Image 1: Fabric bound in rubber bands and tied in thread sits soaking in indigo dye. Image 2: A piece of freshly unbound indigo-dyed cotton that will be used to make the sail in Emily Carris-Duncan, Joanne Douglas, and Grace Sanders-Johnson's Spring 2020 Course. (Photo courtesy Grace Sanders Johnson)
On behalf of the CEE, I want to welcome you to our theme year “Futures Unbound!” With the events of the past six months turning everything on its head, and as we mourn lives lost and precarious prospects, we also want to signal the potentiality of new and changed futures in which we are untethered from the norms of the past, unbound from the strictures of the present. We want to chart new possibilities for living together and imagining new worlds, and we look forward to doing this with all of YOU! For those of you who are new to the CEE, I encourage you to reach out to us, and to subscribe to our newsletter. Since our events this fall will all be virtual, this is how you will stay in the loop!
I know that for most of you, this wasn’t the summer you had planned…Graduate students and faculty who were hoping to conduct research had to retool toward virtual projects, or just postpone activities; new courses had to be re-imagined for online platforms; and quarantine put a damper on many of the usual activities we would enjoy. Some bright points were the Blackstar Film Festival, which just ended after an incredible array of synchronous panels and film screenings, and even a closing dance party; and the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, which issued a call for proposals in the wake of the outburst of Black Lives Matter protests to support black artists. And we know that many of you found new ways to be engaged, indeed to experiment, with staying involved, staying close, and staying connected.
We are excited to be joined this fall by our new fellows, Steven Feld and Christina Knight, and by some new graduate students who will no doubt push us all further in our approaches to multi-modality (you can find more information about them, and their courses, below). We also look forward to our Third Thursdays this fall, which – in addition to introducing us to our new fellows (September 17th) – will invite conversation about pedagogy in the time of pandemics (October 15th), and will solicit a greater engagement with one of our South African partners (November 19th). More information about Third Thursdays, as well as our other events, will be forthcoming.
For now, we just want to welcome everyone “back to campus,” whatever that means for you, and to invite you back into a community of committed experimentation, something we all need right now!
Deborah A. Thomas
R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology
Director, Center for Experimental Ethnography
Dr. Christina Knight
Christina Knight is Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at Haverford College. Before joining the Haverford faculty, she was a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow at Bowdoin College as well as a Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow.
Knight’s work examines the connection between embodied practices and identity, the relationship between race and the visual field, and the queer imaginary. She is currently completing a book manuscript that focuses on representations of the Middle Passage in contemporary American visual art and performance. Knight is also at work on a new project that examines the influences of drag culture on contemporary black art. Additionally, she is the director of knightworks dance theater,which she co-founded with her sister in 2013. LEARN MORE
Dr. Steven Feld
StevenFeld, Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fé, New Mexico, is a filmmaker/photographer, sound artist/musician, and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at the University of New Mexico. After studies in music, film, and photography, he received the Ph.D in Anthropological Linguistics at Indiana University in 1979.
From 1976 he began a research project in the Bosavi rainforest of Papua New Guinea. Results include the monographSound and Sentiment(republished 2012 in a 3rd and 30th anniversary edition), a co-authoredBosavi-English-Tok Pisin Dictionary, and essays, some published in his co-edited books Music Grooves and Senses of Place. From this work he also produced photographic, film, and audio projects including the recent photobook/CD/BluRay Voices of the Rainforest. Key theoretical themes developed in this work are the anthropology of sound and voice, and acoustemology (acoustic epistemology).LEARN MORE
BLACK SPECULATIVE FUTURES taught by Christina Knight
Why do black cultural producers turn to the speculative? What, in turn, is speculative about blackness? These questions frame this seminar’s exploration of how black artists, theorists, and activists imagine different futures, often in the service of critiquing power asymmetries and creating radical transformation in the present. We will explore how the speculative works differently across black literature, visual culture and performance. Additionally, inspired by the multi-disciplinary work that we encounter in the course, we will experiment with crafting our own embodied speculative art in order to better understand its function as both art practice and politics. The course will be divided between discussions centered on close reading of primary and secondary material and creative writing/movement exploration (no previous movement experience necessary). Occasional guest lectures with visiting artists will provide additional fodder for our critical and creative work.
ANTHROMEDIALITIES: EXPERIMENTAL THEORY AND PRACTICE taught by Steven Feld
In recent years much has been made of the “beyond text” turn in anthropology, specifically the need to re-evaluate the singular authority of “writing culture.” Several new approaches advocate for non-textual medialities, with representations originating in both sonovisual media and performance. Less, however, has been theorized and advocated about intermediality and the multicompositional practices of transmediality and plurimediality, specifically their more transgressive multisensory epistemology. This course will examine these radical approaches to interacting textual, visual, sonic and performative mediations, theorizing their epistemic and ethical implications, collaborative potentials, affordances in narrative and non-narrative representation, and political and aesthetic investments. Students will both critically engage histories of transmedial anthropology, and produce projects that are multicompositional..
VIAD + CEE
The CEE and The Visual Identities in Arts and Design Research Group at the University of Johannesburg are forging exciting transatlantic connections. It is our hope that this partnership will open avenues of creative exchange and dialogue between the faculty and students at our respective centers.
Established in 2007, the VIAD research group is dedicated to deepening research around the overarching thematic of identity construction through forms of visual practice, visual culture and visual representation, and specifically in relation to African and Afrodiasporic histories and experiences. Focal areas of research at VIAD include Cultural Identities; Bodily/Embodied Identities; Designing/Designed Identities, and projects that interlink textual, conversational and creative outputs. From 2014-2020, VIAD is paying particular attention to research that falls under the rubric of personal addresses, creative agencies and political resistances in the post-colony.KEEP READING...
NEW AFFILIATED FACULTY
Assistant Professor of Education, Literacy, Culture, and International Education
Dr. Strong is an assistant professor in the Education, Culture, and Society program, a member of the graduate group in Anthropology, and a faculty affiliate of Africana Studies.She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was named a Fulbright-Hays Fellow, a Spencer Dissertation Fellow, a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, and a University of California Dissertation Fellow. In 2017, she was awarded the Council on Anthropology and Education’s Presidential Early Career Fellowship. Her work has been published in the Journal of African Cultural Studies and Urban Education. LEARN MORE
Associate Professor of Social Policy and Practice
Dr. Ghose’s work focuses on structural interventions in the areas of incarceration, substance use, homelessness and HIV, both at the domestic and international levels. His research examines the manner in which contextual factors such as housing, community mobilization, access to mental health care, and organizational characteristics influence substance use and HIV risk. He is currently collaborating with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, The World Bank, and the United Nations on initiatives to end AIDS by 2030 through structural interventions that address the social drivers of risk in marginalized communities around the world.LEARN MORE
RESEARCH UPDATES FROM THE FIELD
Rethinking Multimodal Praxis in the Wake of COVID-19
Arlene Fernández, an awardee of CEE's Multimodal Research Grant, grapples with the task of reshaping the direction of her work in the wake of COVID-19. VIEW NOW
Students Making Films about Education in the Pandemic
Over summer, CEE sat down for a conversation about being a student and making ethnographic films about education in the midst of a pandemic with student-filmmakers Jean Chapiro & Maryann Dreas & Alejandra Villalobos (from Amit Das's course) WATCH NOW
Nora Gross (PhD), a 2020 graduate of the Penn Arts & Sciences Department of Sociology and CAMRA director 2019-2020, is on the film festival trek again! Dr. Gross's short documentary film, "Our Philadelphia" deals with Philadelphia teens experiences with grief in the aftermath of neighborhood gun violence. Three Philadelphia teens directed the film, teaming up with Dr. Gross as part of their highschool internships and senior projects. After graduating, the team continued to work together on the film, funded by the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, the Center for Experimental Ethnography, and the Annenberg School for Communication. The final 15-minute film was edited by Draulhaus (an independent Philadelphia production company) and features music from young Philadelphia artists. View the film onYouTube., and read a full story on the film by BillyPenn presshere.
AWARDED SACHS GRANT
Photo by Giani Marisa Jones.
Congratulations to CEE Student Maris Jones for her project "Recipes for the Revolution: Meals Our Ancestors Made Possible", which was just awarded a Sachs Program for Arts Innovation Black Artists Support Grant. The project involves the development of an ancestor-guided cookbook to share life lessons and tools for care, survival, and resistance, asking "What does it mean to survive in the midst of palimpsestic traumas—anti-Blackness, Indigenous erasure, hurricanes, even a pandemic and quarantine? How do we transform the stains that trauma imprints on our memories into tools for survival?".KEEP READING
SCRIBE RADIO SHOW: ARCHIVAL REVIVAL
We invite the CEE Community to listen in to Archival Revival - Thursdays at 5:00 pm on WPEB 88.1 FM, West Philadelphia’s community radio station.
Archival Revival is a new audio documentary series produced by Scribe Video Center for broadcast on WPEB 88.1 FM. The radio program gives the West Philadelphia audience a chance to listen and re-listen to some of the people interviewed by Scribe over the years for documentary and oral history projects. Conversations are presented with the words and stories pretty much unaltered as they were originally recorded.
This Thursday, September 3, Archival Revival continues with an oral history of Louise Leaphart James, long time West Philadelphia resident, activist, writer, journalist, mother and a sister of John Africa, the founder of the MOVE organization. The interview was recorded in 2015. Tune in at 5:00pm.