‘Experience, Sense and the Lens’ Ethnographic filmmaking, visual documents and transcultural knowledge

Published: 2012-05-02

Batha in the field
The symposium ‘'Experience, Sense and the Lens. Anthropological filmmaking and transcultural knowledge’ is held in conjunction with the annual Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) film festival, at the University of Tromsø, Norway, 23-26 August 2012. The conference is intended as an encounter between researchers who use film and/or other visual material in knowledge production about different societies in a globalized world: how do their experiences from the making and/or use of ethnographic film/visual documents in a complex world articulate with their theoretical analyses? What are the insights that ethnographic films offer as theatrical and experimental narrative strategies for bridging gaps between different social groups and establishing shared understandings between people with different ‘looking glasses’?

Social anthropology, the mother discipline of ethnographic film and visual anthropology has rested on notions like ‘translation’, ‘mediation’ and ‘comparison’ since its inception around a century ago. More recently, it has acknowledged the challenge of creating shared understandings between people with different systems of ‘sense ’. In spite of these insights, and the ‘reflexive turn’, the challenge of mediation and translation between different life worlds and of creating reciprocal understanding in and with ethnographic films has been relatively unexplored. In order to understand why this is the case, the conference is devoted to discussion and analysis of ethnographic films and other kinds of visual documents in relation to different audiences’ interpretations, as well as their outreach and societal impact.

Confirmed keynote speakers include

  • Paul Stoller, Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University. His early work focused on magic, sorcery and spirit possession practices among the Songhay people of West Africa, and since 1992 he has been studying West African immigrants in New York City. His work lies at the intersections of visual anthropology, anthropology of the senses, anthropology of religion and economic anthropology.
  • Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, Director of research at the Norbert Elias Centre in Marseille. His research focuses on the social anthropology of the state and public service in West Africa, including health and development. His recent work looks at the effects of local corruption on health care delivery and other public services.

Morning sessions will be devoted to conference papers and presentations.mThe NAFA film festival will be running during the afternoon and evening sessions. For more information

Applications are encouraged from both researchers and PhD students. PhD. student papers will be discussed and critiqued in special seminar sessions reserved for that purpose. Ph.D. student participants may be eligible for course points, if approved by their dissertation supervisor. To apply, send a 400 word abstract to: and by June 1. Deadline for full drafts of papers (approx 3000 words) is 10th August. Participants will be given the opportunity to present clips and visual examples from their research material as a part of the paper presentations.

Applicants who do not have other possibilities for funding can apply to the conference organizing committee for support. In order to be eligible, the applicant must attach a travel budget to their abstract (deadline: June 1).


List of paper abstracts

Academic responsibility

Ass. Prof. Ida W. Winther, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Ass. Prof. Trond Waage, University of Tromsø, Norway

Download the poster below, click the image for a large version.

NNDV 2012 symposium nafa film festival

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