28 September 2017

Call for papers: Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art

As part of the Art, Materiality and Representation conference to be hosted by the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) at The British Museum and SOAS, 1st-3rd June 2018, we are pleased to invite papers for the following panel (Code P002) titled 'Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art'

Convenors: Max Carocci (Chelsea College of Art) and Stephanie Pratt (Independent Scholar and Curator)

Please provide a 250 word abstract proposal by 8th January 2018 to the following online form found on the panel page.

This panel addresses the role of artworks as ethnographic resource. Raising questions about the objectivity of images from fieldwork diaries to scientific illustration, it examines the accuracy of images as ethnographic documents and their reliability as forms of knowledge.

Papers should be around 15-20 minutes in length (with 3-5 mins for questions). The inclusion of multimedia, film, audio, or other elements as part of the presentation would be most welcomed.


Proposals should consist of a paper title, a (very) short abstract of <300 characters and an abstract of 250 words. 


Proposals will be marked as pending until the end of the Call for papers. Convenors will then be asked to make their decisions over the papers proposed to their workshop by 20 January 2018. Further details about the conference can be found here. 

Panel Long abstract:

Sketches, drawings, watercolours, and paintings have historically been used to illustrate ethnographies and fieldwork notebooks. In this panel we analyse how illustrations can be taken as potential objective forms of knowledge, and how they can inform new understandings of the ways in which anthropologists visualise evidence, or picture the realities they observe. The proposed session gives an opportunity to scrutinise the claims made for images/pictures as purveyors of data. This may reveal important facets of the processes involved in memory retrieval and the act of seeing/observing central to the anthropological method. The panel aims at examining what is the role of artistic illustrations in producing anthropological knowledge especially when no other means of visual recording are available. Highlighting the nexus between the witnessed and the rhetorical, the panel's focus is the relationship between visuality and narrative in constructing ethnography. Frequently only complementary to text-based evidence, images produced by anthropologists raise questions about their value, reliability, authority, and objectivity. Given that all images inevitably rely on conventions of representation, the quality of information in anthropological illustration is dependent on effective utilisation of the prevalent conventions by the maker and the consumer of the illustration. Studying of these conventions allows us to work with them, to assess how well anthropological information has been conveyed, but also to look beyond them at the surplus every image necessarily brings with it.

Papers should be around 15-20 minutes in length (with 3-5 mins for questions). The inclusion of multimedia, film, audio, or other elements as part of the presentation would be most welcomed.

Panel Title: Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art
Panel Short abstract:

The panel’s convenors are not only interested in papers which address art’s role in anthropological investigation in the wider sense, but also how professional anthropologists and non-professionals have undertaken to illustrate or study through visual expression World cultures in whatever visual manner this may have entailed at the time (including re-enactment and staging). They hope also to include papers which examine how non-anthropologists, artists, travel writers, curators and archivists, etc. have employed artistic and illustrative images in order to conduct their own work around the notion of anthropological illustration/demonstration. Topics which may fall under the remit of this panel might be, but are not limited to:
·      The role of the ‘expeditionary’ artists in constructing anthropological knowledges
·      Incidental illustrative imagery as found in the archive, e.g. museum accession records, diagrammatic and illustrative images used in online media, curator’s drawings, etc.
·      Auto-ethnographical image-making and the convergence of Western and non-Western artistic practices (e.g. North American Indigenous ledger art or Indian Boarding School artistic productions)
·      Modernist artists’ visual accounts of ethnographic materials and Modernist artistic interest in World cultures more broadly
·      Visual encounters in and through museums and/or exhibitions
·      Visual codes and the semiotics of representing ‘others’ cultures’
·      Amateur art with ethnographic content
·      Ethnographic sketches in field notes: their role in anthropological knowledge and artistic merit
·      Didactic illustrations with ethnographic content (e.g. textbooks, marketing, publicity, leaflets and posters)

·      Drawing elicitation as anthropological method, and the study of local visual idioms through graphic arts

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