Friday, 2 March 2018

Guidelines for experimental visual anthropology projects about unemployment

We would like you to study unemployment with an anthropological approach, especially an (experimental) visual anthropological approach. The basic idea is to make visible something that might be taken for granted to be seen, or not noticed because too insignificant or not understood as relevant.

Anthropological approach: main point here is to look at the level of experience, and try and reach the understanding and thinking, the sense, meanings and concepts of those you are studying.
Visual: using visual tools in doing the research – and/or using visual tools to present the findings?

For 8.1. each group needs to come up with few sentences describing their ideas. We ask you to refer to some anthropological idea, concept – and some idea or concept concerning unemployment. And you should think of
-       What is it you want to study? What do you want to find out?
-       How will you study it?

-       What form would your report of the findings be?

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Course Schedule

The simple idea of the course is to have some lecturing and readings on visual anthropology, plus the same on the topic of what unemployment is in the contemporary capitalist system. And most importantly, for the students to do an experimental visual anthropology project, in teams of 2 - 4 people. Topic how and what the unemployed do the unemployement? Making visible something not immediately or apparently so.

22.2. What the course is about. What anthropology is about - some views on visual in anthropology. Anthropology and visual as methodology.

1.3. Work and unemployment - facts, ideas, theories, concepts.

8.3. Teams present their plans for anthropology project: what are they going to research, how are they going to do it and what form would their reporting take. Making use of one concept, idea and piece of text (one sentence is enough) from a) one text on anthropology AND b) one text on work and/or unemployment. Thinking also of documentation (or not, the form of it).

15.3. Presentation from the Työstakieltäytyjienliitto (Union of Work Refuters).

22.3. Either we get together to explore a required topic all together. Or, Taina and Eetu will be available for the teams for consultation, and time is dedicated for doing the projects.

29.3. Presentation of the projects - approximately 30mins per project, presentations preferably shorter for longer discussion to be possible.

Anthropology 22.2.


"Study of man" - "study of "the other"".

Ruth Benedict: "The human being does not have his social structure, language or religion written in his genes."

Anthropology looks at human culture, studies the cultural in humans. It looks at meaningful phenomena.

Anthropology is founded on ethnographic study: first-hand observation and recording by the researcher. Thus it also entails practices of travel, issues of objectivity and colonial relations of power, ethical dilemmas. And all these dilemmas and issues are carried over and take new forms in visual anthropology.

"[Ethnography has a] goal, of which an Ethnographer should never lose sight. This goal is, briefly, to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realise his vision of his world. We have to study man, and we must study what concerns him most intimately, that is, the hold life has on him."
Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) by Bronislaw Malinowski.

Visual and Anthropology

According to David MacDougall "anthropology has had no lack of interest in the visual; its problem has always been what to do with it". Drawings, photographs, live examples and very early also films were used to gather data and present it. The problem stands as Eliot Weinberger states:

"There is a tribe, known as ethnographic filmmakers, who believe they are invisible. They enter a room where a feast is being celebrated, or the sick cured, or the dead mourned, and, though weighed down with odd machines entailed with wires, imagine they are unnoticed - ….
They worship a terrible deity known as Reality, whose eternal enemy is its evil twin, Art.

Ethnographic film is film which endeavors to interpret the behavior of people of one culture to persons of another culture by using shots of people doing precisely what they would have been doing is the camera were not there. The ideal, then, is either a dream of invisibility, or, worse, the practice of the surveillance camera."

Weinberger and MacDougall both discuss the paradox of ostensibly objectively documenting reality yet failing to convey its reality. As Weinberger points out, old films of fiction offer rich documents of cultural habits and values of their times, whereas old documentary and educational films become outdated. Also, fiction or "artistic" films manage to convey a much richer image of cultures they present than strictly objective ethnographic films.

Weinberger makes some interesting points concerning details and translation. A film can never present a general image of say pottery-making - it will always be a unique exemplary instance. The strength of the visual - film, photograph, drawing, performance - is that it can include a richness of detail while still presenting a comprehensible whole. The "intellectual act of seeing" in a film that does not pretend to objectively record reality is also "an act of translation". "The Nuer, like any film, is a metaphor for the Nuer. Its difference is that it does not pretend to be a mirror."


Marcel Mauss/ Clade Levi-Strauss: "Instead of a postulate the totality of the social is manifested in experience at the level of observance ... totality resides in the network of functional intentions. ... Social facts are not reducible to scattered fragments, they are lived by men."

Georges Perec: "What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?

To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren’t the bearer of any information. This is not longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?"

Paul François Trewlett: (Reactions to Surveiller et Punir, Foucautl answering:) "it is read as an experience that changes us, that prevents us from always being the same, or from having the same kind of relationship with things and with others that we had before reading it. This demonstrates to me that the book expresses an experience that extends beyond my own. The book is merely inscribed in something that was already in progress; we could say that the transformation of contemporary man [sic] is in relation to his sense of self. On the other hand, the book also worked for this transformation; it has been, even if in a small way, an agent. That’s it. This, for me, is an “experience-book”, as opposed to a “truth-book” or a “demonstration-book” (Foucault 1991:41-2). 

It is my contention that fieldwork is also a kind of limit-experience where self and other selves confront or encounter one another. The essentially unsettling nature of this encounter – an encounter that resists conventional modes of knowing – is a mutually transforming experience that decentres the knowing Self of pastoral anthropology. It is a transformation that understands the fieldwork site not as a space for the instruction of the Other, but as a place for the meeting of co-selves, that opens the possibility for, to quote Foucault once again, knowing  “how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known” (1992).