Next Tuesday 19.07.2022 2:30-4pm (CET) please join us for the presentation of the Studienprojekt Ageing Cities by Maximilian Apel, Erman Dinc, Christine Maicher, Adam Petras, Doreen Sauer, and Anna Maria Schlotmann, the wonderful group of people with whom I have had the immense luck to work with in the last year.
In this year we’ve been exploring ethnographically how cities & urban designers are responding to the challenge of population ageing, and how we could understand as ethnographers the social & material transformations underway in their efforts to make ‘ageing-friendly’ cities (check the syllabus of the project)
In this choral presentation we aim to show our findings, searching to answer these questions through specific cases, most of them taking place in Berlin (on variegated issues like intergenerational and intercultural gardens or queer housing projects; the urban activism of the gray panthers; the controversies in public space design, focusing particularly on the conflicts of bike infrastructure; and VR projects to enable urban displacement or travel for older people living in residential care homes).
The course has also included an excursion in April 2022 to Alicante, Benidorm and neighbouring urban enclaves in Costa Blanca (Spain). This is a very relevant area because of how ageing concerns have turned, since the 1960s, into a vector of urbanisation in the region – developing into what some geographers call “the pensioners’ coast.” But also, and perhaps more importantly, they have sensitised urban designers from the area to respond to these intergenerational design challenges in different ways. In a joint endeavour with STS-inspired architectural researchers from theCritical Pedagogies, Ecological Politics and Material Practices research group of the University of Alicante, this visit allowed us to explore different approaches to architectural practice where older people have more active roles in the design and management of ageing cities.
In showing all of this we not only wish to tell specific stories, but want to share our conceptual and methodological explorations, and the many questions this process brought about around the contested scripts and the distinctive intergenerational challenges of late life urbanism projects.
This will be the last session of the Instituskolloquium of the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie (HU Berlin), which this semester had as a theme ‘Collective Access‘.
Gracias a la amable invitación de María Martínez, Maite Martín Palomo e Iñaki Rubio, en el marco del seminario permanente del proyecto “Mundo(s) de víctimas 3: Proyecto Vidas Descontadas. Refugios para habitar la desaparición social”, el próximo 15 de junio a las 11:00 estaré compartiendo mi trabajo en torno a: “Problemas de cuidado y el cuidado de los problemas“.
Para ello, revisitaré algunas publicaciones propias recientes (Care in Trouble & Anthropology as a careful design practice?) donde he estado interrogándome sobre la noción de cuidado como concepto y como cualidad de ciertas prácticas “cuidadosas” vinculadas al diseño. Esta indagación ha tenido lugar en un contexto de generalización presente de sus usos, no sólo en la jerga académica de campos como la antropología o los estudios de la ciencia y la tecnología (donde suelo habitar y pasar mi tiempo). A pesar de la relevancia de recuperar sus orígenes combativos e inclusivos prometedores en el pensamiento feminista, la expansión del cuidado más allá de los contextos de salud o cuidado interpersonal ha dado lugar a la aparición de un vocabulario político en toda regla, reivindicado en discursos muchas veces securitarios, trascendiendo a lenguajes institucionales del orden y el mantenimiento, así como alegatos etno-nacionalistas. A pesar de que esta generalización pudiera hacernos pensar en el éxito del término y la gran suerte de vivir en un presente más habitable, la violencia ambiente en que vivimos no parece augurar que esta popularidad tenga un fácil correlato en nuestra cotidianidad, ¿quizá como síntoma de un deseo o una aspiración evanescente? Antes que sugerir arrojar el término por la borda, me gustaría abordar los problemas de cuidado ante los que nos sitúan intervenciones sobre lo social en nombre de una aspiración cuidadosa que parecen tener claro lo que se necesita y cómo, donde la violencia efectiva también aparece como una violencia epistémica. Más allá de usos paliativos o vinculados a la reparación de órdenes existentes, quizá la única vía para que el cuidado no sea parte del problema, pudiera pasar por tratarlo como una práctica del cuidado de los problemas: un modo de abrirnos a los contornos de lo posible de frágiles ecologías de soportes, con conocimientos y maneras de hacer muchas veces relegadas al olvido, cuando no invisibilizadas, donde antes que vidas con contornos claros, la especulación de lo por venir participa de la ingente tarea de construir entornos para la vida plural en el presente (donde, muchas veces, antes que reparar o continuar, necesitaremos desarmar y tirar abajo). Una tarea que, en mi propio trabajo, ha ido vinculada a repensar la etnografía como práctica de diseño cuidadoso (de la que pondré algunos ejemplos vinculados a participar de colectivos de diseño activista desde el montaje de ecologías de documentación abierta, o el trabajo pedagógico para re-sensibilizar a profesionales del diseño urbano a que re-aprendan colaborativamente su práctica ante la radical presencia de quienes suelen hacerse cargo de sus designios). Esto es, una tarea donde el cuidado aparece no tanto como un concepto que clausura, sino como práctica emergente para las ciencias sociales, re-equipando o engendrando formas y dispositivos de indagación cuidadosa (atenta al cuidado de los problemas), para participar de la problematización conjunta de ecologías de soportes en condiciones de violencia ambiente.
Last July (22-23.07.2021) the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology of the HU Berlin hosted a workshop where we invited a wide variety of colleagues working in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (D-A-CH) to share and discuss their approaches to more-than-textual ethnographic practice.
The event–called “Anthropology beyond text? Experiments, devices and platforms of multimodal ethnographic practice”–took place on Zoom, and in the spirit of thinking more in depth how to value and evaluate multimodal projects, we recorded the conversation to think whether we could find a way of creating a good-enough summary that might allow us to continue thinking and discussing about it.
After different attempts, and thanks to the good work of Nelson Ari Wilhelm, we’re sharing it with the aim of fostering the expansion of such a conversation.
In the Winter Semester’s 21-22 Stadtlabor Online Seminar Series “The values of multimodal projects“, we aim to invite ground-breaking anthropological projects where multimodality features not just as an add-on of particular inquiries, but as a central mode of research and intervention.
At a time where the conversation around ‘multimodality’ is gaining momentum, we aim to discuss ‘the values’ of multimodal projects. By this, we mean two main things: The aim of our series would not just be to find the conditions to praise (‘valorise’), but also to appraise (‘evaluate’) multimodal projects. In a nutshell, we want this event series to be an attempt at creating the conceptual grounds for evaluating and institutionalising multimodal endeavours. Hence, to foster multimodal productions.
In particular, we wish to discuss the anthropological value of (i) dramaturgical / performance interventions, and anthropological approaches to (ii) exhibiting and curating. In opening up this space, we seek to highlight projects that we take as valuable contributions: not only to make them more visible but also so that these projects could help us in articulating their multimodal values, as well as inspiring others in their own work.
Not only we want to be able to learn from concrete multimodal approaches – the peculiarity of the media employed, the reasons for their choices – but we wish to create the grounds for a detailed conversation between projects of the same kind, touching upon criteria of anthropological worth.
26.1.22 (3-5:30pm CET) – How to exhibit anthropologically?
1. Francisco Martínez: How to Make Ethnographic Research with Exhibitions
Francisco Martínez is an anthropologist dealing with contemporary issues of material culture through ethnographic experiments. In 2018, he was awarded with the Early Career Prize of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. Currently, he works as Associate Professor at Tallinn University and convenes the Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation (EASA Network). Francisco has published two monographs – Ethnographic Experiments with Artists, Designers and Boundary Objects(UCL Press, 2021) and Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia (UCL Press, 2018). He has also edited several books, including Peripheral Methodologies (Routledge, 2021); Politics of Recuperation in Post-Crisis Portugal (Bloomsbury, 2020), and Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough (Berghahn, 2019), He has also curated different exhibitions – including ‘Objects of Attention’ (Estonian Museum of Applied Art & Design, 2019), and ‘Life in Decline’ (Estonian Mining Museum, 2021).
2. Manuela Bojadžijev: Archive of Refuge
Manuela Bojadžijev, professor at the Institute for European Ethnology (HU Berlin) together with the publicist Carolin Emcke and in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), have created the Archive of Refuge as a digital place of remembrance where stories of flight and expulsion to Germany in the 20th and 21st centuries are preserved and reflected upon. The people who tell their stories in the archive tell of flight and expulsion, of torture, exploitation and deprivation of rights, but also of hope and happiness; they tell of home and exile, of belonging and new beginnings – and ultimately also show surprising, far-reaching perspectives on German history. The archive asks: What does it actually mean to seek refuge?
9.2.22 (2:30-5pm CET) – How to stage issues anthropologically?
1. Cristiana Giordano & Greg Pierotti: Affect Theater: Collaborations between Anthropology and Performance
Cristiana Giordano is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. Her book, Migrants in Translation. Caring and the Logics of Difference in Contemporary Italy (2014), won the Victor Turner Book Prize for ethnographic writing (2016), and the Boyer Prize in Psychoanalytic Anthropology (2017). Her current research investigates new ways of rendering ethnographic material into artistic forms. She has been collaborating with playwright and director Greg Pierotti on a new methodology, Affect Theater, at the intersection of the social sciences and performance. They have created Unstories and and Unstories II (roaming), two 50-minute performances around the current “refugee crisis” in Europe.
Greg Pierotti is a theater artist and assistant professor of theater studies at University of Arizona. His plays, including Unstories, b more, The Laramie Project, and The People’s Temple, have been seen in venues around the world and translated into over a dozen languages. He is a recipient of the Humanitas Prize, the Will Glickman Award, the San Francisco Critics Award, and has been nominated for an Emmy, a New York Drama Desk Award, and the Alpert Award for outstanding individual contribution to the theater. He and Cristiana Giordano investigate the intersection of ethnographic and theatrical research and production methods.
2. AnthropoScenes: Linking participatory methods with theatre to imagine sustainable futures
The Project AnthropoScenes is run by a group of people from interdisciplinary human-environment research and the Theatre of the Anthropocene. Competences reach from hard science to pop-up theatre. We aim to involve diverse publics in debates about water futures and bring two questions: Can multimodality help to balance divergent logics of science and theatre? What are tips and tricks to move beyond the usual suspects? Jörg Niewöhner (anthropology), Pauline Münch (science communication) and Frank Raddatz (theatre) will represent the team.
Questions we want to raise
1. What were the reasons to choose this peculiar approach, media or art form? What relation do these forms bear to specific ethnographic fieldwork studies or particular anthropological modes of inquiry? What were your aims in exploring this multimodal form?
2. What have been the knowledges you’ve needed to become acquainted with to use these media/forms? What does anthropological research and knowledge production become when shaped in this particular form or using these devices? Also, how could we critically reflect, as anthropologists, on the affordances, promises, challenges and predicaments of the particular devices of your multimodal ethnographic engagement? In a nutshell, what are the promises and challenges of this form for anthropological inquiries?
3. What effects have your multimodal form of choice had on the people you were working with: your interlocutors, your peers? How could we learn to appreciate and value these effects: that is, what contours of anthropological practice are being delineated in what your multimodal explorations made emerge?
4. Have you been able to document your project, in what form? What have been the main challenges or difficulties in doing so? Who have you addressed in doing so: that is, who are your audiences, publics?
A more informal conversation on these issues, with questions and comments from the hosts and the audience, will ensue.
El Seminario Internacional Arquitectura y Etnografía es un espacio de intersección y encuentro para quienes estudiamos el espacio y el sentido. Entre la arquitectura, la antropología, la geografía, el urbanismo y la sociología nos sentamos junto al fuego para pensar nuevas formas de abordar los fenómenos territoriales. ¿Cuáles son las relaciones entre etnografía y arquitectura? ¿cuáles los alcances y desafíos de las nuevas tecnologías y métodos de investigación espacial? ¿de qué formas distintas disciplinas pueden encontrarse ante un mismo objeto de estudio? ¿cuál es el rol de los sentidos en la epistemología de lo socio-espacial? En ese terreno acampamos.
Si en su primera versión el seminario se centró en el dibujo como herramienta que posibilita estos cruces disciplinarios y metodológicos, el segundo encuentro amplia su mirada hacia otros mecanismos y sensibilidades, incluidos sonidos, imágenes y biografías situadas, con invitados internacionales diversos, y de trayectorias innovadoras y rigurosas.
Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Construcción, UDLA José Abásolo, jabasolo [arroba] udla.cl Ricardo Greene, rgreene [arroba] udla.cl firstname.lastname@example.org
Núcleo Lenguaje y Creación UDLA AriztíaLab Revista Bifurcaciones
Together with Ignacio Farías we are convening the workshop Towards a multimodal urban anthropology for the upcoming biannual conference of the German Association of Social and Cultural Anthropology(DGSKA-Tagung 2021, “Worlds, Zones, Atmospheres. Seismographies of the Anthropocene”) that will take place (online) September 27-30, 2021 at the University of Bremen.
More-than-human approaches in urban anthropology have convincingly contributed to rethinking the plurality of modes of knowledge, the assemblages and the kinds of actors that constitute our cities. But what do these conceptual interventions do to our ethnographic modes of inquiry? This workshop starts from the assumption that beyond a change in conceptual repertoires, decentering the all-too-human object of urban anthropology might require a multimodal transformation of our ethnographic practices, in at least two ways: Firstly, since the ‘observation’ of more-than-human entanglements requires more than taking part in social situations, what are the conditions in which we could appreciate and learn to be affected, attuned and concerned with a wide variety of phenomena and processes, ranging from atmospheric and ecological to multi-species and/or socio-technical? How would our practices of note-taking and field-working be affected? In contexts where fieldwork becomes an active co-production of situations, we invite contributions reflecting on multimodal transformations of fieldnotes, practices of rapport / friendship / interlocution and correspondence. Secondly, to the extent that these often-experimental collaborations involve more-than-textual devices for ethnographic description and conceptualization, we would like to explore the anthropological potentials of current displacements of the media and modalities of ethnographic accounts. In a context where collaborations with art and design are becoming a common practice, we particularly welcome contributions that reflect on the intervention these devices entail for the project of urban anthropology.
Participants & abstracts
Graphic Ethnography and Experiments in Urban Anthropology (Andrew Gilbert, University of Toronto Mississauga; Larisa Kurtovic, Univ. of Ottawa)
In this presentation, we draw upon our graphic ethnography project to explore the affordances of sequential art for urban anthropology. Our research investigates an unprecedented victory by industrial workers in the northern Bosnian city of Tuzla, who occupied and preserved their privatized and bankrupted factory and were able to restart production. We propose that the graphic medium offers unique ethnographic potential for capturing and communicating the openly experimental and collaborative nature of the workers struggle, offering important insights for an urban anthropology “understood as operating within an open system, as an open system, and as the study and production of open systems” (Fortun 2003). In particular, we explore graphic ethnography’s capacity to materialize and render tangible a broad urban sensorium, to evoke how the social multiplicities of cities can be turned into a political resource, and to harness the imagination and participation of readers in ways that keeps ethnography as inventive and open-ended as the urban worlds that it evokes.
Learning from outside: grasping and representing multiplicities. The case of pedestrianized Times Square (Santiago Orrego, HU Berlin)
This talk is divided into two parts. The first one presents the highlights of a multi-situated and multimodal ethnography of Times Square in New York City and its processes of pedestrianization from 2009 to 2017. But more than just telling the story of how that location was assembled, the idea was to try to translate the particularities of a multiple spatiality, as well as the resources and situations involved in its production, somehow, into epistemological devices and multimodal artifacts that could enrich the way we make ethnography of public spaces. The intention of experimenting with multimodal methods was to design strategies, as well as artifacts, for better capturing and representing the convulse and the effervescent world outside. The second part of the talk will focus on some of those epistemological devices and multimodal artifacts by discussing how they were constructed, the rationality behind them, their uses, and scopes. The way for enacting all those matters will be presenting the methodological strategy carried out along this whole ethnographic work, and that can be described as a process of “learning from” a specific location, pedestrianized Times Square.
Archival entanglements: Multimodal research, teaching, learning in urban anthropology (Aylin Tschoepe, University of Basel)
As a site of selective public or private memory, a collection of evidence in material and immaterial form shaped by various power dynamics, and a metaphor for holding data, the archive is central to the mediated production and understanding of archival bodies as agents and mnemonic devices. Archives offer a lens to grapple with questions of temporality, materiality, technological possibilities, and accessibility to different ways of knowing. I understand bodies and spaces as archives, not least through cultural practices of memorizing and forgetting, categorization, valuation and visibility. I am drawn to the archive in its complexity of objecthood and agency and focus on four main aspects: first, the archive as artefact holds particular knowledges and memories in the context of power and valuation, and can consist of various media and formats from material to digital. Second, the archive can be inscribed onto human and non-human actors. Third, as storages of data, archives may be part of a network with archival instruments that inscribe experiences and practices such as those of a cultural, social, performative, sensory, or aesthetic kind. Fourth, the archive is an actor itself, and it can contain further archival bodies that are also “quasi-objects” (Latour 2005). As actors, archives are also witnesses, equipped with transformative powers toward shaping the future of larger temporal and spatial networks in which archives operate and are entangled.
Doing urban anthropology with a dog. Reflections upon ethnography and knowledge production in context of a more-than-human research entanglement (Elisabeth Luggauer, University Graz/University Würzburg)
This paper reflects upon multimodal ethnographic modes of being in a field of urban contact zones (Haraway 2008) or urban assemblages (Farias 2011) between humans and street dogs in Podgorica (Montenegro) as a multispecies research entanglement of a human and the dog Ferdinand. It points out how through the grounding ethnographic technique of jointly claiming urban space as a „humandog collective“ (Hodgetts 2018) 1. the presence of the mixed-breed dog reveals urban discourses and politics about street dogs and owned dogs as well as about cleanliness and dirt, 2. Ferdinand’s spatial practices make contact zones/assemblages between humans and street dogs recognizable for the human researcher and therefore open up concrete research settings for deeper investigation, and 3. our presence as a multispecies research team has also turned this project into a contact zone between different knowledges and discourses on human-nonhuman order policies in urban spaces embedded in different cultural and political contexts.
Discussant: Indrawan Prabaharyaka (HU Berlin)
Questions for our joint exploration
The question we would like to approach collectively in our workshop is how do particular multimedia/multimodal devices enable or hinder particular descriptions, conceptual understandings or ways of remaking what the urban is or could be. This not only means what features of the urban they enable or make more difficult to do research upon, but also whether our understandings of the urban remain the same after inquiring multimodally. Put differently, what kind of an urban anthropology emerges out of these multimodal engagements? That is, what would a multimodal urban anthropology be?
With these questions in mind, when creating the sequence of presentations for the session we have paid special attention to the particular ‘devices’ (be they field devices, representational devices, or both) there are stake, with the intention to discuss the multimedia layers that have paved the way for a question around the multimodal in anthropology. Hence, there is a transition from the visual/graphic to the digital, then to more material aspects like the archive and the multi-sensory as well as the collaborative (perhaps a genealogy in which the problem of multimodality presented itself in recent anthropological scholarly work?). But whereas the first two (Gilbert & Kurtovic + Orrego) emphasise visual means of representation (comic/graphic novel and exhibition artefacts), the last two (Tschoepe + Luggauer) discuss multimodal strategies of research in the field (through archives, and in the company of dogs). Perhaps this might enable a discussion on when and where multimodality happens, and how this affects the research process.
There I will present on Friday 17, 2021 at 1:30pm-3:00pm CET at paper I am working on with Israel Rodríguez Giralt, called “The Pharmakon of Collaboration: Activating Research with the Independent Living Forum” (Chaired by Anna-Lena Wiechern).
In this paper, we think with a concrete set of research practices afforded by a long and intense exploration of independent-living activism in Spain. At that time of the main indignados mobilisations in 2011, we started a collective research project on the topic. In an explicit gesture towards forms of ‘emancipatory research’ (Oliver, 1992), the project was conceived from the onset including different activist members in its advisory board, as co-researchers. We aimed to prevent researchers from ‘speaking for the other’ (Ruby, 1992) and to create instances of friction and shared reflection.
In the course of these years we attempted to practice a wide variety of modes of research ‘speaking nearby’ (Minh-ha, 1992) if not explicitly ‘with’ them: hence engaging in a wide variety of collaborative forms of research with actors that were always treated as ‘epistemic partners’. Building on this, the paper analyses the impact this exploration had on us as researchers: or, to be more specific, on our ways of engaging with independent living activism, and to consider how this might inspire our ‘experimentally collaborative’ or ‘activated’ ways to engage in other activist settings (Estalella & Criado, 2018). For instance, we will describe how we were activated to share common spaces of discussion and debate or even presentation (in scholarly and activist workshops but also in academic events), plunging in ‘joint problem-making’: that is, collaboratively engaging in exploratory material and textual undertakings, such as in the collective En torno a la silla, attempting environmental interventions and remakings of wheelchair users and their surroundings.
Far from telling a ‘happy’ or ‘utopian’ tale, we wish to remain attentive to the affordances as much the problems this collaborative research activation brought and opened up. For this, we will draw from Stengers’s conceptual work around the pharmakon–an ambivalent entity that for the Greeks oscillated between a drug and a poison, depending on doses, components, modes of preparation and administration. Following her concern to remain attentive to the practicalities of different research devices and tell technical stories “about the kinds of traps that each had to escape, constraints the importance of which had to be recognized” (Stengers, 2015: 132), we would like to close reflecting about the impact these collaborative undertakings had on us and on the people we were working with; and how this experience might contribute to (re)assess collaborative and engaged research from its frictions.
By drawing on STS, Crip Technoscience (Hamraie/Fritsch 2019) and approaches from participatory design research and practice, this event discusses body-technology relations from inter-, transdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives. We argue in favor of extending the concept of materiality beyond the borders of the physical object to include practices and relations and consequently, want to question common concepts of norm, normality, and normativity. Because these notions are not only entangled with artefacts but also with their design and the practices they involve, which include bodies embedded in historical, cultural, infrastructural and institutional contexts. Thus, they can be considered situated (Haraway 1988). As a result, questions and demands for inclusion and social participation, too, become virulent (Star 2017, 1999; Winner 1980) and have been problematized as politics of assistive artefacts (Mills 2012). In sum, we propose to re/frame technology and body (differences) as interacting entities within societies.
The event aims to think critically through a theoretical framework in the context of dis/abilities that recognizes assistive technologies as political as well as situated interconnections. On this basis, we endorse to reflect on infrastructures of design for questions of inclusion and participation – cross-cultural, inter- and transdisciplinary. Reflecting on open source practices in medical and assistive technologies (e.g. 3D printing) will allow us to question the effects of heterogeneous interests, economic implications and everyday affordances of socio-material assemblages produced within the frameworks of participatory design research.
Tom Bieling (Hamburg), Melike Şahinol (Istanbul), Anna-Lena Wiechern (Lüneburg), Robert Stock (Berlin)
Abstract: In this presentation I would like to discuss with you a book project on what I am calling ‘an uncommon city.’ The book is an anthropological exploration of bodily diversity and its impact in the material and knowledge politics of city-making. Drawing on field and archival work of independent-living and disability rights movements, paying attention in particular to their urban accessibility struggles as well as their pedagogic interventions in the training of architects, city planners, and designers (with materials mostly from Barcelona, but also from Munich), I trace a wealth of activist initiatives caring for an epistemic, material and political activation of urban design. These initiatives have or had at their core the production of singular situations—made out of policy documents and building codes, infrastructures and standards, collaborative design processes and prototypes, and manifold sensitising devices and documentation interfaces—through which designing technologies, urban landscapes or institutions and political spaces is to be attempted from the appreciation and articulation of bodily diversity: from the demographic identification of bodily patterns to the invention of inclusive and universal design, also connecting with the contested history of urban accessibility struggles, or the perpetual emergence of many access issues in contemporary forms of city-making where bodily diversity appears as the main concern to address by different actors. In particular, the book wishes to unfold three ways – (i) activating prototypes, (ii) activating public infrastructures, and (iii) activating design studio projects – in which a concern with bodily diversity mobilises the uncommon prospects of the city, opening up other possible urbanisms.
Thanks to the invitation by Andrew Gilbert (U Toronto), Wednesday April 14, 2021 4-6pm (CET) Ignacio Farías and I will be introducing the collective work of the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology as part of a conversation of the very interesting Ethnography Lab‘s Meet the Labs series.
As they state, what motivates this exploration of what different ethnographic ‘labs’ are up to, is the following:
Ethnography Labs and centers often occupy an interstitial place in the academic ecosystem as sites for collaboration, experimentation, and practice outside of departmental programs, relations of supervision, and the university itself.
Our “Meet the Labs” series is an extension of the AAA roundtable where we hope to connect and network with sister labs through a shared passion for ethnographic practice and methods. Together we will explore the possibilities of different organizational and institutional forms for the practice of ethnography. On April 14th, you can expect to hear about the projects and practices of two distinct platforms for ethnographic research taking place at the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Urban Anthropology in Berlin, Germany and the Kaleidos Center for Interdisciplinary Ethnography in Quito, Ecuador.
We are excited about the opportunity to build cross-disciplinary relationships through Ethnography with our colleagues in Germany and Ecuador, and we welcome anyone interested in thinking through what Labs have to offer our universities and communities and those would are interested in the important work being conducted at each of these organizations.
This will be part of a collective conversation with Kaleidos (Centro de Etnografía Interdisciplinaria), an interesting lab from Quito!
What if in the face of very serious topics we developed conceptual, speculative and material tools, such as games, to find ways of intervening as ethnographers, social scientists or as activists in current design dynamics?
The series of talks Playing with method wishes to open up a line of inquiry counting on practical examples (be they card, board, performative or video-games) theoretical repertoires, and speculative visions or positional arguments to address the promises and challenges of the ways in which games might be mobilized for different forms and genres of social intervention.
In spite, or even because of their ludic dimension, we want to explore to what extent games might be capable of altering how we discuss issues, share knowledge, raise awareness, make problems public, imagine futures, and learn to care. Thus, we would like to collectively discuss critically on the contemporary cultural role of games, with the aspiration to ponder how games could redevelop our repertoires of ethnographic representation and intervention; or what vocabularies and considerations might allow us to unfold their full potential as relevant ethnographic or peri-ethnographic genres.
What is more, we are particularly interested in how games open up a Spielraum (a degree of play) for transgressing the boundaries of academic disciplines and reinventing what research might mean.
Why this workshop now?
In the last years, members of the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology have been approaching the potentialities and challenges of games as particular platforms or devices for anthropological research / intervention for the real estate crisis in Berlin. In our work not only we have been inspired by the activist/ pedagogic impetus of the Landlord’s Game (anti-monopolistic predecessor of Monopoly), but also by different works around games by social designers, artists and other anthropologists wishing to expand the reach of forms of urban intervention.
The games we have developed are not final products but open prototypes. They are result and method of our research, and work as devices to intervene in urban development processes. As such, they are open to be transformed and re-versioned, so that their specific languages, logics, gameplay, and effects could be adapted to specific situations and concerns of various urban actors.
In collaboration with ZK/U, we have produced a series of games, most centrally featuring House of Gossip, which re-enacts the threat of displacement of tenants from their homes, plunging us into the rumors circulating in a stairway and their truth effects.
Drawing from our own work, for this series of talks we would like to gather around inspiring examples so as to discuss and discover together how developing games might also impact how we could do social-cultural research: from describing to intervening, from representing to performing (and breaching) reality, thus experimenting with what politics and critique might mean whenever we prototype and play.