Accepted Paper:

Video-ethnographic reflections (with)in houses of worship 'gone viral': from shut doors to cagey reopening  
Sara Bonfanti (University of Genoa)

Paper short abstract:

How can ethnographers keep filming in the midst of a pandemic upon stringent conditions? What kind of haggling takes place between researchers and participants if the locations and live actions once agreed for shooting have suddenly turned into an arena of mistrust and precautions?

Paper long abstract:

How can ethnographers keep filming in the midst of a pandemic upon stringent conditions? Of Domes and Robes is a documentary short which portrays how minority houses of worship in an European city might serve as community homes, setting thresholds where socio-spatial boundaries are made (un)visible. This presentation introduces the disruption of the filming schedule that us co-directors had set right before Covid-19 struck, severely affecting our location: Brescia (northern Italy). Throughout spring 2020, with targeted temples locked down, we could only touch base with cult leaders via phone-calls and follow them on social media, watching celebrations webcast from deserted worship rooms. While partaking in this mediated normalcy, we welcomed the national decree that reopened all religious places and consented their activities to resume in presence.

Acknowledging current admission rules for Covid-prevention, which altered social and ritual habits, our visual research ethics demanded creative re-orientations. To overcome missed events and believers’ anxiety for a ‘threatening’ co-presence, we’ve developed a closer collaboration with cult leaders and film actors, recording the minima interactions allowed, and borrowing repertoire audio-visuals that participants themselves produced.

If our movie’s subtitle recited: ‘an ethnographic film on freedom of worship and the right to the city’, will such tenets of living with diversity endure this new era when “we are all holding our breath, but some tighter than others” like the local Imam forewarned live on FB? Screening selected footage from our collaborative film-in-progress, we’d like to engage the spectatorship-audience in debating our choices towards co-representational editing.

Panel P02a
Crisis, creativity and ethics: reflexive practices and critical engagements with "others" in times of uncertainty
  Session 1