Siberian (visual) Ethnography

My courses have so far proved to be quite Siberia-centric. As anthropologists usually base much of their teaching on their own fieldwork experience, I wasn’t particularly surprised to see that it would play a part in the courses, but I hadn’t realised that it would be central to both of the anthropology courses that I’m taking.

Though neither of the courses specifically mentions Siberia in any way on the course description, both the course Perception, Knowledge and Cognition and the Images, Text, Fieldwork course are run by people who’ve done their fieldwork in post-socialist Siberia, and as such the focus of the courses turned out to be a lot more regional than I first anticipated. They will still carry the general themes than the course titles imply, but the ethnographic examples will mostly be drawn from Siberia.

Not that I mind Siberia, since I haven’t specialised in any region anyway, one might as good as the other. And looking at the web pages available, it looks like fascinatingly unchartered territory for western anthropologists. Only since 1991 have anthropologists been able to freely do fieldwork in the area.

So, it looks like I’ll see a lot more of Siberia, than I ever expected to. Especially since Manchester University is home to the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. Both my anthropological courses are mostly for MA students at this centre, as the courses will aim to “increase students’ awareness and understanding of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of visual anthropology, beyond concern with its illustrative uses and technological limits.”

Well, that does sound nice, doesn’t it? In order to increase our understanding and awareness, we’ll be watching a lot ethnographic films, or at least clips of some of them. Today we saw this one. I do like documentaries, even though this one is quite moving, I do hope that some of the others moves a bit faster. But then, it is a question of representation, and anthropologists can never be too careful when it comes to that..

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