P024
Material subjectivities and artistic expression in visual anthropology

Convenors:
Rebekah Cupitt (Birkbeck, University of London)
Format:
Panels
Location:
SOAS Senate House - S116
Start time:
3 June, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

Radical artistic expression in visual anthropology holds the potential to develop visual ethnographic representations beyond the paradigm of voyeur/exotic 'other'. Can artistic expression, digital technologies, participatory visual methods intertwine and further decolonise visual anthropology.

Long abstract:

This panel considers how respecting the diverse material subjectivities of those we research with in visual ethnographic representations can coincide with radical artistic expression from an anthropological perspective. The visual anthropologist as 'voyeur' and 'medium', ready to exoticise an 'other', has gradually been replaced by the understanding that the images we create are representations of other worlds, seen through the "ethnographer's eye". A re-thinking of visual anthropology's methods emerged in response to critique of the ethnographer's control over the image and its narrative. This coincided with the emergence of visual media technologies that were portable, inexpensive and accessible, such as mobile phone cameras. The accompanying participatory visual methods have also been key in moves to de-colonise anthropology through ethnographic practice. Both are critical to the exploration of artistic forms of expression. They create new subjectivities, as the distinction between filmmaker/photographer/anthropologist and the 'subject' blur. New technologies and methods that take the camera out of the hands of the anthropologist also promise to dismantle the point-and-shoot paradigm as the ethnographer too is drawn into the image and captured 'in action'. This panel explores these changes in visual anthropology and examines the material practices through which a de-colonialised, participatory visual anthropology emerges. It raises the potential opportunities for anthropologists and those we research with, to develop new narrative forms and artistic expressions. The question is, can visual anthropology transition further into art while maintaining a consideration for culturally distinct, emic alternatives to established modes of ethnographic visual storytelling?