnography allows us to understand how digital practices and visual culture produce a "key arena for the thinking out of politics" (Pinney, 2004). This presentation proposes to sharpen our thinking on the mediatisation of anthropological knowledge - describing and revealing new social conflictualities, in particular for cultural activists (Ginsburg, 2011) - and about the shared legacies of both media anthropology and an historical anthropology focused on visual culture (Bartholeyns et al, 2008).

Panel P013
Media anthropology's legacies and concerns [Media Anthropology Network]
  Session 1