ConferCare


(What’s New in) Visual Ethnography

Harriet Shortt, Garance Maréchal, Samantha Warren and Stephen Linstead

In anthropological film icon Jean Rouch’s centenary year, we might well ask“what else is there left to say about visual ethnography?” Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, his collaborator on Chronicle of a Summer (the origin of cinema verité), pioneered a form of film-making that intervened in the life it observed. But in the field of management and organization studies, despite a great deal of discussion of the visual, we have not yet seen a flood of published empirical work emerge - there are still only a handful of articles available. This is certainly the case with researcher/participant generated imagery such as photo-voice studies, for example. So our first invitation is to those researchers who are engaged in real, active projects – finished or unfinished - to talk about real, active projects and to share what’s happening empirically.

We also want to ask “What makes visual ethnography visual?” (as opposed to just ethnography with still or moving images). Is it a matter of sensibility? Is the visual just a variety of sensuous ethnography? Is the idea of only five senses culturally bounded? How do senses like sound and vision combine in different media? What is the relation of the expressive power of the image to embodiment and affect? Can we “think” or theorise visually (Sinnerbrink 2011)? As JWT Mitchell (2007) provocatively tells us “there are no visual media” because it is a myth that it is only the eye that sees. Film philosophy following Bergson (1911) and Deleuze (1986,1989) has argued that visual understanding is cinematic, and this promotes the generation of a new kind of ethical relation – what Rob Sinnerbrink (2015) calls cinempathy – in which simultaneously seeing and feeling has moral consequences. Images and image sequences may reaffirm and/or resist dominant narratives, expose ideologies, and trigger the senses, engaging the violence, intensities, textures and rhythms of sensation. We are not merely disengaged producers and witnesses of these images, but are drawn into them and act as a result of them. Images both reveal and conceal, they also have political significance – they rarely only act as sources of evidence enabling the creation of documents accessing the ‘truth’ of social and organisational life. They can, for instance, to render visible the ‘invisibility’ of below the line production workers and other concealed labour within contemporary capitalist organisations. Is management and organization up to speed? What’s next?

Is visual ethnography defined by its use of augmented visual technologies? Carey Jewitt, Bella Dicks and Theo Van Leeuwen have argued for multimodal theorising (https://mode.ioe.ac.uk/). What role does the visual play when we have GPS tracking, GoPro POV cameras (see Noah Baumbach’s 2014 feature film While We’re Young for a fascinating take on the ethics involved), the ability to film and photograph through pens and spectacles and phones? We’re interested in the use of new forms of visual technology and digital media as method but also as a way of relating to lives and communities and new visually literate cultures of what Gregory Ulmer (2004) called videocy – forming and communicating through media such as Snapchat and instagram (that will probably be outdated by the time you read this!). There’s already a Selfies Research Network http://www.selfieresearchers.com/. Do new forms of visually-enabled ethnography contribute to or contest the fetishisation of research practice? Are they more democratic and participatory? Do we know how to relate to others through technology rather than with (or even despite) technology?

Turning the lens back on ourselves - and our problematic role as authors or producers of images, much visual research implicitly or explicitly perpetuates a realist ontology but how does it relate to the textual and non-representational turn in anthropology since the 80s? Or John Mullarkey’s (2009) argument that film refracts rather than reflects reality? Have we properly digested sophisticated approaches like those of Roland Barthes (1981) and Victor Burgin to analyse the images we and others produce, and the contexts of their production and consumption? How can a richer visual language be developed in organizational ethnography that isn’t just reproductive of the real but is also critical in rendering ‘visible’ key aspects of organizational life? What does this mean for our outputs in terms of narrative – as a means of creative non-fiction? Is it a matter of cultural performance, as Norm Denzin (2003) or Dwight Conquergood (2013) would advocate? If so, in what sense is image always political? How does visual authorship differ from textual authorship?

We will have facilities to show short films, stage exhibitions or include participative workshops as well as more traditional paper presentations. We invite any type of imaginative contribution that will help us to push back or even dissolve the boundaries of the understanding and practice of visual ethnography in the contested terrain of management and organization.

Please submit a 500 word abstract or proposal by Tuesday 28th February 2017.

Barthes, R.(1981) Camera Lucida New York: Hill and Wang

Bergson, H. ((1998 [1911]).Creative Evolution, tr.,Arthur Mitchell, New York NY: Dover

Burgin, V. (1982) Thinking Photography, Victor Burgin (ed.), [Burgin: Introduction, three essays, bibliography], London: Macmillan Press Ltd

Conquergood, D. (2013) Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press

Deleuze, G. (1986), Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (trs.), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Deleuze, G. (1989), Cinema 2: The Time-Image, Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (trs.), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Denzin, N. K. (2003) Performance Ethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture London: Sage

Mitchell, J.W.T. (2007). There are no visual media, in Grau, O. (ed.), Media Art Histories. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 395–406

Mullarkey, J. (2009) Refractions of Reality: Philosophy and the Moving Image, Palgrave Macmillan

Rouch, Jean. (2003) Ciné-Ethnography, edited and translated by Steven Feld. University of Minnesota Press

Sinnerbrink, R. (2011) New Philosophies of Film: Thinking Images London: Continuum

Sinnerbrink, R. (2015) Cinematic Ethics: Exploring Ethical Experience through Film ondon Routledge

Ulmer, G. (2004) Teletheory : Grammatology in the Age of Video New York: Atropos Press; 2nd ed

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