Accepted Paper:

"Being There": Rethinking truth with midiativistas in Rio de Janeiro  

Author:

Raffaella Fryer-Moreira (University College London (UCL))

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on an extended ethnography in Rio de Janeiro, this paper examines the ways in which the knowledge practices of video activists articulate particular concepts of truth that are grounded in bearing witness, and considers how these notions can help us rethink anthropological truth.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on an extended ethnography of the midiativista movement in Rio de Janeiro, this paper examines the specific ways in which the concept of "truth" is locally articulated. The popular uprising of 2013 in Brazil led to the emergence of video activists or midiativistas, who sought to produce audiovisual reports of the police repression they witnessed from the front-lines of the protests they attended. Midiativistas conceive of their practice as an active intervention in the space they document - an act of witnessing that transforms the event by extending it through online networks, generating new witnesses and permitting them to viscerally and affectively encounter the protest space, thus allowing witnessing to be socio-technically distributed. These reports grounded their truth claims in the midiativistas act of "being there" and bearing witness, resulting in first-hand accounts that were situated, partial, and "subjective", yet more convincing precisely because they rejected the claims to disembodied "objectivity" that the mainstream media appealed to. The rejection of "objective truth" - as a view from everywhere that is simultaneously a view from nowhere (and no-one) - in favour of situated truth, that is witnessed directly, unsettles traditional divisions between subject and object, representation and reality, and questions the conditions (and relations) through which knowledge is produced. This ethnographic engagement with the knowledge practices of others, and the concepts of truth they articulate, aims to reflect on anthropological knowledge practices more broadly, and how they may be conceived otherwise in light of ethnographic variants from our fields.

Panel P091
Anthropologies of witnessing: imaginaries, technologies, practices