The future of Visual Anthropology in the wake of Black Lives Matter

7th March 2021
The future of Visual Anthropology in the wake of Black Lives Matter:

A dialogue between Dr Shawn Sobers, Professor Deborah Thomas and Dr Sireita Mullings

For Royal Anthropology Institute Ethnography Film Festival 2021

Short Abstract:

This event hears from critical black visual anthropologists on their approach to the discipline and crucially asks what are the key lessons from 2020 in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter protests, and Covid19’s impact on ethnic minority communities.

Long Abstract

As a discipline anthropology has long been subject to the scrutiny of critical race theorists and to questions of ethical practice with regards to ethnicity, and it could be argued to be the first discipline to have undergone attempts at decolonising itself from its colonial founding contexts. Yet even as the objectifying and orientalist tendencies of traditional anthropology are still practiced by some modern-day practitioners, the discipline today is joined more than ever by African and Asian heritage anthropologists, attempting to decolonise the discipline.

This event hears from critical black and brown visual anthropologists on their approach to the discipline and crucially asks what are the key lessons from 2020 in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter protests, and Covid19’s impact on ethnic minority communities.

Each panel member will show a film clip or photograph to respond to and offer a provocation that challenges our thinking about the discipline today. The panel will present arguments for how and if anthropology will survive as a credible ethical discourse, at a time when, as articulated by Lanita Jacobs, ‘the Natives are Gazing Back’.

Even though The RAI Film Festival has moved online this time, it is usually based in the city of Bristol- the site of the toppling of the Colston statue which resonated all over the world in June 2020. This panel discussion will use the incident of the fall of Colston as a starting point and broaden to reflect the international representations of the panel speakers.

This event is in partnership with i-Docs and the Critical Race and Culture Network at UWE, Bristol, with a view to considering how the critical thinking that drives these conversations might be put into dialogue with interactive documentary methods and processes.

Roundtable participants:

– Dr Shawn Sobers, University of the West of England

– Dr Deborah Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

– Dr Sireita Mullings, University of Bedfordshire

Co-organised with Dr Judith Aston – iDocs


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