This roundtable takes David MacDougall’s 1995 essay Subtitling Ethnographic Films as an opening for our conversation. We wonder: How do we create a “shadowing of meanings” (ibid) when we inscribe subtitles, or when we refuse to subtitle ethnographic films?
In his 1995 essay Subtitling Ethnographic Films, David MacDougall concludes that “[ethnographic] films that so easily convey what other people say would do well to remind us that there are also more obdurate, private, and unknowable dimensions of their lives”. As anthropologists working with bits of film, or as filmmakers working with a bit of anthropology, we take MacDougall’s closing statement as an opening. We wonder: How do we create a “shadowing of meanings” (ibid) when we inscribe subtitles, or when we refuse to subtitle ethnographic films? We scratch eyeballs, earbuds, and skulls as questions come crashing: how can hearing audiences experience sign language through the image and beyond translation? Can we find in ethnographic films and their subtitles the subversive markings of unreliable narrators? How many forms and routes can coloniality take when we work with fields that require various forms of claims and inscriptions, echoes, and erasures? What happens when the ethnographer-editor turns away from the film for an instant and unbeknownst a subtitle lurks in to re-write the whole film? Disclaimer: no answers. Hope: an acknowledgment of the problematics of playing with words and signs in a world that exceeds language. What we want: start a discussion often lacking in documentary making and viewing. We open this roundtable to an audience who may also have one too many words to say/write over images that beg them not to.
Accepted papers:Session 1 Wednesday 8 March, 2023, -
Nat Nesvaderani (Laval University)
Emiko Stock (American University in Cairo)