Bioethics Blogs

Graphic Anthropology Field School by Kim Tondeur

The Graphic Anthropology Field School (GrAFs) is a project launched by Expeditions, an independent network of scholars in the human sciences. For 11 years, we have been holding in Gozo (Malta) a summer school for anthropologists and social scientists, focused on the practice of fieldwork. Far away from sleepy lectures in gloomy classrooms, our aim has always been to keep our feet on the ground and experiment with tools and tricks for fieldwork practice.

The idea of offering a separated program entirely dedicated to graphic anthropology grew during the past two years. The project started quite randomly as a colleague saw me sketching a scenery. His interest was piqued and he suggested that we take some students to grab a coffee and sketch at a terrace as a group. Of course, the ulterior motive was to figure out if drawing could serve as observation and analysis in the field. But we quickly acknowledged it was more than that: drawings present numerous advantages at different stages of the research process. More importantly, sketching appeared as a handy activity for young and sometimes inexperienced researchers to access the field more easily. Also, it did not require any expensive gear nor specific skill: everyone can trace lines on paper.

GrAFs views drawing as a practice of “making” more than “taking” (Taussig 2011). Drawings are far less intrusive than photography, and encourage the necessity to take time, observe, wait, and get lost with fieldwork. In the field, the utility of sketches appears from a low-brow but most useful kind: sketching a scene gives one “a reason to be there” in situations where even senior researchers might struggle with a feeling of being “out of place.” It also helps to fight boredom in the field, serves as an opportunity to take the notebook out of the pocket and often provokes new and unexpected interactions.

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.