ASA09: Anthropological and archaeological imaginations: past, present and future
Bristol, UK

Anthropology and self-representation
Location Wills 3.33
Date and Time 7th April, 2009 at 09:15


Antonella Passani (Sapienza University, Rome)
Giulia Grechi (University L'Orientale in Naples)
Ana María Forero Angel (University of los Andes)
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The panel will explore the relationship between anthropology, archaeology and self-representation. Papers are invited on this issue, so that the debate may be linked with different and complementary research experiences.

Long Abstract

The panel will explore the relationship between anthropology, archaeology and self-representation. Special attention will be given to linking the theoretical debate - focusing on the usage of images in social sciences - with different research experiences. In presenting the results of their field researches the convenors will discuss the use made of self-representation and will delineate points of strength and weaknesses of such a methodological approach. The panel will suggests special attention should be given to the role played by visual images in representing otherness and will then try to delineate how visual representation can be incorporated into our research practices in the present period. Images, as never before, have a central role in social processes and can be understood as a powerful medium of intercultural communication. During the panel, the work of Prof. Massimo Canevacci will be presented who has dedicated extensive attention to the theme of self-representation and made an inportant usage of it in a recent work dedicated to the Bororo funeral (Brasil). It will be interesting to match the work made in the Bororo community with that of the other convenors that will introduce their experiences about contemporary artists, second-generation children and Colombian State representation. We invite all those who may be interested this area, whether archaeologists or anthropologists, to join us in our consideration of representation and image.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The Aymara in the Tarapaca region: analysis of the Aymaras leaderships and of the construction of the contemporaean speeches on the leaders of political organisations

Author: Daniel Poblete (Universidad Complutense Madrid)


Analysing the importance and vigilance of the social clase discourse and the one of Indians for the liders of aymaras political organizations, the categories of marx and bolivian indians analysis are beeing confronted to identify the vigilance or irrelevance of those theoretical perspectives in the indigenous movement in Tarapaca region.

The use of material culture by Trekkies in the negotiation of their identities

Author: Miriam Cady


The process of negotiating and expressing personal identity, especially by marginalized populations, can be a lengthy and difficult process. Through the exploration of fan culture, this paper will shed light on how Trekkies use the material culture associated with Star Trek as a touchstone in the negotiation of their personal and group identity.

Drawn to the math and science base of the show, many fans found comfort in the humanist philosophy presented by Gene Roddenberry, as well as the accepting and safe principles of the concept of the IDIC - Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Within this safe sphere, Trekkies have used clothing, language and convention attendance to express themselves. Following Bourdieu's (1984) theory on the semiotics of clothing, the Star Trek costumes worn by Trekkies are expressions of personal identity. The costumes help construct the Trekkie self in the world. In the development of culture and identity, language plays an integral role. While the material culture of the Klingon subset of the larger Trekkie group is almost entirely book based, it allows Trekkies to legitimize their Klingon-self. Convention attendance and its associated purchases have been compared to Christian pilgrimages, while also creating an atmosphere much like Turner's (1974) concept of communitas.

Looking past this specific subset of fan culture, the paper asserts that the study of Trekkies can be used as a framework for the study of identity negotiation, especially for modern individuals and groups, in which the media plays a large role.

Museum's images and symbolic violence

Author: Natalia Parada (Universidad de los Andes)


This work is the result of a research grant provided by the Latinamerican Council of Social Science -CLACSO-. The paper presents a research of the indigenous representations displayed in the Museo Nacional de Colombia. The study incorporated a direct work with three of the actors that converge in the museum scenario: its employees, its public and the indigenous people.

The main addressed question was ¿who produces the knowledge of indigenous people and how this knowledge is legitimized through a publicly supervised institution?

My suggestion is that the museum´s display recreates some indigenous imaginaries that are constitutive of the violence that currently affects these communities in Colombia. In the museum symbolic violence is exercised due to the fact that the indigenous representation proposed, lead to the archaeologization of their existence and the negation of their memories, knowledges, and experiences.

The indigenous inclusion in the Museo Nacional follows some representation patterns which reproduce coloniality and correspond to its triangular structure: coloniality of power, of knowledge and of being. Then, what I propose is the decolonization of this space, which means the cleansing and detachment of coloniality. As a strategy, I suggest to promote an education oriented to the construction of dialogic spaces characterized by being participative in concrete actions, not just discursive as in the current situation.

I propose an education not only focused on the transfer of information and contents but more based on relationships and dialogs that allow the recognition and valuation of humans and not only of objects.

(Our compromise is Colombia!) !Nuestro compromiso es Colombia!: construction analysis of the Colombian army imagined community

Author: Ana María Forero Angel (University of los Andes)


Between 1999 and 2000 on the main streets of Bogotá appeared huge posters by the National Army. Behind the white writing Nuestro Compromiso es Colombia, we saw three soldiers with their faces painted in yellow, blue and red, like the colombian flag. This image is just an example of how the Colombian army was trying to present itself to the citizens: an institution loved by people, composed by martyrs and also a "country builder". Not just a tool to defend the boundaries but a guide to lead the nation to the right path of progress and modernity. The paper will analyze these desires of representation by dealing with discourses and texts that contribute in creating the world view of colombian military's élite. In the first two paragraphs are set out the basis on which the Colombian militaries "build" the military spirit that survives to historical contingencies and illuminates everyday military practice. In the third paragraph we will see how the memory of overcome challenges is used to prove the civil and democratic army's character. Fourth paragraph will analyse historical episodes which demonstrate from the military point of view army's quintessence as an anticommunist force. The fifth paragraph will deal with the perception that the militaries have of their enemy: an entity slowly shifting from bandolero to terrorist. The last paragraph will focus on the methodological difficulties in dealing with this issue; difficulties that interweave some of the suggestions of Writing Cultures and the anthropological use of autobiography.

Experience of displacement: other, self and beyond

Author: Jaroslava Bagdasarova (Max Planck Institute)


The anthropological concept of displacement within the studies of migration and tourism is challenging in the way that it forces the researcher to reflex several fundamental questions: the legitimization of others or postmodernist "Other" (migrants, tourists and receiving society), the assumption of "Self" and his/her representation, conceptualization of an experience of being "there". The peculiarity of experience related to displacement requires specific research approach. Following the arguments of Edward Sapir and David MacDougall, both, intimate structures of culture and affective knowledge, shall be encompassed by such a research. The paper argues that Jean Rouch's legacy, especially his concept of shared anthropology together with the use of visual methods, in particular of film making, may be the reliable strategy in grasping the migratory experience.

This statement is being illustrated by two cases of practical research undertaken by the author in the community of Siberian students living temporarily in Saint Petersburg and in the Chukchi village where tourist resort is supposed to be established. The film "The Seagull flying against the wind" and "Being a tourist in his own home" portray how the informants' self-presentation in the context of displacement may be incorporated into the research.

The concrete studies of migration and of tourism serve as an example of how the framework in which "a shared anthropology" has been interpreted can be broadened up and further elaborated.

Self-representation and intercultural communication: empowerment through images?

Author: Antonella Passani (Sapienza University, Rome)


Contemporary society is often described as characterized by a new centrality of images and visual languages. At the same time, the issue of intercultural dialogue and multiculturalism is also used for describing European societies. Societies are consequently seen as mediated by images on one hand, and in need of cultural mediation, on the other hand. My paper will take his steps from this consideration in order to explore how visual languages can support intercultural communication, especially in Italy (where the debate about multiculturalism is still at his early stages).

The relationship between emic and ethic representation of otherness will be explored and two fieldworks will be of support in deconstructing what is still often seen as an opposition, a dichotomy. The field researches conducted with Italian and second-generation migrant teenagers will be used for analysing how the subject of visual representation can be empowered by the usage of self-representation methodology.

Three short videos will be shown and analysed in order to explore the possibilities offered by self-representation in producing a definition of identity able to promote an effective intercultural communication. The relationship between the researcher and the teenagers will be also analysed through the video produced by the teenagers.

Favelas and photographic self-representation: Olhares do Morro [looking from the slums]

Author: Fabiene Gama (Universidade de Brasíla )


This paper will explore the relationship between anthropology, images and self-representation through the analysis of the photographic and discursive production of the non-governmental organization Olhares do Morro that teaches the photographic technique to young favela inhabitants. I reflect about the possibilities and limits of photographic self-representations of subaltern groups and themes such as: social inclusion, the movement of visual inclusion, self-representation, stigma, social representations, visual representations, social changes etc. I.e., as I believe that images have an enormous importance in modern society, and that photos are appreciated because they give information, here I analyze this particular form of representation that is increasing in the popular areas of Rio de Janeiro: the photo self-representation created by those who live in the favelas. As an example, I take this organization established in 2001 in the Santa Marta favela that aim to develop an representation of the favelas where that violence is not the single focus. They bet on the construction of a representation where the daily life of the favela inhabitants is targeted by the local residents, transforming the way people look to their neighborhood. To comprehend what these photos are and how they differ from those hitherto produced, beyond see how they turns external (and internal) images of the favelas are important issues that must be reflected. Here, I analyze the photographs produced by the group, thinking about the relationship between images and identity, and how they can contribute to transform a social stigma.