Accepted Paper:

Reciprocal learning: collaborative filmmaking and existential uncertainty  


Christine Douglass

Paper short abstract:

My cross-disciplinary practice involves inviting those experiencing existential uncertainty to use video-cameras as tools of audiovisual inscription as a process for reciprocal learning. I will critically examine the role of the materials in generating both personal and anthropological knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

Critically examining the ethics of representation in healthcare research and visual anthropology, my cross-disciplinary practice involves inviting those living with illness and existential uncertainty to use video-cameras as tools of audiovisual inscription for reciprocal learning.

Nine women diagnosed with breast cancer were given broadcast quality video-cameras and invited to film whatever was important to them. Each had discrete physiological, physical and emotional experiences. Led by their aims, motivations, authorial priorities and perceptions of public private boundaries, collaborative filming and editing took place over a three-year period.

Jean Rouch described the presence of filmmaker and camera as a stimulant to expression; "an accelerator". For many in this research being given a video-camera initially inhibited expression. Over time, a variety of processes were invoked by the participants to create a stable, safe space for assimilating the camera into their lives. How each process was negotiated, shaped and individualised was a reaction to a variety of issues that fluctuated over time.

In this presentation, I will examine: the role of the materials in evoking and conveying experience; the new, often previously unspoken personal insights and anthropological/healthcare knowledge generated; and the possibilities of collaborative filmmaking as a therapeutic intervention.

I will argue further that the methodology and subsequent non-linear exhibition opened up new spaces for personal reflection and for wider audiences to rethink the coherent timelessness produced by the regimes currently dominating the representational landscape of illness experiences.

Panel P020
Making, Materials and Recovery: Perspectives "from the inside"