Accepted Paper:

Character driven ethnographic film in the study of social persons in urban Cameroon  


Trond Waage (UiTArcitic University of Norway)

Paper short abstract:

Character driven ethnographic filmmaking in concrete social situations is argued for as a strategy grasping processes of identity management in urban Cameroon. The collaborative aspect of filmmaking joined with living images concreteness, opens for a dynamic sensorial urban anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

Inspired by classical ethnographic work like 'Street Corner Society', have I been following young illiterate men that have met in Ngaoundéré after migrating from the Central African Republic. In urban Ngaoundéré are they trying to make a living, economically funded on transporting water. Following these young men and their female connections with my video camera, I aim at exploring construction of social persons through everyday life activities.

Several current works on social processes in Urban Africa describes a generation of youth where 'Hope is Cut' (Mains 2013) or youth as 'Stuck' (Sommer 2012). These monographs are based on ethnographic records of individual social carriers detached from the social situations where identities are developed. It is work that: '… have not been able to take much epistemological advantage of our participatory activities," (Devareaux1995).

Being able to grasp and situate sensorial expressions and intricate meaning loaded identity management processes in urban life we have to explore social situations over time. Situations are visual. Filmmaking gives the anthropologist a role to participate and opens for collaboration. In this paper will I argue for character driven ethnographic film approach, exploring social modalities in urban Cameroon. I find urban life characterised by constant twist and turns, and a great variation in individual carriers despites originating from similar social categories. Collaborative character driven ethnographic filmmaking projects opens for an urban anthropology, taking epistemological advantage of concrete and shared audio-visual information studying person's identities.

Panel P029
The individual in anthropology: a future paradigm in anthropology?