Multimodal Ethnography as Method for Staying True to Political Engagements and Critical Epistemologies
Invited Session - Roundtable / Townhall (Virtual)
Society for Visual Anthropology
Co-organized by Maurice Magaña and Ivan Sandoval Cervantes
Presenters: Matthew Durington, Anthony Wright, Norma Bautista Santiago, Steve Moog, Kristin Bright, and Emma Bernstein
This roundtable brings together anthropologists whose work seeks to explore how political engagements and critical approaches to knowledge production can animate multimodal anthropologies. We are particularly excited to convene in St. Louis to directly engage the program committees provocation to reimagine our discipline as one where we act on the imperative to “bear witness, take action, and be accountable.” Drawing on multimodal methodologies the convened scholars ground these critical questions in their work with Indigenous youth activists in rural Mexico, migrant artists in urban United States, activism in favor of non-human animals along the U.S.-Mexico border, heritage conservation and disaster management in the Philippines, anarchist punks in Indonesia, and rural health inequalities in the U.S. and Canada. Through ethnographic film, digital ethnography labs, photography, collaborative methodologies, the authors in this roundtable will grapple with questions surrounding the limits and possibilities of multimodal anthropologies and, indeed, of the anthropological imagination itself.
Echoing Samuel Gerald Collins, Matthew Durington, and Harjant Gill’s (2017) commitment to multimodality in research, practice, and dissemination of scholarship, this roundtable accepts their “invitation to join in and be part of the multimodal movement” that will shape the discipline’s future. In order to truly be transformative for the discipline and not simply a passing fad or methodological afterthought, we believe that multimodality must be fueled by critical self-reflectivity, political commitment and action. In doing so, we commit to doing the work that the 2020 program committee’s call to action requires of us to reckon with the discipline’s dual histories of settler-colonialism and slavery. How might decolonial, anti-racist social movements push anthropology into a future where we both reckon with our disciplinary inheritance and create a more liberatory, committed, and accountable anthropology? How does multimodality open up possibilities for more equitable collaborative practice? How does multimodality create space for anthropology to embrace the uncertain and at time messy process and product of anthropology—ethnography (Varzi 2018).
Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
This roundtable seeks to directly engage the program committees provocation to reimagine our discipline as one where we act on the imperative to “bear witness, take action, and be accountable” while reckoning with the discipline’s dual histories of settler-colonialism and slavery. It is in this political and ethical spirit that the organizers of this roundtable put a great deal of intentionality and work into convening a diverse group of scholars to be in conversation regarding issues of critical self-reflectivity, political commitment, and action . This diversity is in terms of rank (bringing students together with adjunct, junior and senior faculty), the ethnic, racial, and gender make-up of participants, as well as our areas of research (all three countries of North America, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa) and our locations in the global production of knowledge (Global South and North). We believe that this broad diversity will help us facilitate rich dialogue and critique of our discipline and its transformative potential.