In this weekly workshop, students will learn how to plan, design, and implement a multimodal ethnographic inquiry: that is, an ethnography undertaken in and through a plurality of devices to explore other sensory domains and types of knowledge production. What are the different modes, hence, in which the ethnographic happens beyond the textual? What would it bring to pluralize the means and modalities of our ethnographic inquiries? What do these approaches teach us about ethnography, about its analytic process, and about the choice of appropriate forms of anthropological output? And most importantly, how could this be implemented in a MA research project? The main aspiration of this hands-on space is (i) to develop practical epistemic strategies and discuss the potential impact of experimenting and undertaking multi-modal forms of ethnographic fieldwork and representational output drawing from the students’ investigations. Together, we will (ii) frame the critical discussions and conceptual repertoires needed for aspiring anthropologists to (iii) deal with these methods and these materials and, perhaps more importantly, (iv) to integrate these skills in their academic practices.
This workshop-based seminar is conceived as a space for students to explore and build on their existing skills. We will experiment together to unfold the potential of easy-to-use, ready-to-hand and off-the-shelf media––such as paper-based modes of record, smartphones and digital platforms––and of various devices––such as participatory performances, interactive documentaries and collaborative design processes––in order to elaborate the current prospects of multimodal ethnography. Hence, we will explore in detail how different multimodal strategies of field-working and description require us to reconsider: the materiality of fieldnotes (from words in notebooks to drawing and sketching, or audio-visual explorations using smartphones); ways to engage with multi-sensorialities, with digital habitats and their collaborative ecologies (blogs, pads, social networks); and how to undertake situated interventions and experiments, by designing devices, curating exhibitions and creating performances. In sum, paying attention to all this, we will provide a space for “serious fun” to playfully and critically explore a variety of ethnographic journeys and “effects”.
In order to elaborate with the students a shared vocabulary and a conceptual repertoire required to discuss and design further practical exercises, we will retrace some of the historical discussions around multimodality and its emergence as a field in our discipline. Hence, practical work will be regularly framed through theoretical discussions using texts from the post-Writing Culture moment, where forms of ethnographic authority and authorship, the predominance of observation as the main sensory engagement and the classic types of accounts and genres have been fundamentally challenged. Based on the legacy of those debates and drawing from contemporary cases, we will produce a practicable and workable framework in the form of an opening and an inventiveness of modes of field-working and experimenting with the multimodal politics of diverse genres of representation. Situating the written form among other forms of ethnographic materials, a more-than-textual anthropological work not only entails newer landscapes and avenues for anthropological practice, but also newer constraints, problems and predicaments.
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