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Save the Date: Webinar on Ethnography and Film with Dr. Harjant Gill

Harjant-GillOn May 8, 2014 at 2 PM Harjant Gill will lead the fourth installment of AAA’s Webinar Wednesday (mixing it up on THURSDAY).  Harjant Gill is an assistant professor of anthropology at Towson University, Maryland. He received his PhD from American University in 2012. His research examines the intersections of masculinity, modernity and migration in India. Gill is also an award-winning filmmaker and has made several films that have screened at film festivals and academic conferences worldwide. His latest documentary, Roots of Love explores the changing significance of hair and turban among Sikhs and is currently being screened on BBC World News, BBC America, Doordarshan (Indian National TV) and on PBS channels nationwide. Dr. Gill is currently co-directing the Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) Film & Media Festival. His website is www.TilotamaProductions.com

Popular Anthropology: Buttering Up Humanity

Today’s guest blog post is by Erin B. Taylor (ICS-UL) of PopAnth.

Some years ago, when I was working at The University of Sydney, a colleague of mine stopped me in the corridor to complain. “Nobody listens to anthropologists,” she lamented, “We have so many interesting things to say about the world, but people don’t pay any attention.”

I was puzzled. Not because I disagree on either count: I think she’s right that our voice gets subsumed to that of economists, political commentators, and publicists. I also agree that anthropologists can provide a historically-grounded, cross-culturally informed perspective on contemporary events that is of real social value.

My puzzlement, rather, was because to the best of my knowledge, this particular colleague never made any effort to be heard. She published exclusively in academic journals behind paywalls, didn’t do press releases, didn’t write for newspapers, didn’t even blog. Did she really expect that public servants, the media, and people at large would go to the effort of seeking out her and her opinions?

This encounter triggered a personal quest to find out more about the state of public anthropology. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, in his book Engaging Anthropology, writes that “Anthropology should have changed the world, yet the subject is almost invisible in the public sphere outside the academy” (2006:1). One of my favorite articles on the subject is by Greg Downey who, on his Neuroanthropology blog, argues that anthropology’s difficulties with engaging the public is at least partially a branding problem. He then presents a series of fascinating ideas on how to fix it.

There are plenty of anthropologists who are doing something about it. Anthropologists globally are publishing their work in news venues such as the BBC, the Financial Times, and the Trinidad Guardian. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of us are blogging our thoughts on personal and collective websites, including The Huffington Post and The Conversation. Others are interviewed on radio shows or run community workshops. The California Series in Public Anthropology provides an incentive for authors to write about their engagements with communities and policies. Our brand is looking better since Eriksen published his book in 2006.

One thing I noticed, however, is a lack of ways for anthropologists who would like to write for the public to get started. This is partially because too few academics are aware of what the possibilities are, as the work of their more public-facing colleagues remains largely invisible. There are also relatively few venues in which people can experiment with this kind of writing. Personal blogs are a beginning, but a chronic lack of feedback means that it’s hard to know whether you’re on the right track. And without having a sense of how you’re doing, it can be daunting to submit an article to a newspaper.

PopAnthThis was a major reason why Gawain Lynch, John McCreery and I began the community website PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity. We began building the site in July last year, after an exhaustive search turned up exactly zero generalist anthropology websites that are truly written for a popular audience. There are many brilliant blogs out there, but they either focus on narrow topics, or include academic content such as jargon or calls for papers. We deliberately designed PopAnth to cover all branches of anthropology because we wanted to see what kinds of topics would prove popular.

In just over a year since launch, the site has grown surprisingly fast, and last month we had 90,000 unique visitors (bots largely edited out of our analytics). This is a pretty impressive feat for a non-profit website that relies on a small crew of committed editors. I’m particularly happy that authors have been courageous enough to send us off-beat stories that otherwise might never have seen the light of day. Our articles have covered topics as diverse as the history of Rastafarianism in Jamaica, land use rights among footballers in Trinidad, metal theft in the United Kingdom, drug markets in Colombia, consumer freedom in Germany, and angry tourists in Madagascar.

What makes PopAnth work? In my opinion, it’s the effort we put in to making popular anthropology visible. We don’t just promote ourselves, we use our website and social media to promote popular anthropology wherever it is published: newspapers, blogs, books, TED talks, and so on. This increases our audience base and helps make anthropology a household name.

Crucially, we provide a mentoring service to new public writers, helping them polish their articles for PopAnth and gain confidence to submit their work to other venues. We also act as a hub connecting new popular authors to old hands. Because we publish on merit, not qualifications, our authors are just as likely to be undergraduates as they are to have regular columns in The Huffington Post or Psychology Today. This means that up-and-coming authors who aren’t sure where to publish can gain inspiration from seeing what their colleagues are doing.

What’s the next step in getting public anthropology out there? My feeling is that cross-promotion will help us all build our audiences and contributor bases. To this end, I’ve begun talking with people people from other groups, such as Savage Minds, DANG, Ethnography Matters, the Society for Visual Anthropology, and others about how we can best work together to stay in communication and build collaborations. I’d like to invite everyone to join the conversation in the PopAnth group at the Open Anthropology Cooperative. And, of course, if you want to write for PopAnth, you can check out our Contributions page. The more we write for the public, the more the public will be able to listen.

Ethnographic Terminalia seeks submissions for Audible Observatories

Call for Submissions

Ethnographic Terminalia seeks submissions for Audible Observatories, an exhibition to be held in San Francisco in November 2012.  Artist-researchers, collaborators, anthropologists and other artistically inclined scholars are encouraged to submit their proposals prior to July 15, 2012.

Audible Observatories makes a playful connection between research-based art and place-bound exhibition in order to animate a curatorial vision that foregrounds audio-centric works within a broader rubric of site-specificity. We conceptualize the audible observatory as either a mobile or a stationary site of perception that is sensible to others just as it is a place from which sensing the world happens.  Audible observatories are points of sensory convergence.  They are nodes where worlds perceived through the senses intersect and begin the labour of transforming independent events into knowable and meaningful claims.  They speak and they are spoken to.

Audible Observatories will be a distributed public event in San Francisco with an amalgam of location specific points and zones of exhibition.  We are looking for research-based audio focused works to exhibit. These might include digital media, image, and sound files, websites and other interactive media, video works where audio figures prominently.  Sculptural and other works will also be considered. In some cases we may be able to support installation. As in past shows, we will work with our exhibitors (if necessary) to develop installations and short statements about their work which point to larger interpretive frameworks.

This project ties in with and is supported by the meetings of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Visual Anthropology. A round table discussion featuring Steve Feld, John Wynne, Angus Carlyle, and Rupert Cox has been organized and will be taking place during the course of this event.  We also expect to be exhibiting work by these artists.

Ethnographic Terminalia is an initiative designed to celebrate borders without necessarily exalting them.  Now in its fourth year of exhibition, it is meant to be a playful engagement with reflexivity and positionality; it seeks to ask what lies beyond and what lies within disciplinary territories.  Ethnographic Terminalia is an exploration of what means to exhibit anthropology – particularly in some of its less traditional forms – in proximity to and conversation with contemporary art practices.

For submission information, please click here.


Logo designed by Ian Kirkpatrick


Exhibition & Opening Reception/Public Vernissage

 The terminus is the end, the boundary, and the border.

It is also a beginning, its own place, a site of experience and encounter.

Ethnographic Terminalia is an annual exhibition of international artists and researchers working at the intersection of art and anthropology. From 15-19 November 2011, Ethnographic Terminalia welcomes visitors at Eastern Bloc Centre for New Media and Interdisciplinary Art in Montréal, Canada. This year’s show is organized in collaboration with Concordia University’s Centre for Ethnographic Research & Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence (CEREV) and is scheduled to coincide with the 110th annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), which are convening in Canada for the first time. Ethnographic Terminalia brings anthropologists and artists together in the gallery space to investigate the borders and blurrings of contemporary art practice and alternative modes of cultural inquiry and representation.  Ethnographic Terminalia is an exploration of what it might mean to exhibit anthropology – particularly in some of its less traditional forms – in proximity to and conversation with contemporary art practices.

Now in its third year (following New Orleans in 2010 and in Philadelphia in 2009), Ethnographic Terminalia represents an international array of creative material, conceptual, and new media engagements where anthropology and art intersect: sound, drawing, sculpture, photography, printmaking, video, film, internet and multi-media. For Ethnographic Terminalia 2011: Montréal the curators have selected over twenty five artists and cultural researchers including: Humberto Vélez, Ian Kirkpatrick, Renée Ridgway, Jennifer Willett, Benjamin Funke, Chantal Francoeur, Venetia Dale, Barbara Rosenthal, Reynard Loki & Maciej Toporowicz (Momentech), Chantal Gibson, Andrew Norman Wilson, Steven Foster, Siraj Izhar, Henry Adam Svec, Shannon Dosemagen & Sara Wylie (PLOTS), La Cosa Preziosa (Susanne Caprara), Luc Messinezis, Laura Malacart, Alyssa Grossamn & Selena Kimball, Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier & Marie-Josée Proulx, Lesley Braun, Sarah Christman, Aryo Danusiri, Valentina Ferrandes, Erin Newell, and projects from Concordia University’s CEREV Workshop (Erica Lehrer, Florencia Marchetti, Monica Eileen Patterson, Joseph Rosen, Selina Antonucci, Ashley Clarkson, Katie King, Matthew Foster, Rachel Rotrand, and Alejandrom Yishizawa).

Location: Eastern Bloc Centre for New Media and Interdisciplinary Art, 7240 Clark, 2nd floor, Montréal, Quebec, H2R 2Y
Opening Reception: Friday 18 November 2011 7.30pm.
Gallery Hours 15-19 November 2011: Tues – Sat | 12pm-5pm
Cost: Entry is free

 In addition to the main exhibition, other events sponsored by Ethnographic Terminalia include:

18 November 2011 –

  • AAA “Terminalia Terminal”: A Concordia University shuttle bus will offer free transportation for AAA delegates from the Palais des Congrès de Montréal to Eastern Bloc for the Opening Reception. A schedule of departures times will be available after 1 November 2011 at: www.ethnographicterminalia.org  
  • 5:30-7:00 p.m.: Conversation with artist Humberto Vélez, AGYU Assistant Director and Curator Emelie Chhangur, and Ethnographic Terminalia curators about research, ethics, and community. Documentation of Humberto Vélez’s The Awakening (2011) will be screened.
  • 7:30-10:00 p.m.: Opening Reception / Public Vernissage (free entry, open to public, cash bar)

 19 November 2011 –

  • 3:00-5:00 p.m.: Roundtable discussion at Eastern Bloc with Concordia/McGill faculty & exhibitors.
  • 7:00 p.m.: Screening of a 35mm print of the ethnographic film, Sweetgrass (2010), with co-director Lucien Castaing-Taylor in attendance. DeSeve Cinema (Concordia University)

Visit www.ethnographicterminalia.org regularly for updates & details after 1 November 2011

Principle Curators:
Kate Hennessy, School of Interactive Arts + Technology, SFU (Vancouver, Canada)
Fiona McDonald, University College London (London, England)
Trudi Lynn Smith, York University (Toronto, Canada)

Partnering Curator:
Erica Lehrer, Concordia University (Montréal, Canada)

Stephanie Takaragawa, Chapman University (Orange, USA)
Craig Campbell, University of Texas at Austin (Austin, USA)
Maria Brodine, Columbia University (New York, USA)

Sponsors: CEREV Workshop, Concordia University, Canada Research Chairs, Making Culture Lab/Simon Fraser University, AAA Community Engagement Fund, Society for Visual Anthropology, Council of Museum Anthropology.

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Twitter Handle: #ET2011

Got a Question? Contact ethnographicterminalia@gmail.com

SVA Film and Interactive Media Festival 2011

Peter Biella, Photographer

The Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) is accepting submission for the 2011 SVA Film and Interactive Media Festival in Montréal. SVA has a new online film submission system that incorporates WithoutABox. The system accepts submission of ultrashorts (<5minutes), shorts (<30minutes), feature length films, interactive presentations and audio/photo essays. Visit WithoutABox for the information on the pricing structure.

Submissions are due by April 15th. Register by March 15th and enjoy an early bird discount on your submission.

Visit the Society for Visual Anthropology website for additional information.


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