Accepted paper:

Ostranenie in Cape Town

Author:

Giovanni Spissu (University of St Augustine )

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how a particular method of ethnographic research based on urban movement and the dramatization of lived experience can generate a process of defamiliarisation with a city's places. The discussion will take as its starting point my research conducted in post-Apartheid Cape Town.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will explore how a particular method of ethnographic research based on urban movement and the dramatization of lived experience can generate a process of defamiliarisation with a city's places. The discussion will take as its starting point my research conducted in Cape Town into the signification of urban spaces in the post-Apartheid period. Viktor Shklovskij considered habitual perception born of a regular, automatic viewpoint one of the biggest obstacles to knowing reality. The Russian formalists considered defamiliarization (Ostranenie) the way to achieve a renewed perception of the world. In this paper I will argue that ethnographic research can also generate a process of defamiliarization and a renewed perception of reality. Taking inspiration from Andrew Irving's methodology, I adopted the ethnographic method of observation based on urban movement and the dramatization of the past through which the people of Cape Town explore their memories, hopes, and desires through urban spaces. This particular type of observation created in my interviewees a defamiliarized viewpoint and a renewed perception of the city as if they were seeing it "for the first time". It is also my intention to explore how the use of photography and the recording of ambient sounds can be crucial tools for the process of defamiliarizing urban places. Finally, I will describe salient moments from my fieldwork in Cape Town with the aim of observing and representing the processes of urban signification in the post-Apartheid period.

panel V01
Visual encounters: audiovisual approaches to anthropological knowledge