Accepted paper:

Image Repatriation and Research with Old Photographs: Experiences from Two Projects in Thailand and Micronesia


Rolf Husmann (University of Göttingen)

Paper short abstract:

In two projects in Thailand and Kiribati/Micronesia, the author used image repatriation as a feedback methodology of obtaining ethnographic data. Old films and photographs were returned to the societies in which they were originally shot. The paper concentrates on discussing the methodological advantages and disadvantages of photography over film.

Paper long abstract:

From 2008 until 2011, the author carried out a research project in northern Thailand, in the course of which some 50 old ethnographic films from the 1960s were repatriated to archives in Thailand, but also to the Akha and Hmong villages in which they were originally shot. Together with the films old photographs were also used and returned to the people portrayed half a century ago or their children. Following the success of that project, a very similar one was carried out in 2010 and 2011, in which the author repatriated films and photographs to Kiribati/Micronesia. Together with oceanist Wolfgang Kempf, both photographs and films were used to retrieve feedback information about culture change from the 1960s to the present. The paper describes both projects and their visual anthropological methodology and concentrates on an analysis of the photographic parts, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the two media in comparison.

panel V06
Photography as a research method