Author:Ashley Ouvrier (University Paris Diderot/Inserm/IRD)
Paper short abstract:
This paper focuses on a series of photographic portraits on traces and memories of medical research in Niakhar, Senegal. It discusses how aesthetic choices combine with ethnographic captions produce significant visual narratives without falling into the trap of exoticism or disaster iconography.
Paper long abstract:
The aim of this paper is to present a series of photographic portraits of research subjects and their intermediaries that is part of an ongoing anthropological research on traces and memories of medical research in Niakhar, Senegal. The discussion will focus on how aesthetic choices combine with ethnographic captions allow to produce significant visual narratives on a controversial topic without falling into the trap of exoticism or disaster iconography. In this approach, photography tries to meet the look of the ethnographer. Far from the stereotypes of clinical trials in developing countries, which are always presented in a dramatic way, these portraits wish to restore local actors' agency in the history of "oversea's" medical science. The pictures and their captions show how medical research in this area of Senegal is embedded in people's intimate narratives (a series of inhabitants are named after Senegalese or French scientific researchers) and professional trajectories (various inhabitants of the area have been hired as "fielworkers"). As the pictures will be presented in an upcoming exhibition in Senegal next February where protagonists will be present, the communication will also show how these images have been received and perceived.
Photography as a research method