Accepted Paper:

Developing contexts: Revisiting ethnographic images from research with Ghanaians at home and abroad   


Louise De La Gorgendiere (Carleton University)

Paper short abstract:

Using the anthropologist's own photographic archive from fieldwork with Ghanaians at home and abroad, this paper addresses the importance of the varied contexts within which ethnographic images are produced and analysed over time and space.

Paper long abstract:

Re-examining photographs from a specific period and location provides the opportunity to re-focus the anthropological lens. This allows the anthropologist to propose different analyses and interpretations within the context of new insights and changing theoretical perspectives. The initial focus of my research with Ghanaians was on 'development' in Ghana in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. This focus was more recently extended to investigate experiences of members of the Ghanaian diaspora and the extent of their involvement in development processes back 'home'. In revisiting images from fieldwork with Ghanaians, conducted over a period of years and in different locations, this paper highlights critical aspects of the positioning of the anthropologist as researcher-photographer in relation to the people involved and the images produced. Images in the original research project may have served to record, witness, and salvage a rural-urban ethnographic moment - unlike recent photographs of quite dispersed Ghanaian diaspora. The photographic images produced in these two research contexts reflect the social, economic, and political exigencies affecting Ghanaians at home and abroad. They also reveal the differences in the circumstances of fieldwork. With their vastly different temporal and spatial backdrops, these developing contexts demand that the anthropologist 'make meaningful links between different research experiences and materials such as photography ...' (Pink 2007). Long-forgotten photographs in anthropologists' personal archives can take on a new significance and work to re-position the anthropologist and research participants in relational terms - socially, politically, intellectually - within an ethically informed visual anthropology endeavour.

Panel P18
Revisiting the gaze and reinterpreting images across space and time: Photography, subjects, and viewers