Ethnographic experimentation among #colleex

It’s typical on return from intense fieldwork to find writing about it to be impossible. What I feel is a little similar. And yet four full days later, I still want to make sense, to document, to hold on to the excitement, of last week at the Jardim Botânico Tropical, Lisbon.

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This was the 1st workshop organized by the EASA network #Colleex, on Ethnographic Experimentation. Fieldwork Devices and Companions.

Instead of extended discursiveness then, I will make a few notes and share some of the wonderful photos taken by Vitor Barros, one of the members of Lisbon’s Ebanocollective, whose art is supported by ethnographic research and who partnered with #Colleex in organizing the event.

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With Ebano’s site-specific work, come also new collectives and thinking. New ways to attend to what makes knowledge – like the fragile places we inhabit. The library space, for instance, where papers were presented, with its colonial and other ghosts, and where Francesca da Luca (centre), also of Ebano, introduced proceedings on the first day – no longer quite in character as a Cleenik physician to ethnographically disordered patients… hence our white coats.

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New collectives and new thinking also came out of the workshop programme and all that spilled out of it. There were five sessions of pre-circulated papers and myriad less conventional formats and audiovisual presentations.

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Of these, there will be more. Fellow network-convenor, anthropologist and film-maker Anna Ramella (above) and her local support, shot I-don’t-know-how-much footage. Thank you to them all!

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Here is a picture of one format in process. It was initiated by a fellow design-department-associated anthropologist Rachel Harkness (left in the photo). She got Marta Morgade Salgado, me, Nadine Wanono and Camille Sineau (and others), to do something as difficult as it was ultimately pleasurable: a collective act, of which I am sure we will hear more in due course.

In this picture, all looks easy and controlled. Yet it was not a smooth operation for upwards of seventy people to come together on a shoestring budget and minimal institutional infrastructure. Catering solutions were devised, tickets designed, email instructions collectively drafted, sent and resent, black-out fabrics purchased and fixed to recalcitrant window frames …

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The day before, in the sweltering July heat, anything that was ready-to-hand was used to prepare the dilapidated buildings of this space of colonial histories for #colleex.

The local organizers, Francesca de Luca, Chiara Pussetti, Vitor Barros and Giorgio Gristina have, I hope, been able to get some serious rest. I feel I cannot thank them enough!

My sincere gratitude also to the two initiators of #Colleex Tomás Sanchez Criado (below) and Adolfo Estalella. They created it last year as an EASA network.

They identified an urgent issue in the discipline: a lack of serious attention to what is happening to knowledge practices in relation to ethnography particularly. After all, like all types of expertise, anthropology is evolving in our (epistemologically) troubling new times towards new norms and new forms.

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To quote from the #Colleex manifesto:

The network is organized as a collaboratory whose main agenda is to foster practical explorations alongside theoretical debates on what we call ethnographic experimentation.

One of many things to cherish about the collaboratory is its inclusive atmosphere combined with the intellectual ambition. That it works so well is substantially thanks to Adolfo’s care with the recipe (below, contributing at a paper session).

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Finally, Andrea Gaspar, I guess what I want to be writing is an epistemic love letter. But the workshop reminded me that caution is called for in approaching matters of the heart. Neither ethnography nor anthropologists should be romanticized let alone mythologized. And not fixed into words chosen too quickly. More later.

A todos muito obrigada!

 

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