Making Sensory Ethnography’s inaugural event of the 2018-2019 academic year took place on September 21, 2018 in 2731 Haven Hall. The first in a series of workshops geared toward a multimodal exploration of the senses, this event articulated ‘touch’ at its core. As a group of student coordinators and participants, we dedicated the forum to ‘getting in touch’ with the purpose of our workshop and the possibilities enabled by this collaborative space. Each student coordinator shared some works-in-progress from summer field work:
Nina Jackson Levin shared a preliminary series of digital photographs from two festivals, Afropunk Fest in Paris and Murals in the Market in Detroit, Michigan. These images play with the possibilities of capturing the closeness of bodies, the contrast of darkened audiences and electrifying performances, and the physicality of high-fi sound while participating in a festival atmosphere.
Miranda García screened her short film El Palomero (2018) which she created with a team at a film school in Havana, Cuba. The film is a character-driven portrait of a man who keeps pigeons on the rooftops of his apartment building. What appeared to be an exploration of pigeon breeding became an intimate story of tender care and loving kinship. In a quiet way, the film also explores symbols of freedom through its soft light and wide shots of birds in flight across the Havana skyline. The workshop participants built an engaging conversation around Miranda’s collaborative process of making this film, with leading questions about how and when the story moved from being an account of pigeon keeping to an embodied story of love and family.
Janaki Phillips showed photographs of hauntings from three field sites in Rajasthan. These images explored a photographic representation of things not there – spirits, ghosts, and hauntings. These images emphasized a pronounced interplay of light and shadows to evoke sentiments of hauntings and traces of what once was (or what maybe was). The participants in the workshop articulated a stirring sentiment of fear surrounding the possibilities enshrined in these photographs, and sparked a curious dialogue about sensorial ways to represent the fear that circulates around these eerie representations.
cindy lin offered insight into her dissertation research, a unique behind-the-scenes-look at the politics of map making in Indonesia’s highlands. By zooming in closely to screenshots of map-making software, cindy articulated the subjectivity of reproducing spatial realities in representational forms. Ultimately, maps are made by people with personalized objectives and political agendas. Up close, these maps are merely pixelated reiterations of the forests in question. In producing these representations, cartographers make minute digital decisions that have massive consequences for the political and environmental uses of the represented land. These processes provoke questions about epistemologies of space and the ways in which a body can know, navigate, and utilize the earth.
Of course, no ‘opening’ would be complete without a soft, a hard, and a sharp cheese product. And we had ample servings of each.
Our next workshop takes place on October 19th from 4pm-6pm in Haven 2713. We will emphasize the sense of sight and will feature the work of portrait photographer James Johnson.