Beyond conventional media strategies: Visual Anthropology’s use of experimental multimodal methodologies in addressing urgent matters

11:40 AM – 01:10 PM
Grote Zaal

This panel will explore different experimental visual strategies employed by visual anthropologists in addressing contemporary issues. Out of the different presentations emerges the need to explore new media strategies, different ways of looking, to tackle the urgent matters of contemporary society. There is, apparently, an urge to go beyond conventional visual strategies.

Mark Westmoreland’s presentation, in collaboration with Sabine Luning of Leiden University, is entitled Aerial Ethnography: Experimenting with Collaborative Multimodal Methodologies. In collaboration with Africanists at Leiden University and professional photographers in Ghana, Westmoreland has initiated an exploratory research project using experimental visual methodologies, namely Kite Aerial Photography (KAP), for its ability to generate a different way of looking at “landscapes of extraction.” Based on a multisited pilot project they have begun to work with a diverse set of local inhabitants whose livelihood is premised on small-scale gold mining, seasonal agricultural practices, and nomadic pastoralism. In an effort to facilitate participatory methods, the team adopted a DIY aerial photography approach developed by citizen science advocacy initiatives, which help local communities substantiate claims about their environment. As an ethnographer, Westmoreland is inspired by the way kiting emphasizes the embodied and emplaced aspects of documentary research. Unlike flying a drone, kite flying relies on learning environmental conditions plus carefully navigating trees, rivers, power lines, irrigation ditches, and other irregularities on the landscape. This interplay with land features emphasized the camera as an extension of the body and the practice of flying required intense awareness of place.

Ildikó Zonga Plájás’ film/multimodal presentation Technologies of vision and the absent presence of race, is about the (in)visibility of race in a European context through the means of experimental montage. Framed by a PhD research focusing on the production of the ‘phenotypic Other’ in Europe by different technologies of vision, this multimodal presentation argues that filmic montage can be used not only as a trope but as an artistic-scholarly intervention to bring about the ‘absent presence’ of race. Evocative film-montage thus becomes a method of ‘haptic creativity’ challenging classical ways of doing ethnographic research. Collaboration is envisioned not only between scientist and (forensic) artists but also between multiple methods which try to do and undo race according to different – and perhaps contradictory – normativities.

Finally, in the presentation Moving through the looking glass. A formal experiment in turning colonial gazes inwards, Janine Prins will reflect on the underlying strategies and the visitors’ responses to her multi-screen, mixed-media exhibit, ‘Legacy of Silence’: an experiment marrying expanded cinema and installation politics. Authentic objects from the author’s Eurasian heritage got partnered with multiple screens in a pop-up artist studio, inviting visitors into an immersive participatory space in which they entered a private colonial family history that provoked thought about contemporary social hierarchies based on ethnicity, race, class and such social constructions. The non-hierarchical, rhizomatic compilation of screens, written documents, household items and precious heirlooms forged a temporary physical universe and created an embodied, personal entanglement with equal-footed others from a different time and place. Installation politics activate unpredictable reinterpretations in the here and now.


Mark R. Westmoreland, Associate Professor and Director of the Leiden School of Visual Ethnography at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University.

Sabine Luning, Assistent Professor and lecturer in Economic Anthropology at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University.

Ildikó Zonga Plájás, Ethnographic Filmmaker, Research Assistant, University of Amsterdam, RaceFaceID Research Project

Janine Prins, Visual Anthropologist and lecturer, affiliated with the Leiden School of Visual Ethnography.

This panel will be moderated by Eddy Appels (President Dutch Foundation for Visual Anthropology, Director Cineblend)