Bioethics Blogs

Swamp Dialogues: Filming Ethnography by Ildikó Zonga Plájás

In recent anthropological film practice we see a shift from established visual ethnographic paradigms focused on discursive representation (Crawford 1992), towards the realm of interdisciplinary cooperation and experimentation. Working with filmmakers and artists has a long history in visual anthropology, however recent theoretical debates open up new terrains for cooperation with various fields like science and technology studies, bio-medical sciences, forensic science, and architecture. As attention is directed towards the corporeal experience that informs intellectual understanding (Suhr-Willerslev 2013; Postma 2006; MacDougall 2006) the role of visual perception and representation is re-valuated once again. In this post I am going to interweave clips from my film and text to make a case for post-representational anthropology, that is, an anthropology that does not reveal the truth, but which advocates for different and intersecting ways of engaging with the worlds we inhabit.

I spent several months in the Romanian Danube Delta[1] conducting fieldwork about the manifold ways people engage with “wilderness.” Upon returning from the field, before setting pen to paper, I started to work with the audio-visual data and to compile a narrative in image and sound. The anthropological film Swamp Dialogues (2015, 53 min.) thus became part of the analysis and the outcome of the research. Though the text and images of this ‘filmic thesis’ are aimed at an academic audience, it might still be useful, or perhaps necessary, to emphasize that the film is not an imprint or a document of reality, and neither are the 36 hours of footage which I recorded in the Danube Delta.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.