The American Anthropology Association and the Canadian Anthropology Society will co-host their yearly national conference in Vancouver, Canada, from November 20th to November 24th. We have compiled a list of panels, exhibitions, and workshops that center on film and media, images, and contemporary art.
(1-0007) Ethnographic Terminalia at the Terminus
11/19-24/2019 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM Location: Offsite - The Hanger at the Center for Digital Media Offsite Location: The Hanger at the Center for Digital Media (577 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, V5T 1E1)
The terminus is the end, the boundary, and the border. It is also a beginning, its own place, a site of experience and encounter.
Vancouver is known as the Terminal City, the end of the railways and pipelines where land meets the Pacific Ocean. It is the terminus, the boundary, the border. It is a city on unceded xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territory, a place grappling with colonial ruptures, cultural continuities, and new beginnings.
In 2009, the Ethnographic Terminalia Collective presented its first exhibition in the Ice Box Gallery at Crane Arts, Philadelphia, alongside the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Since then we have exhibited the work of over 150 artists and anthropologists in a range of projects, from group exhibitions to site-specific collaborations, workshops, and alternative modes of publishing. On the 10th anniversary of Ethnographic Terminalia, the Vancouver gathering marks our final official event as a collective.
This year’s constellation of events takes place from November 19-24, 2019 in The Hangar at the Centre for Digital Media (577 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, V5T 1E1), at the heart of East Vancouver’s growing arts district. We present works and events that wrestle with entangled pasts, presents, and futures, the personal and the institutional, the relational, and the networked.
The events include:
A special presentation of sq̓əq̓ip – gathered together [4-channel audio installation, 25 mins] featuring the voices of Howard E. Grant, Howard J. Grant, Larry Grant, Wendy Grant-John, Johnny Louis, and Mary Roberts.
sq̓əq̓ip – gathered together was created by the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia with the Musqueam Indian Band for the exhibition c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city (2015-2016). It was co-curated by Jordan Wilson and Susan Rowley.
Wakanda University, presented by Elizabeth Chin
An installation of the beta-version of the Ethnographic Terminalia Digital Archive (an end and a beginning)
TERMINUS: Ethnographic Terminalia Closing Party to thank the community, AAA, SVA, and our collaborators for 10 years of support and engagement.
Along with a series of other co-hosted public events.
Please visit www.ethnographicterminalia.org for a full program of both daytime and evening events, special presentations, parties, and details about the ET Final Closing Reception on Friday, November 22, 2019, from 7:00-close (a map and directions to this offsite location can also be found on the ET website).
Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 12:00pm-6:00pm
Wednesday-Saturday, November 20-23, 9:00am-6:00pm
Sunday, November 24, 2019, 9:00am-12:00pm
(2-0495) Genres of Expression in the Anthropocene
11/20/2019 4:30 PM - 6:15 PM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 114 | West Level 1
What genres are capable of expressing the existential conditions that are specific to the anthropocene? As Dipesh Chakrabarty (2009) argues, the anthropocene is an epoch in which human beings confront themselves as a geological force, but lack the tools to comprehend themselves as geological agents. Anthropogenic climate change is, as Timothy Morton (2013) notes, a ‘hyperobject’, operating on spatial and temporal scales inaccessible to direct human experience but affecting all spheres of human activity in complex and unpredictable ways. This conundrum necessitates entirely new ways of imagining planetary phenomena that do not regress back into frames of the ‘global’ and the ‘local’ or ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, genres of expression that pay heed to the Critical Zone of planetary life (Latour 2017) while cultivating ‘situated knowledges’ (Haraway 1988).
We invite panelists to explore the forms that the ‘arts of living in a damaged planet’ (Tsing et al 2017) can take. For instance, anthropologists have emphasized the importance of understanding cultural perceptions of the environment, especially for developing collective strategies for addressing ecological degradation. Yet, despite the increased attention to cultural paradigms, there remains a tension between conservation efforts and scientific frameworks on the one hand, and situated knowledges on the other, tensions that are entangled in legacies of Eurocentrism and its ‘imperial debris’ (Stoler 2013). Navigating such tensions requires us to envision genres that are hybrid and polyphonic, emphasizing ‘livable collaborations’ over monocultural narratives of ‘progress’ and ‘decline’ (Tsing 2015), and imagining human embodiment as distributed across nature-culture ecologies (De Castro 1998; Kohn 2013; Strathern 1988).
This panel presents multi-sensory research (Vidali 1016) that experiments with genre and form in order to understand, communicate, and locate situated habitations in the anthropocene. The presenters draw on a variety of different approaches, including narrative exploration, video, sound, creative writing, and sensory engagements. Together, these presentations seek to unravel: 1) How diverse genres of expression can help us envision new possibilities for continued human and non-human life on this planet; 2) How diverse genres enable us to situate the increasing awareness of planetary limits in specific socio-cultural, historical, and political contexts.
(2-0455) Beyond Form and Function, or “Anthropology on its Feet”: Dance as knowledge production
11/20/2019 4:30 PM - 6:15 PM Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Room 10 | East Meeting Level
Anthropologists have long studied dance as a way to understand larger social, economic and political systems, doing so according to the central theoretical orientation of their time, from the salvage ethnographies of Boas, to Evans-Pritchard’s functionalism, to the symbolic dance studies of Sklar’s and Ness’s early work. These various approaches shared a common interest in linking dances’ form with their social function and “meaning.” Moving beyond form and function, as early as the 1930s, Katherine Dunham not only foregrounded dance as central object of study, she also proposed dance technique as a legitimate mode of knowledge transmission (Chin 2014). Since then, numerous studies have affirmed dance as a form of embodied knowledge (e.g. Daniel 2005, Taylor 2003), contributing new ways of thinking about the body, epistemology, movement, and meaning. Moreover, they show how dance can reveal nonverbal information about personal and collective experiences that challenge knowledge hierarchies. While there has been much work on the ways in which dance produces knowledge symbolically, or as a form of language that communicates knowledge explicitly, less is known about the way knowledge is produced in less-explicit ways, through kinetic sensations such as control, force, synchronization, balance, and speed. Likewise, the very notion of dance as embodied knowledge has received little critical theoretical attention.
This panel explores dance as a social epistemology in which politics of knowing emerge through kinetic sensations that are produced, experienced, and debated by dancers themselves and their audiences. We ask: what is knowable through dance? How do dancers produce and negotiate this kinaesthetic knowledge, and to what end? If dance is epistemology, what is the nature of the knowledge produced through movement? What gives it truth power? Who has access to it? Is this knowledge specific to particular bodies? If so, to what extent can it be shared and studied? What links aesthetics, kinaesthetics, and politics?
Drawing on field research stretching from South Asia through the African continent and the circum-Caribbean, our papers examine the links between knowledge production, kinaesthetic sensation, and politics within dance ethnography. We draw from a wide range of theoretical framework—including affect theory, performance studies, theory of practice, and political philosophy—to explore how dance and embodied knowledge participate in the production and contestation of gender and sexuality, in the politics of memory and postcolonial sovereignty, and in community building and social justice activism. Putting “anthropology on its feet” (Chin 2014), we interrogate ways of knowing through movement.
(3-0100) Digital Media Worlds
8:00 AM - 9:45 AM
Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 216 | West Level 2
In the past few years, media has increasingly ceased to be just the medium for public debate and has become its ever-present and anxious topic. From concerns about the role of fake news and conspiracy theories in the rise of right-wing populist leaders in countries ranging from the United States through Brazil and Hungary to interest in how innovative uses of social media and new forms of digital media piracy have enabled the rise and spread of global cultural industries such as the South Korean Wave, since the end of the 1990s, digital technologies are playing a crucial role in social, political, economic, and aesthetic dynamics in locations around the world.
In 2002, anthropologists Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin came together to edit the seminal volume, Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain. The goal of the volume was to collect the variety of work that anthropologists had been conducting within the growing new subfield of media anthropology. With its holistic and sustained attention to individual and collective experience in locations around the world, they argued, anthropology had something to offer media studies, namely, the ethnographic tools and contextual knowledge to examine how the production, reception, and distribution of media texts took on meaning through individuals’ everyday experiences. At the same time, they felt, taking up the study of media had something to offer anthropology. At a moment from the 1980s on when anthropologists had begun to query and challenge that long-cherished concept of culture, studying media with its tendencies to traverse regional and national boundaries allowed anthropologists to re-examine and rethink the relationship between local communities and global flows.
This panel posits that, nearly two decades after the publication of Media Worlds, decades that have seen the rapid proliferation of digital technologies around the world, it is time for anthropologists to return once more to some fundamental questions about the relationship between our discipline and media. What does anthropology have to offer in the current rush to study digital technologies? How does taking digital technologies as a serious object of analysis shed light on the socio-cultural, economic, and political dynamics that have long interested anthropologists? What new modes of inquiry and concepts are needed in an era where global flows and interconnectedness are ever-more palpable at local levels and yet difference – from socio-cultural and political to questions of technological access – continue to matter?
Building on recent work on anthropology and other disciplines, the papers in this panel take up these questions and more, focusing on both the local and the broader consequences of new uses of digital technologies in Brazil, Hungary, and Cuba.
(3-0240) Thinking in Images. Perplexing Particulars and Imagistic Anthropology
8:00 AM - 9:45 AM
Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Room 13 | East Meeting Level
Thinking with and about images has a long tradition in anthropology. For several decades now, there has been an opening to reflect on the limits and potentialities of ethnographic description, experimenting with photographic and filmic images in particular. Furthermore, highly evocative and reflective work has come out in recent years exploring images not only as a supplementary means of conveying ethnographic insights, but as a radically different way of arriving at them. Scholars such as Lisa Stevenson, Robert Desjarlais, Anand Pandian and others have explored an imagistic – as opposed to a more conventionally discursive or didactic – anthropological mode of knowing. What is imagistic about an image, Stevenson (2014) has asked and suggested that an image ’expresses without formulating’, and ‘drags the world along with it.’ Desjarlais (2016) has explored questions of image and fabulation in human experience, suggesting a move from descriptive ethnography to phantasmography, a ‘writing of phantasms, a graphic inscription of the flows and currents of fantasy and fabulation’, while Pandian (2016) has explored film making as a medium of thought, as a way of thinking with the visceral force of moving images. This recent work has at times been captured under headings of methodology: Image as Method – while also opening up a horizon for imagistic thinking.
In this panel, we explore ‘Thinking in images’. In this move, we want to link this recent work on images with recent work in phenomenological and philosophical anthropology towards a new humanism (Wentzer and Mattingly 2018). Specifically we take up Cheryl Mattingly’s (2019) discussion of perplexing particulars. Following Arendt, she argues that thinking is a form of experience that disquiets or ”defrosts” concepts. While Arendt turns to Socratic style questioning as an exemplar of thinking, Mattingly proposes that anthropology’s perplexing particulars – often encountered in our ethnographic fieldworks - also have the potential to disrupt taken for granted concepts and categories, i.e. to push towards thinking in the Arendtian sense.
We ask: Can images serve as perplexing particulars that can defrost concepts and taken for granted worlds? If so, what kinds of images and under what kinds of conditions might this happen? The answer is not obvious because clearly powerful images can reify thought. There is no self-evident link between images in general and the uncertain and perplexing mode of thinking suggested by the aforementioned work on images and phenomenological and philosophical anthropology.
The presentations in this panel explore thinking in images that perplex, disorient, and disrupt. Furthermore, we explore images as a mode of thinking and theorizing both of our interlocutors and in our engagements with them and their worlds. Stevenson’s image of the raven -- which might or might not be a deceased uncle -- is emblematic as it points toward absence, haunting, contradiction and also connection, presence and potentiality. Drawing on ethnographic and artistic work in Algeria, France, Denmark, Uganda and USA we will think with images, which thoroughly or momentarily shake worlds, thus lending themselves to a critically engaged phenomenological and philosophical anthropology.
(3-0160) Making ethnography in graphic form: productive tensions, creative engagements, uncertain knowledges
11/21/2019 8:00 AM - 9:45 AM
Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Ballroom A | West Level 1
Anthropologists have recently explored the making of ethnography in graphic form and experimented with the use of comics, graphic novels, and drawing in their fieldwork, in the dissemination of their research, and in their pedagogical practice. They have begun to engage with the productive possibilities and uncertainties afforded by this medium and to craft compelling renderings of complex social issues, where subjective experiences intersect with historical, social, and geopolitical worlds. The medium is especially generative of opportunities for the co-production of knowledge through various collaborations involving scholars, graphic artists, students, teachers, and research communities. It presents anthropologists with possibilities to expand their engagements in the field, in the classroom, and in their research dissemination practices with various publics. The medium is also increasingly recognized for its unique and subtle combination of image + text in meaning-making, which is particularly well suited to tell complex, power-laden, polyvocal, nuanced stories. Comics and graphic novels, then, allow for the telling of anthropology otherwise.
As an emergent field of practice, the making of ethnography in graphic form remains a peripheral practice to the discipline, raising important questions about how its unique modalities are mobilized in the field, in teaching, and in research. As most anthropologists remain primarily schooled in textual representation of ethnography, the making of comics and graphic novels, and the use of drawing, involve a complex process of adaption, transformation, and even translation of knowledge. What happens when anthropologists experiment with this medium? What kinds of knowledges are made possible when comics and graphic novels meet anthropology? What are the challenges posed by ethno-graphic storytelling? What shifts and changes in habit-forming and anthropological subject-making become necessary? What about the negotiations involved in the co-production of knowledge in graphic form, or the possibilities it opens up in the field, as an ethnographic method? What are some of the ethical conundrums that arise in the making of ethnography in graphic from? This roundtable brings together anthropologists to share about their graphic experiments and engage with these questions. Participants in this roundtable will discuss their experiences, attempts and approaches, as they produce ethnography in graphic form. They will reflect on the possibilities and limits afforded by the medium, for telling and doing anthropology otherwise.
(3-0305) Documentary Filmmaking with your Smart Phone Workshop
11/21/2019 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Room 18 | East Meeting Level
Level of Audience: Beginning
Pricing (USD): $20/$40 (student/professional)
Make the most of your smart phone in the field by collecting visual anecdotes. This workshop teaches participants practical skills to capture and create short compelling pieces of audio-visual media using their smartphones. Participants will learn the basic building blocks for documentary storytelling, be introduced to different styles of ethnographic filmmaking, technical video and audio how-to’s on the smartphone for direct applications in the field. Participants will leave with skills that can be adapted to their unique field sites contexts, methodologies, and extended into longer film projects.
This workshop is presented by Ethnocine, a feminist, women of color centered, ethnographic filmmaking collective who push the boundaries of documentary storytelling through our decolonial and intersectional feminist practice.
Identify the basic building blocks for documentary & storytelling.
Technically high quality capture video and audio the smartphone as data collection in the field.
Craft different styles of ethnographic filmmaking for direct applications in the field.
(3-0480) Form, Genre and Ethnographic Imaginations
11/21/2019 10:15 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 222 | West Level 2
As evidenced by the works of Kathleen Stewart, Tobias Hecht, Anand Pandian and many others, "creative" or "literary" forms provide critical means through which ethnographers can explore the varying politico-affective dynamics ubiquitous to anthropological inquiry. Such forms and formal experimentations can reveal the intimate dynamics by which politics are sensed, known, voiced, and contested. This roundtable, comprising two sections in conversation with each other, explores how genre, form, aesthetics, and broader conceptions of creativity and play render the literary, as an analytical site and mode of ethnographic engagement, an integral locus for how we, as anthropologists, navigate matters of emplacement and embodiment in zones of political uncertainty, change, or instability. Inhabiting the expressive stories of our interlocutors, this roundtable also contemplates the ethnographic genre as one that can augment (and perhaps join) public scholarship, media, and storytelling to bring anthropological portrayals into explicit dialogue with pressing social and political contentions worldwide.
One question in this field of inquiry concerns the significance of literary analysis and other text-based engagements in navigating phenomena occurring on live, (trans)national scales. With research spanning fiction and surveillance in Pakistan; the relationship between fact, science fiction, and empire (in Palestine and elsewhere); and Chhayavadi poetry and Hindu ritual practice along the Ganges; Islam, Silver, Nelson, and Joshi ask: How do the virtual worlds bodied forth by narrative texts, as well as their forms and genre conventions, affect our and our interlocutors’ understandings of actual happenings? What political boundaries are (re)made through the narrative textures? How does “creative” work represent and augment political economic realities, and, in so doing, how might it facilitate specific means of navigating the political dynamics necessarily implicated in textual productions? A second question concerns how, as anthropologists, we might adopt a craft-based approach to ethnographic productions and engagements. Roth and Greene, both graduates of creative writing MFA programs, discuss the processes and the ethical considerations that go into their “hybrid” ethnographic practices. Seeking to interrogate the discrepancy often posed between “creative” writing and “scholarly” inquiry, they discuss how thinking through ethnography as a creative, generative act both underscores the affective power of linguistic experimentation, rather than just framing ethnography as an inert repository of information, and how alternative inhabitations and reckonings engendered therein — of the body, body text, body-as-text — can shift how we navigate our positions in worlds comprising nexuses of variable, and varyingly intense and directed, forces.
By threading these two conversations into one modal engagement with ethnographies of life as we know it, this roundtable gestures towards other horizons — to life as we may not know it yet. How can aspirations central to specific literary and creative forms also thread through the ethnographic? How can imaginative modes of thinking and writing otherwise offer a diagonal, an anthropology beside itself, in a world of changing climates cross-cut with medical, legal, and discursive regimes? In asking these questions, we take seriously the political power of expression, placing such energies at the center of ethnography’s own politics and political forms.
(3-0355) Affective Attunements: Sounds, Silence, Reverberations
11/21/2019 10:15 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 306 | West Level 3 (Summit)
There is a growing recognition of the importance of attending to atmosphere as a significant aspect of social life (Stewart, 2011, Anderson, 2009, Ingold 2012, Dragojlovic 2015). Contributing to the anthropology of affect and vitalist ethnographic work this panel explores affective attunements as encounters that are monitored and/or engineered through processes of sanitization, achieved through various forms of enhancements practices, or intensified/given new attention through mobilities or stillness. The aim of the panel is to further study relationship between sounds, silences, and reverberations at the intersections of anthropology of affect and anthropology of sound. This papers in this panel offer theoretically nuanced contributions drawing on affective and vitalist ethnographies that engage in diverse topics within a range of atmospheres and anthropologists' relationships with their interlocutors and locales. Papers in this panel address aural refusal and race negotiations in a country fair in the US, "sadvertising" and aesthetic labour in Thailand, binaural recordings and abled/"disabled" in fieldwork, sound and sonic signification in Toronto's Chinese communities, aural apophenia and enka popular music, and museum aesthetic environments.
(3-0600) Virtual Realities: Worldbuilding Beyond the Ethnographic Frame
11/21/2019 10:15 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Room 2 | East Meeting Level
In this roundtable we seek to bring together anthropologists engaged in virtual reality (VR) and 360 video to provoke cross-subdisciplinary conversations. We aim to collectively consider the ways in which these immersive media offer potentially generative ethnographic possibilities, while at the same time highlighting the seductive representational power of these charismatic technologies to produce false impressions of "embodied omniscience" (Messeri 2018). Often extolled as "empathy machines" by their proponents, we are interested in the ways in which a wide diversity of communities and media makers (including anthropologists) are employing these technologies to craft virtual realities that expand beyond some of the constraints of film and video, ceding control of framing-and sometimes even perspective-to audiences in favor of worldbuilding that fosters unique, individual, and intimate experiences. We consider VR and 360 from the perspectives of both a potential tool for conveying ethnographic and anthropological insight as well as a media generative of anthropological critique.
(3-0895) Political Ecologies of Matter Out of Place: Aesthetics and Atmospheres of Pollution/Toxicity
11/21/2019 . 2:00 PM - 3:45 PM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 217 | West Level 2
The livable surface of earth is polluted in unprecedented ways. Images abound of plastic bags riding the currents of the Pacific ocean and collecting in the Mariana Trench; stockpiles of nuclear waste pumped deep into earth’s outer crust; smoke and smog (a fusion of particulate matter and ozone) settling in above sprawling urban colonies; spent oxygen containers pockmarking the snows of Everest; and billions of pieces of space debris endlessly falling in Low Earth Orbit, just beyond a thin and rapidly changing breathable atmosphere. So goes the narrative of the Anthropocene, a purportedly new geological epoch demarcated by the planetary effects of human activity.
The famed symbolic anthropologist Mary Douglas (1966) understood pollution as “matter out of place,” a kind of disorder that that necessarily prompts efforts to ”organize” the environment. Anthropology, geography, and allied fields have since pushed this conversation forward by inquiring into the materiality of pollution, the toxicity that manifests in situated encounters between bodies and environments, and the co-production of pollution/toxicity — two sides of the same coin, one overflowing boundaries and the other seeping in — through those extended networks of physico-chemical, organic, and sociocultural life that constitute local and global political ecologies. Yet, questions about the source and form of pollution and the nature of its toxicity remain.
In this panel, participants ask: How is the materiality of pollution/toxicity — biotic and abiotic, and from the immediate to the atmospheric — smelled, tasted, felt, experienced, embodied, or symbolized? How does it engage the entirety of the corporeal sensorium, in daily life as well as in moments of crisis? How do those embodied experiences in turn shape narratives of pollution/toxicity? How does pollution/toxicity then recursively shape moods, experiences, ethical orientations, and emerging sociopolitical movements on various spatial and temporal scales?
The papers included in this session, “Political Ecologies of Matter Out of Place: Aesthetics and Atmospheres” draw upon ethnographic perspectives from a range of sites, theoretical alliances, and epistemological approaches. Collectively, they aim to understand the discursive and material co-production of pollution and toxicity at the intersection of symbolic anthropology, political ecology, and science and technology studies, as well as identify the stakes of such an analysis for diverse communities of human and nonhuman beings.
(3-0890) OUT FROM ART: PRACTICES OF THE POLITICAL IMAGINATION
11/21/2019 2:00 PM - 3:45 PM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 210 | West Level 2
Investigations into practices of imagination continue to resurge in different quarters of anthropology, despite sagacious questions over what exactly the return to “imagination” means (Stankiewicz 2016). In part, this continued reliance on a broad term—from Durkheim to recent work on ecology and new materialism—signals the need for a space incompletely determined by current material conditions yet deeply attuned to them. This panel aims to examine different forms of the political imagination starting from contemporary artistic practices as models of how the imagination works.
Empirical studies have not tested recent forays by artists, philosophers, and political theorists to forefront contemporary art's ground-up impact on politics and the imagination. In the context of the expansion of so-called social practice or relational art, this field is increasingly tasked with ‘imagining things otherwise’ (Esche 2004) in place of its traditional representational mission. Artists are asked to produce alternative social situations (as opposed to sublime representations) and to propose alternative socio-political imaginaries. Theorists such as Rancière have argued that art can produce social change by operating a “redistribution of the sensible.” The objective of this panel is to stretch this idea of art rethinking social and political forms. We hope to craft it into a lens to examine other practices and modes of the (political) imagination, from museums to dreams to driving.
We conceive of the “radical political imagination” as immanent, creative force operating between the social and the individual. We start from Yael Navaro's (2012) notion of the “make-believe” (referring to Turkish Northern Cypriot administrative practices) which spotlights a “process of making-and-believing, or believing-and-making," thought and sentiment, materiality and affect at the same time (6). To provide a comparative look at the political imagination, the panel focuses on historically informed ethnographies of phantasmatic encounters. On the one hand we want to describe and analyze materials, sites and practices such as art, museums, dreams, films, cyberspace, language, or transportation practices that go beyond individual subjects and form intermediary zones upon which the many converge. On the other hand, we seek to know how participants and users meeting these forms and meeting each other through them may realign possible interactions and self-understandings. If these forms of the imagination promote social change, how does this happen differently in specific locations?
These questions are vital in a world that seems dominated by a sense of profound despair and uncertainty amidst spiraling populisms and the crisis of the welfare and developmental state. How can we think with art? How do people mobilize different practices to ‘imagine things otherwise’? How do differently situated actors critically reflect on social realities and inventively think about concrete alternatives and alternative institutions?
(3-1010) “Changing the Air”: Genre as Worldmaking
11/21/2019 . 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 109 | West Level 1
This panel performs the capacities of ethnography and the arts to “change the air “ and to remake worlds. How do we convey, theorize, analyze and remake the richness and complexity of “the world” at this historical moment of ecological and political crisis?
We take our title from audience reaction to a panel organized at the 2017 AAA meetings that featured the work of scholar-artists. An audience member told us that we “changed the air” of the stuffy institutional room. We hope to harness the potentiality of the arts and interventions in ethnographic narrative conventions to refigure scholarly practice in ways that move people on multiple levels. How might the practices of performance, poetry, dance, novels, visual art, film and ethnography, among others, awaken possibilities for making life-giving intellectual, political, and aesthetic worlds?
These awakenings assume heightened political urgency as we face the numerous challenges of hyper-nationalism, racism, climate change, economic disparity, truncated life expectancies and populations living in conditions of precarity, vulnerability, and “debility,” in Jasbir Puar’s terms. We need to be able to reach people, to move people. The arts, in their mobilization of intellect, emotion/ affect, and embodiment, can help us to engage the multiple senses of ‘movement’ as political, affective, kinesthetic, diasporic.
While eschewing a simple, linear history, the panel embraces anthropologists from different generations of genre experimentation, from Writing Culture to the Crumpled Paper Boat Collective and beyond. Chin’s innovative autoethnography of consumption and the material (Marxist theory, the new materialisms) performs theoretically rigorous play that compels the reader. Cox’s interventions include choreography, movement, and spoken word, among other aesthetic forms. Kondo is a playwright and dramaturg, whose book Worldmaking includes one of her full-length plays. She was on the inaugural editorial board of Cultural Anthropology during the initial heyday of ethnographic reflexivity. Moodie is a writer of both novels and short stories and is a scholar of disability. Pandian is a founder of the Crumpled Paper Boat Collective. Reese bends genre in her ethnography of food justice. Stone is a poet; one of her poems, intertwining scholarly references and poetry, is entitled ”world-making.” We bring our diverse artistic and intellectual commitments to our experiments with genre and anticipate lively interactions with each other and with the audience.
At this historical juncture, in the face of psychic, physical, and geopolitical violence, our hope is that we our experiments with genre might create alternative visions of possibility, to remake our worlds and to “change the air” of scholarly practice and beyond.
(4-0485) Soundtable: Sounds of the Anthropocene (Invited Session: Music and Sound Interest Group (MSIG))
11/22/2019 10:15 AM - 12:00 PM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 211 | West Level 2
What are the sounds of the Anthropocene, and what does it mean to think the Anthropocene through sound? The 2019 Music and Sound Interest Group (MSIG) “Soundtable” brings together an interdisciplinary panel of scholars and artists for a conversation that explores how listening in and to the Anthropocene might afford distinct modes of attunement to a rapidly changing climate and its uneven consequences for human and nonhuman subjects. Scholars and artists are increasingly attending to sound as signifying the transformation of natural soundscapes in the face of climate change, recording birdsong, insects, and melting glaciers. Others write musical compositions in which pitch indexes rising temperatures. Similarly, the acoustic signatures of breaking ocean waves might be audited for climatological information, the sound of waves in decoalescence apprehended as a sonic and semiotic herald of climate-changed sea states. At the same time, sound offers sensorial, embodied means of approaching complex entanglements between forms of matter, and their shifting configurations in a changing climate. Desert sandstorms become audible in the congested voice of someone whose lungs are filled with dust, the voice made evident as a register of the inextricable intercalation of bodies and air. Fossil fuel extraction utilizes acoustic technologies to “listen” to the underground, amplifying the significance of sound for labor, whether that of miners or engineers. The notion of the Anthropocene has been critiqued for flattening a highly unequal process, the concept itself undergirded by a foundational confabulation of blackness and geology (Yusoff). Such inequity plays out in and through sound in profound ways. In northeastern Brazil, a mutual formation of music and environment in the face of drought reflects ways in which those who are radically excluded is sounded. In rural Mongolia, sounds and soundscapes that help pastoralists evaluate, communicate, organize, and mobilize are overwhelmed by new trade networks; and while these may improve economic opportunities for urban Mongolians and their Chinese and Russian neighbors, they also diminish the effectiveness of herders’ sustainable grassland management, contributing to land degradation. Finally, sound is at the center of alternative futures imagined by artists, activists, and indigenous groups. Following a number of whale strandings, the US Navy’s use of SONAR is under legal pressure as Kanaka-Maoli groups on Hawai'i argue that it interferes with culturally necessary (and constitutionally protected) relations with palaoa, or marine mammals as family kin. And while video games can model “disappearing” landscapes and soundscapes, helping us sensorially imagine a future of radical environmental change and its effect on human and nonhuman bodies, art might also provide robust and creative responses to global warming through practices of aesthetic micro-political attunement that generate affective resilience in the face of the denialism or despair.
(5-1045) Atmospheric Devices: From Object to Method
11/23/2019 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Room 10 | East Meeting Level
The concept of atmosphere is doing a great deal of work in the human sciences today. Theorists are drawn to its potential for overcoming ontological dualisms and surfacing the collective nature of affective life, while more empirically minded researchers have mobilized it in contexts ranging from the securing of volumes to the constitution of breathing publics. A recent edited volume thus wondered: “Are atmospheres media or objects of perception, metaphors or material phenomena?” The concept’s semantic slipperiness has been tremendously productive, and yet so far discussions of method have largely stayed at the level of a poetic materialism: studying atmospheres, many have suggested, demands a lightness or airiness of thought.
How do we, as anthropologists, put this suggestion to the proof through ethnographic engagement with specific, situated atmospheres? And what tools, both conceptual and material, would doing so require? This session brings together a diverse set of inquiries into and with atmospheric devices, a term that refers both to technical objects used to register, traverse, and modulate atmospheres and to the research methods used to investigate the conscription of these objects into purposive, if always contested forms of social action. By way of reference to an instrumentarium extending from drones to anemometers to measurement microphones, we explore the looping processes whereby atmospheric devices get refunctioned for new epistemic uses. In the process, we add to ongoing discussions about the social life of methods and provide a needed complement to prevailing approaches to atmospheres.
11/23/2019 8:00 AM - 9:45 AM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 103 & 104 | West Level 1
In the last few years, so it appears, anthropology has moved into dark times (Ortner). To counteract this assessment, atmosphere, and mood, this panel delves into the world of what both Jane Bennett and Rita Felski have called enchantment: a form of engagement with the world that builds on and enfolds states of enthrallment, rapture, sensation, and wonder. More than a pleasurable feeling of being charmed, here enchantment marks an active, affective, aesthetic, and political response to the cynicism and despair that seemingly pervades our world and times. In particular recent inquiries in new materialisms, aesthetics, affect, and art have opened up ways to take seriously the sensations and energies of wonder that shape enchantment. In building on those inquiries, presenters in this panel ask about and describe wondrous encounters, sensuous conditions, feelings of being torn out of one’s default analytical disposition, and moods of liveliness, fullness, and plenitude that enchant. In also building on the recognition that the world has become neither inert nor devoid of surprise, participants offer alter-tales to anthropological and cultural disenchantment stories. This is not say that participants are not cognizant of a world of racism, pollution, poverty, violence of all kinds, and inequity, but that they hold that enchantment is also there, and that we need to pay attention its feelings, sensations, and conditions if we are to counter the cynicism of our times.
For an anthropology that puts premium on critique, enchantment can be a problematic term. Easily judged as too magical and romantic, for a suspicious anthropology attention to enchantment may lure analysts away from the necessity of critical work. How can we suspend the supposed bifurcation between enchantment and critique? Is it always already necessary to keep both enchantment and disillusionment simultaneously in our sight? Is it possible to assume a descriptive position that is both critical and creative? How can we nurture enchantment in our methodologies? How does it arise out of the various ways in which people see, perceive, and experience the world? How does it set the condition for the co-production of knowledge and collaborations, and how – if at all – does “enchanted knowledge” make its way into scholarship? And how, if at all, are explorations of enchantment capable of providing alter-tales to the disheartening conditions of our times? In calling attention the ways in which enchantment resides not only in extra-ordinary sensations and encounters, but also lives amid the familiar and everyday, this panel seeks to render enchantment as anthropologically less uncanny and capable of propelling affective generosity, alter-tales, and joy.
Thursday, November 21 (4pm-6pm)
The Hangar at the Center for Digital Media 577 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, V5T 1E1
The practice of ethnography has increasingly come untethered from writing and vested in other modalities, from sound to film to virtual reality, together with a pronounced new emphasis on movement (walking, dance, performance). The substitution of sense-based methods and media for the language-centred method of old has resulted in a significant re-figuration of anthropological knowledge: mediation has taken the place of representation, and immersion has supplanted observation and description. As François Laplantine puts it in The Life of the Senses: Introduction to a Modal Anthropology anthropologists now seek to “feel along with” others as a critical component of sensory ethnography. The growing experimentation with different ways of sensing has challenged the former assimilation of the work of interpretation to linguification or textualization. Anthropology is no longer the “discipline of words” it once was: sensing cultures through multiple modalities has taken over from “reading culture” (Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures) and “writing culture” (Clifford and Marcus, Writing Culture). Collaborative, relational, participant action research and multimodal, multi-authored human and non-human points of view are taking shape through new media, attuned to the work of culture as embodied experience and encounter. This roundtable explores how new forms of experimental mediation are enabling the sensing of cultures and environments as a means to challenge historical silences, absences and marginalities.
(4-0935) Ordinary Schizophonia: Field Recordings as Multimodal Experiment
11/22/2019 2:00 PM - 3:45 PM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 221 | West Level 2
Anthropologists of sound and acoustic ecologists have considered the problem of “schizophonia” - the technological separation of a sound from its source - through the rubrics of noise pollution and the cultural appropriation of indigenous sound recordings. Adding to this conversation and in the spirit of recent AAA multimodal panels, this roundtable considers the contemporary digital terrain of field recording through the experimental tools of multimedia artists. Central to the discussion will be a collaborative sound installation between anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and Vancouver-based artist & sound studies scholar Michelle Helene Mackenzie. The multi-channel audio installation - which will take place in an offsite arts space in Vancouver - seeks to expand ordinary, everyday attunements to ecological fragilities. What does shifting our mode of listening to recordings of power generators tell us about contemporary urbanism? In presenting a recording of a seismic gun used during offshore energy exploration, what questions arise by adding or subtracting digital noise? In a smartphone recording of a bustling street performance, what does the recordists’ attunement to this now ordinary technology of memory bring to a collaborative research question? The installation will bring these questions and others to an experimental engagement with field recordings from Gulu, Uganda; New Orleans; New York City; Austin; Durham; Guatemala and Vancouver. The roundtable will include participants and discussants who have worked on other sound installations as well - such as Louise Meintjes’ recent Dust of the Zulu installation - as well as anthropologists who work on and with experimental media. If separating a sound from its source is, at times, an environmental threat, and at other times, an enabling condition of alternative sonic modalities (a la Alexander Weheliye), this roundtable discussion will seek to better understand the kinds of environments that are possible through creative, collaborative engagements with field recordings.
(4-0560) Antropoesia: Writing Ethnographic Poetry in Contemporary Times Workshop
11/22/2019 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Room 14 | East Meeting Level
Pricing (USD): $10/$20 (student/professional)
Keeping the move for "antropoesia" in contemporary anthropology central, this workshop will explore ethnographic poetry as a mode of ethnopoetics that posits that an ethnographer-poet observes the field in ways other than objective. We invite poet-ethnographers, and creative writers to an exciting session of experimenting with writing poetry, and explore how it allows for capturing the field. We will explore ethnographic poetry as a mode of ethnopoetics, which strengthens the move for antropoesia in contemporary ethnographic writing. Renato Rosaldo describes “antropoesia,” as a bridging the cultural and social scientific fields of poetry and anthropology. Through guided writing, prompts, and readings we will craft poems during the session, and discuss how the ethnographic poetry becomes a witness that meshes together the ethnographer as a professional and a visceral human with a deeply personal and humanistic voice. This workshop aims to encourage anthropologists to write more creative, and heartfelt ethnographies and will aim for producing publishable pieces written by the participants.
(4-0585) Hallucinating Ethnography – A curated installation.11/22/2019 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Exhibition Hall A | East Convention Level
Hallucinating Ethnography is an experimental multimodal installation with a series of exhibits, performances, stills, films, sound montages, and papers that speak to lived multisensorial and synaesthetic experiences, and the rich complexities of culturally diverse and politically saturated epistemologies and ontologies. Our installation explores the hallucinatory as a theoretical and methodological intervention in ethnography. Our approach to ‘hallucinations’ is broadly conceived— dreams, sensations, delusions, visitations, sensibilities, embodied feelings/knowings, intuitions,
imaginings. Hallucinations may evoke embodied memories and forgotten meaning-making practices; subvert human/nonhuman, nature/culture, and natural/supernatural binaries inviting celebrations of radical alterity; reimagine temporalities; incite questions about agentive lands, seas, persons, animals, histories, traces, plants, and ghosts. We invited a selection of scholars and artists working around the world to consider how the hallucinatory may infuse experimental methodologies that take seriously that which seems to elude the rational, the material, the readily seen or heard, the anticipated, and yet is experienced by interlocutors and ethnographers as intensely significant in shaping every day, every
night life in ordinary and extraordinary ways. Hallucinating Ethnography engages contemporary theory in dialogues with lived, embodied experience, questioning how we may reimagine the political, and conjure transformative possibilities in this Capitalocene moment through multimodal experiments in arts, anthropology and the hallucinatory.
(4-0775) #DecolonizeDocs: A Feminist Filmmaking Works-in-progress Workshop
11/22/2019 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM Location: Vancouver CC EAST | Room 18 | East Meeting Level Level of Audience: Beginning
Pricing (USD): $20/$40 (student/professional)
As anthropologists and filmmakers, how do we work against the colonial residue of conventional documentary and ethnographic filmmaking? Join us for a four hour, two-part workshop organized by the feminist ethnographic filmmaking collective Ethnocine. Together we will nurture a space to think critically about this question and the many ethical quandaries that arise in not only “writing culture” but also in “visualizing it” through ethnographic and documentary filmmaking practice. In Part 1, Ethnocine members will show excerpts of and reflect upon their own works-in-progress, focusing on three primary themes-- intersectional feminism, collaboration, and decolonial filmmaking praxis. In Part 2, select participants will share works-in-progress, with Ethnocine members and workshop attendees offering support, feedback and constructive problem-solving around filmmaking ethical and methodological concerns. Throughout the workshop, we will ask ourselves and each other: What does it mean to decolonize ethnographic and documentary film? What are the tools we can use to work towards feminist and decolonial approaches to collaboration? Anyone with experience (or an interest) in visual anthropology and documentary filmmaking is welcome.
(4-1105) Bringing Performance Ethnography back to Anthropology
11/22/2019 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 120 | West Level 1
This roundtable examines recent ethnographic projects at the intersection of humanistic anthropology, theatre, performance, and multimodal research approaches in order to track the interdisciplinary conversations around collaborative arts-based ethnography. Performance ethnography uses theater and contemporary performance—as collaborative, multisensorial, and transdisciplinary modalities— at the level of ethnographic process, analysis, and representation.
Our roundtable examines the genealogies of performance ethnography and terms used to describe and situate these practices in transnational context, including, but not limited to: Research-Creation, Arts-based Research, Performance-based research, Multimodal Research, Imaginative Ethnography, Sensory Ethnography, and Humanistic Anthropology. We are interested in the intersection of performance ethnography, emerging from collaborations between Richard Schechner and Victor Turner in the 1980s, then further propagated by Johannes Fabian, Dwight Conquergood, and D. Soyini Madision, and researchers affiliated with the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography (CIE), the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, and Future Anthropologies Network (FAN), including Dara Culhane, Cassandra Hartblay, Andrew Irving, Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston, Virginie Magnat, and Johannes Sjoberg.
Roundtable presenters will share excerpts from their own performance ethnography projects, and describe the theoretical genealogies that have supported the development of each work. These works include Hartblay’s I WAS NEVER ALONE, a 90-minute play of six portrait-monologues based on fieldwork with adults with disabilities in Northwest Russia; Nayyar’s KASHI LABH, a film exploring the potential of audiovisual ethnography to facilitate a space where the possible is performed when life becomes impossible; play scenes and performative exercises generated from Jones’ ongoing collaborative exploration in North Carolina alongside individuals with the genetic condition Turner Syndrome; Kazubowski-Houston’s fictional dramatic storytelling project, “quiet Theatre,” conducted in collaboration with Romani elders in Poland; Auslander and Schattschneider’s work anchored at Michigan State University on expressive art production and exhibition-oriented storytelling with the sister survivors of a vast sexual abuse scandal; and Virginie Magnat's forthcoming book, The Performative Power of Vocality, an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural exploration of vocality as a vital source of embodied knowledge, creativity, and well-being grounded in process, practice, and place. Debra Vidali, in the role of discussant, will synthesize themes in these projects, drawing on her work on theatre-making, knowledge production, multimodal ethnography, and ethnography of communication.
With this roundtable, we consider how performance ethnography as a mode of humanistic anthropology can facilitate spaces for collaborative, participatory, imaginative, and activist collaborations among researchers, artists, community members, and the audience. We invite conversation about how bringing performance ethnography back to anthropology might help us reimagine anthropological theory, praxis, and ethics, and the relevance of the discipline within and beyond academia. We examine how our performance ethnography projects have helped us to rethink our approaches to reflexivity, collaboration, decolonizing research, polyvocal representation, and socially engaged ethnographic practice. Finally, we interrogate the pedagogical potentials and perils of performance ethnography at a time when the neoliberal academy has usurped the language of creativity, transdisciplinary, community activism, and social justice to promote its entrepreneurial agendas without serious commitment to address the structural inequalities on which it is predicated.
(5-0330) Anthropology of and through the Image
11/23/2019 10:15 AM - 12:00 PM Location: Vancouver CC WEST | Room 203 | West Level 2
The sound-image; dream-image, the ethnographic scene as image, the surreal sketch-image, the haptic filmic image, image as visceral sensation and intuition, the phantasmagoric thought-image–what is an anthropology of and through the image? Recently anthropologists have turned their attention towards images in new ways, engaging them not only as symbolic and supplementary to text, but as form of thought (Kohn 2013), method (Stevenson 2014;Romero 2015), sensation (Castaing-Taylor and Paravel 2012), anthropological and cinematic object (Baxstrom and Meyers 2016), creation (Pandian 2015), and curatorial practice (Elhaik 2016).
The densely layered quality of the images that populate the world has also contributed to how we do anthropology and how we come to experience and perceive the world around us—its uncertainty, impossibility, over-saturation, multiple temporalities, phantoms, and strange surrealism (Desjarlais 2018; Taussig 2011). On the one hand, this recasting of attention towards images is closely interrelated with questions of epistemology, that is, whether there might be a mode of ethnographic knowledge that escapes discursive domestication. As Lisa Stevenson writes, an “anthropology through the image,” that draws “our anthropological attention back to imagistic rather than discursive modes of knowing allows us to be faithful to…experiences that have often gone unthought in ethnography” (2014, 10).
On the other hand, image, cinema, and curatorial practice as object of inquiry creates the possibility for renewed dialogue between anthropology, art, and philosophy that decenters anthropos from ethnography to focus instead on assemblages, conceptualizing fieldwork as “curatorial practice,” and “work-with-images” (Andrade and Elhaik 2018). As Tarek Elhaik argues, the anthropologist as curator is also a healer, who diagnosis, cares for, and curates images as well as anthropology and its methods (Elhaik 2016). From such a field of inquiry, it becomes possible to ask, for example, what kind of purview anthropology might grant beyond conventional film criticism for considering cinema and the truths it tells about the human (Baxstrom and Meyers 2018; Seale-Feldman 2019).
This panel seeks to continue recent ongoing conversations on anthropology of and through the image by posing the following questions: What forms of understanding and expressivity do images afford? How might images enable the anthropologist to access other worlds and modes of thought? What is anthropology of and through the image and how does it relate to and diverge from visual anthropology? How might image-work heal anthropology?
(5-0593) Experiments in Art and Ethnography: An installation. An invitation. Sponsored by the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University and the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography.
11/23/2019 10:15 AM - 3:45 PM Location: Offsite - This Installation will take place at the School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA), Simon Fraser University.
School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA), Simon Fraser University
149 West Hastings Street
Rooms: Lobby, 4210, 4350, 4365, 4650, 4750, 4955, 4390
The SCA is a 10-minute walk from the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Located on sovereign xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories, Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) is a 12-minute walk from the AAA/CASCA’s 2019 Conference venue. We invite attendees to join us on Saturday, November 23, 2019, 10:15A.M.– 3:45P.M., for a multimodal installation entitled Experiments in Art and Ethnography. The installation showcases work by faculty and students from our interdisciplinary art school, where a core mission is collaboration across artistic and academic disciplines. Works included explore how art and social justice struggles articulate here and around the world. Attendees are invited to join participants at a concluding roundtable for conversations about experiments in art and ethnography.
Owen Underhill (SCA Faculty, Music), Kwak’wala Languagescape (with some English translation): an eight-channel pre-recorded composition created from interviews with Dr. Robert Joseph, Hereditary Chief, Gwawaenuk First Nation (Kwakwaka’wakw) and one of a small number of speakers of the Kwak’wala language.
Laura Marks (SCA Faculty, Art, Performance & Cinema Studies), Affections: a 24-minute 2016 film by Grahame Weinbren and Laura Marks based on Marks’ 2015 book Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image introduces experimental Arab works described in the book and uses a hilarious self-interview technique to raise the questions that everyone is thinking but nobody asks.
Henry Daniel (SCA Faculty, Dance), nómadas: a six-channel audio/two-channel video installation that considers the movements of ‘travellers’, ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ as transnational choreography. Nómadas interrogates deep fragmentation among communities, nationalized and personalized bodies, and social and political institutions and the ordinary people they were meant to serve.
Sky Hopinka (SCA Faculty, Film), Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer: a two-channel 13-minute synchronous loop that tells the complex Seminole history of Fort Marion, also known as Castillo de San Marcos, built in 1672. The work traces the persistence of presence and memory experienced through confinement and incarceration, and small samplings of space and hope.
Peter Dickinson (SCA Faculty, Art, Performance & Cinema Studies), Normate: Instructions for Incorrect Assembly: working from interview transcripts focused on constructs of normality and abnormality, this experimental performance explores how language, gesture, sound and image might complicate preconceptions of the problematic fit between bodies and social categories.
Simone Rapisarda (SCA Faculty, Film), Dara Culhane (Faculty, Anthropology), Carr Sappier (SCA Alumni), Eveleen Kozak (SCA Alumni), Playing With Worlds: a multimodal installation showcasing 360° videos created by 15 children in rural British Columbia in response to a plea for help sent by extraterrestrial entities from planet Y2B who are hoping to rebuild their planet after an environmental catastrophe.
Hannah Campbell, Joey Zaurrini, and Ghinwa Yassine (SCA MFA candidates), In My Way: Out of Site: an installation that makes use of sound, video and sculpture to explore the codes of the streets as liminal spaces of power where emotional boundaries are reclaimed while fragility feeds fear of others.
Casper Leerink and Xinyue Liu (SCA MFA candidates), De grond / 境：an interactive video installation that invites visitors to create connections between nomadic objects brought to Canada from two different countries and a domestic soundscape.