Welcome to the 13th month of 2020. Recent events, as with the events of last summer, seem to have awakened a new understanding among many that white supremacist terrorists – supported both openly and behind the scenes by political leaders – are the number one threat to liberal democracy, not only in the United States but throughout Europe and elsewhere. As someone who has been engaged in bearing witness to state violence in other contexts, my inclination is to view the attack on the U.S. capitol as having brought to light the fantasies through which liberalism has constantly constructed itself (that it is not grounded in Indigenous dispossession and anti-Black violence, that we form an incrementally and infinitely perfectible union). My own witnessing has been committed to creating different archives and affective relationships to violence, and to charting new terrains upon which sovereignty – or something that feels like freedom – can be elaborated and radiated. Let us hope that 2021 will begin to generate a new dispensation, one in which we will gather again to share ideas and creativity, and to care for each other in joyful ways. In the meantime…we are excited to usher in the second semester of “Futures Unbound” with two new fellows, new courses, and some really fantastic events. Be sure to join us for Third Thursday next week!!
Deborah A. Thomas
R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology
Director, Center for Experimental Ethnography
Dr. Jenny Chio
Jenny Chio is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Anthropology at the University of Southern California. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MA in Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths College, University of London. As a cultural anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker, her writing and filmmaking explore the shifting intersections of subjectivity, collective memory, and modernity, with an emphasis on race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage as powerful categories in the contemporary world. Keep reading...
Reggie Wilson is Executive and Artistic Director, Choreographer and Performer of Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group. His work draws from the cultures of Africans in the Americas and is combined with post-modern elements and his own personal movement style to create what he sometimes refers to as "post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances." He has lectured, taught and conducted workshops and community projects, and had his work presented nationally and internationally. Keep reading...
KINESTHETIC ANTHROPOLOGY taught by Reggie Wilson and Deborah Thomas
Tuesdays 1:30 - 4:30
This class, team-taught by CEE Visiting Fellow Reggie Wilson and Deborah Thomas, investigates various forms of contemporary performance in relationship to Africanist forms and functions of dance, movement and action. We will concern ourselves with how the body knows, and with how we learn to identify the structures of movement that provide context, meaning and usefulness to various Africanist communities across time and space. Grounding ourselves within a history of ethnographic analyses of the body in motion, and within Africana theorizing about the affective power of the body, we will consider what people are doing when they are dancing. In other words, we will train ourselves to recognize the cultural values, social purposes, and choreographic innovations embedded in bodily action and motion. While we will attend to these phenomena in a range of locations throughout the African diaspora, we will also highlight aspects of the Shaker and Black Shout traditions in Philadelphia. The course will be divided between discussions centered on close reading of primary and secondary material (both text and video) and creative writing/movement exploration (no previous movement experience necessary).
THE PORTRAIT AS/IN ETHNOGRAPHY taught by Jenny Chio
Thursdays 3:30 - 6:30
When cameras are ubiquitous and millions of people post pictures of themselves online, what counts as a portrait today? In an age of selfies, surveillance, biometric “smart” identity cards, and movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and indigenous decolonization, can the portrait do a different kind of representational work? How do visual portraits (whether photographic, painted, drawn, or sculpted) operate differently from textual portraits (such as biographies, life histories, or profiles)? This seminar aims to resituate and rethink the portrait in ethnography, and by extension, the practice of portraiture as an ethnographic method, by exploring portraiture as a culturally conditioned, socially resonant form of knowledge production. All portraits, even self-portraits, rely upon a relationship: between the portrayed and the portrayer, the sitter and the artist, the interlocutor and the ethnographer. We will interrogate how portraits have shaped identity politics, and how portraiture, as a scholarly and artistic act, can radically re-theorize forms of social engagement. Drawing on multimodal and decolonial turns in anthropology, seminar participants will produce portraits of their own, using whatever medium/media might be best suited for their interpretive work.
Join us on Thursday, January 21st at Noon for a virtual "Meet the Fellows" event, where we will introduce our Spring Fellows, Reggie Wilson and Jenny Chio. The fellows will be discussing their current projects and their respective graduate courses for the semester. Participants canregister here.
OUR NEW TEAM MEMBER
We are thrilled to announce that Grace Nyakio Ndicu is joining the CEE team as the new Community Outreach and Administrative fellow. Grace is a native of Nairobi, Kenya. She comes to us from the school of medicine where she has worked for 12 years. As an anthropology student here at the University of Pennsylvania her interests lie in the telling of black diaspora stories as well as the amplification of African Medieval History and finding remedies for the lack of general understanding of Africa's contribution to the pantheon of knowledge on human civilizations. She is invested in the education process that takes place outside of academia and how we can use various art forms to generate new ways of knowing.
STUDENT GRANT OPPORTUNITIES
Graduate Student Summer Funding
The Center for Experimental Ethnography invites graduate students from across the University to apply for our student summer research grants. These grants are meant to support doctoral, MFA, and professional degree students who are incorporating multi-modal methodological strategies into their ethnographic research. These strategies can encompass film, performance, sound, creative writing, drawing, and/or other media. Proposals should be no more than 750 words with a budget not exceeding $1,500, and should outline the broad research questions of the project, the specific methods used to explore them, and the expected broader significance or intervention. Applicants should also submit a current CV. Learn more and apply here.
Coming Soon! Incubation Grant
The CEE Incubation Grant is designed to help undergraduate students develop an immersive, innovative, and participatory project that is grounded in multi-modal research practices and that is oriented toward engaged social transformation. CEE Incubation Grant applicants will work closely with a graduate student mentor, and will develop a faculty team to support them as they develop their projects. All undergraduates are eligible, and applications will be judged on the extent to which the proposed project seems feasible (given the budget and the student’s preparation), and the degree to which the student has thoughtfully connected the dots between preparation, implementation, and evaluation.
Inhabited Sea I January 20th at 7:30 PM
Working together since January 2019, Inhabited Sea is a research collaborative- directed by Nikhil Anand with Anuradha Mother and Dilip da Cunha- that examines how the cities of Mumbai may be remade with the seas, rains, tides, and storms of our climate-changed present. In this public seminar and screening, Inhabited Sea shares the results of two projects and document the ways in which Mumbai's residents inhabit its relentlessly wet terrain. How might the arts of living with wetness generate new imagination, aspirations and designs for the future?
The resulting film and drawing of these research projects will be available at the inhabitedsea.org a week before the event. We invite you to dwell in these projects before joining CAMP and SEA in the live conversation with Anand Mariganti and Anne Whiston Sprin on January 20th. Participation is free and open to the public.
Screening of "Madan Sara" I March 8th at 6pm
(Machan nan mache tèt dlo, Haiti. Photo by Madan Sara Team).
On March 8th, the CEE will be sponsoring a screening of "Madan Sara", with a discussion by Director Etant Dupain, Film Editor Lunise Cerin, and Dr. Régine Michelle Jean-Charles. The women known as Madan Sara are on the forefront of the battle for a more robust and inclusive economy in Haiti. They work tirelessly to buy, distribute, and sell food and other essentials in markets through the country. Despite the obstacles faced by the women working in a sector that lacks investment, infrastructure and state assistance, the Madan Sara continue to be one of the most critical parts of the Haitian economy and of who we are as a country. The Madan Sara documentary tells the stories of these indefatigable women who work at the margins to make Haiti’s economy run. Despite facing intense hardship and social stigma, the hard work of the Madan Sara puts their children through school, houses their families, and helps to ensure a better life for generations to come. This film amplifies the calls of the Madan Sara as they speak directly to society to share their dreams for a more just Haiti.
Documenting Discontent I March 15th at 5:30 PM
Documenting Discontent is a virtual audio event that will take place on March 15th at 5:30 PM. This one-hour virtual event will bring together two Mexico-based sound artists/researchers, Karina Franco Villaseñor (nê.i) and Vladimir Flores García (Vlax) to discuss their creative practices in sound. Funded in part by a Sachs Arts Innovation Grant and with support from the Center for Experimental Ethnography, this event is interested in the ways sound is used to document microhistories and communicate social imaginaries derived from protest and conflict, the deconstruction of acoustic pleasure, and the power of sound to reinforce relationships and political dynamics. Select works by the two artists will be made available for listening online in the days prior to the event and will be streamed immediately following the one-hour discussion. Drawing on Franco Villaseñor and García Flores' experiences as researchers, teachers, and creators, the conversation will consider the challenges and potentials of sonic archiving, reflect on the state of sound art/sonic investigations in Mexico, and question the construction of official narratives. The event will be conducted in Spanish with simultaneous translation into English and will be open to the public.