SIEF2017 13th Congress: Göttingen, Germany
26-30 March 2017

Experimenting with methods in critical affective research
Location VG 4.106
Date and Start Time 27 March, 2017 at 08:30
Sessions 1


  • Anton Nikolotov (Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies, Humboldt University) email
  • Omar Kasmani (Free University) email
  • Manja Stephan-Emmrich (Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin) email
  • Judith Albrecht (Freie Universität Berlin) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Carlo A. Cubero (Tallinn University)

Short Abstract

The aim of the workshop is to highlight the analytical apertures that experimental and sensory methods, concepts and schemata have to offer to ethnographic research and, specifically, to the study of affect of dwelling.

Long Abstract

At least since the early 2000s voices in socio-cultural anthropology have identified and called for important shifts in the modes of ethnographic practice making it a much more collective and collaborative endeavour of public criticism, interventions and future orientated speculations (Estalella and Sanchez-Criado 2016; Ingold 2014; Marcus and Holmes 2008; Marcus 2013;). If much of the discourse of the 1980s and 1990s focused on the politics of representation and critiques of positivism in academic texts, the current, emerging post-Writing-Culture moment is much more concerned with the encounters, relations and epistemologies in fieldwork that complicate the boundaries between the researcher and the researched. Such emerging research practices push disciplinary limits and question epistemological foundations of knowledge production. Starting from here, we wish to critically examine the relations between different experimental research methods, tactics, and strategies as well as the research ecologies they produce, considering also the impact of various media and digitization.

The workshop further inquires how experiential and sensory-focused research can contribute or hinder forms of ethico-political engagements with the subjects in the field and allow or limit novel forms of affective relations and representations.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Diving in: affect, fieldwork and self-reflexivity

Author: Jakob Löfgren (Åbo Akademi University)  email

Short Abstract

The proposed paper discusses questions of affective investment and the positioning of fandom researchers, by bringing in the concept of ‘levels of immersion’ from video game narrative and development research.

Long Abstract

The notion of 'affect' have long been a key concept in the study of fandom, and the term has been used to explicate fandom "affective investments" (Grossberg 1992), "affective play" (Hills 2001) and "affective space" (Lamerichs 2014). The turn, in recent years, to ethnographic study within fandom-studies has led to increasing discussion on researcher/field issues; specifically on self-reflexivity (Ibid). Fandom scholars often tend to be affectively invested in their fields and this brings questions of self-reflexivity to the forefront.

My fieldwork within fandom - working with fandom folklore in a British context - has made these questions of importance for me as well. In short, I have found that fans are so involved they do not care about researchers' objectivity, rather, how invested the researchers are. This in turn leads to positioning issues for any researcher doing fieldwork within fandom and to the question of immersion into the field.

The proposed paper aims to discuss the positioning fandom researchers have to do by building on discussions on 'levels of immersion' from video game narrative and development research (Quin et al. 2009, Jennet & Cox 2008). I argue, in line with other researchers, that participatory observation is the "means of which 'feeling' and empathy for the research field or issue should be achieved" (Schmidt Lauber 2012) and describe how the modern day ethnographic researcher could deal with positioning issues, and debate their own immersion in participatory fieldwork and affect, by means of levels of immersion.

Momentary dwellers: experimental art-ethnography collaborations and sensory research

Author: Jonas Tinius (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)  email

Short Abstract

Based on more than three years of fieldwork, this paper investigates experimental art-ethnography collaborations with a refugee theatre project and the creation of relational, sensory, and site-specific art installations in abandoned post-industrial housing sites.

Long Abstract

This paper reflects on the ethical, political, and social implications of an art-ethnography collaboration conducted with a refugee theatre project in and on abandoned migrant housing complexes in the postindustrial German Ruhr valley. Based on more than three years of fieldwork, it critically outlines on some of the ways in which I have been experimenting with this project on creating experience-based sensory and site-specific installations in former refugee camps and dwelling spaces. Through its research-based art interventions that revolve around creating encounters with and sensory archives for audiences and residents of a Ruhr valley city, the project and its participants became momentary dwellers in a form of 'micro-utopia' (see Blanes, Flynn, Maskens, Tinius 2016). The integration of anthropological fieldwork with sensory-focused relational art projects did not only create new research horizons and affective relations with migrant and non-migrant city-residents, but also possibilities for new forms of ethico-political interventions and speculative heritage futures.

Who is precarious now? An exploration of homing through art

Author: Victoria Walters (UWE Bristol)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will discuss the approach of a number of fine artists to the creation of temporary homes or shelters, ascertaining whether such practice-led research might offer "models that anthropologists can think with” (George E. Marcus, 2008).

Long Abstract

In this paper I will discuss the approaches of a number of fine artists to the creation of temporary homes, focusing principally on the work of Do Ho Suh, Lucy Orta, Andrea Zittel and Nick Cave. In so doing I seek to address a number of questions: to what degree do these artists' works offer viable protective possibilities for those seeking shelter? Do such art projects directly address the needs of people fleeing from war, sleeping rough, or seeking refuge from difficult and painful contexts, or do they rather seek to sensitize gallery audiences to critical issues around dwelling and homing? How do the artists' approaches to home connect to or differ from those of anthropologists, whose concern is with understanding and theorizing the complexity of people's lived experience of home? Is there a considerable zone of overlap? I am particularly interested here in how art works may blur the distinction between the researcher and the field, and the particular and the general condition. To what degree can art offer anthropology models that alert us to both the potentials and dangers of emergency or temporary homes, while connecting to broader questions around life lived in the context of increasing precarization?

Uneasiness, urge, participation: smelly, loud and altogether visceral stories of the home

Author: Gabriella Szigethy (ELTE University, Budapest)  email

Short Abstract

This paper addresses the issues which a scholar faces when caught up in a network of uneasy obsessions of a socio-spatial nature, where personal stories mix with academic obligations. The work of Alfred Gell, Jacques Ranciere and a Hungarian novelist, Noé Tibor Kiss are invited to help.

Long Abstract

As a woman of white, urban, middle-class background whose main profession has been to lecture in higher-education in most of her adult life I moved to one of the most complicated and poorest districts in my hometown of Budapest five years ago. The incentive was already at the time of a mostly economic nature. What I have noticed is that my life has become an endless naive anthropological fieldwork; I call it naive because my academic toolkit comes from art-history, aesthetics and cultural criticism. While I have been conducting my researches into the Neobaroque recolonialization of the public space in the neighbourhood through state-funded art projects I also have become gravely immersed in my cultural, linguistic and social ambience to a dangerous degree: glass shards falling, overheated lard in pans, uncanny substances all over the place. To battle this continuing affective absorption I have started to do unpaid activist work in a number of civil groups in my neighbourhood. My activist work has become my essential source for teaching cultural criticism, and teaching has become my way of doing activism.

In this paper I wish to address the checks and balances I have introduced into this fieldwork of a life to maintain a secure dwelling inside academia, and, at the same time, to build and promote active solidarity with fellow citizens. I shall do so with the help of the novel of a young Hungarian author Noé Tibor Kiss, Aludnod kellene [You Should be Sleeping By Now].

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.