Accepted Paper:

Looking Away. Ethics and Empathy in Collaborative Filmmaking in Argentina  
Eva van Roekel (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

The ethical dilemmas that arise out of long-term engagement with perpetrators for the purpose of understanding is the central theme of this paper. It reflects upon the morality of representation of a temporal collapse of self/other in collaborative filmmaking on skydiving in a post-conflict setting.

Paper long abstract:

When it comes to narrating the figure of the perpetrator, documentary film and literature tend to portray perpetrators as either monsters or victims of previous traumas or bureaucratic impositions, but most importantly as moral other. This practice of 'othering' provides little opportunity for a deeper engagement within the complicated grey zones of human existence. In my research on crimes against humanity during the military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983), I often found myself complicit to my subjects' withdrawal from confronting the violence they incurred, which created a deep discomfort during fieldwork. In anthropology and (post)conflict studies, little attention has been given to the challenges in addressing the complicit silences and navigating intricate fieldwork relationships, not least for the methodological challenges in approaching the unspeakable. In this paper, I seek to explore how filmmaking has served as a suitable tool to reflect on the absence/presence of violence during my encounters with perpetrators. The film La caĆ­da traces the nostalgic memories of a paratrooper - who was part of the repressive state apparatus that tortured, killed and disappeared thousands of people, and critically reflects upon these ways of engagement and collaborative expression through a combined voice-over (his and mine). I argue that this dialogic editing strategy produces a temporal collapse of self and other through which the viewer can experience the complicated ethics of empathy and the morality of representation, and contemplate if looking away from violence merely circumvents accountability or serves other psychic purposes as well.

Panel P26b
Empirical art: Filmmaking for fieldwork in practice
  Session 1