Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Simone Mestroni

Dr. Simone Mestroni was awarded a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017 to aid filmmaking on After Prayers. We’re thrilled to announce that After Prayers has been selected to appear at the Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival in San Jose, California this November. Please enjoy the trailer and blog post below!

trailer after prayer_2017 from Rizoma on Vimeo.

After Prayers

Fejo Postdoctoral Fellowship

During the three months fellowship the post-production of After Prayers, a documentary based on Phd research on Kashmir’s conflict, has been completed. More specifically the final editing has been carried out at Rizoma Film studios in Rome with the collaboration of Donatello Conti. Subtitling, titling and color correction were also realized at Rizoma’s during February 2018. At the end of February, the trailer, meant to be used for festival submissions and promotion, was also realized with Conti’s editing support. Audio mixing and designing were then realized in Trieste at A-Lab studios, by a team composed by Francesco Morosini, Emiliano Gherlanz and their assistants. I have been personally following all these operations as beside the technical aspects of the audiovisual editing, many of the creative aspects of the documentary came as a result of the final stages of the post-production.

Beside some editing adjustments and audiovisual polishing the structure of the film hasn’t radically changed from the rough cut version which was presented for the grant application. The basic idea of conveying ethnographic findings into the visual language was accomplished, and After Prayers seems to be able to give an immediate feeling of what the conflict is in the daily life of Kashmiri people, describing the ways violence perpetuates into the valley’s routine throughout ideological, emotional and embodied layers. More than making theoretical findings explicit, the film aims at representing the sensorial and affective aspects of the conflict, so that the audience will be able to empathize with the characters, feeling the pain of a martyr’s mother, as well the rage of a rioter throwing stones at Indian soldiers, or the moral strength of a maimed mujahideen.

Since March 2018, when the film was almost finished, I have started preparing the festival submissions plan, trying to find a balance between different type of events: marked-oriented, ethnographic and human rights related. At the present time After Prayers has already been selected for Doc/player, the online industry oriented platform of Sheffield Doc Fest. This means the film has been shortlisted among the best 200 among thousands applications, and has been privately screened in front of very specialized audience. Notwithstanding this the premiere status is still intact.

At the moment After Prayers has been submitted at almost forty documentary and film festivals and I’m actually waiting from upcoming notifications. Among the ethnographic festival After Prayers will run for Filmes do Homem (Portugal), Jean Rouch (FR), SVA (USA), RAI (UK), Ethnografilm (FR). Considering the academic background of the film I have decided to give a priority to these festivals even considering the chance to hold a premiere in a very specialist environment: the ethnographic dimension can become the documentary’s strength in a broader panorama, and this specific curricula can become a good kick to achieve access to other networks.

At the same time I have already discussed screenings of After Prayers in academic contexts, as Dublin’s School of Law and Government, University La Bicocca di Milano, University Roma Torvergata,University of Messina, University of Catania, University La Sapienza. These screenings are still to be fixed according to festival’s plan and  premiere  requirements. In Italian Universities the documentary will be presented along with the discussion of my ethnographic book on Kashmir’s conflict, Linee di Controllo (Lines of Control), which is going to be published by Meltemi in September 2018. Regarding the dissemination process, the book and the documentary are meant to work in a synergy, ideally pulling the film’s audience into the book’s reading and anthropology students into the audiovisual language, so to blur the borders between the two fields, hopefully opening a fertile dialogue.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Rabia Harmansah

Exhibition space

In 2011, while a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, Rabia Harmansah received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Social Forgetting in Post-Conflict Landscapes in Cyprus” supervised by Robert M. Hayden. In 2018, Dr. Harmansah had the opportunity to share the results of her fieldwork when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to organize an exhibition titled “Remembering Forward: An Anthropological Exhibition on Shared Sacred Spaces in Cyprus.”

The project develops an exhibition on shared sacred spaces in the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It features brief historical information about six Orthodox Christian and Muslim sites, a variety of personal accounts, and visual material related to the sites, where sharing occurs or used to occur in the past. The exhibition is based on the ethnographic fieldwork project I conducted in Cyprus between 2010-2012, which examines the practices of memory-making and forgetting at sacred sites in Cyprus after the ethnic conflict and 1974 partition of the island. The exhibition is designed to share this research with the people of Cyprus and to stimulate a bi-communal dialogue on shared spaces and ‘alternative’ readings of the past.

Exhibition opening night

The exhibition is a collection of diverse readings of the past, present, and future through the loud silence of sacred spaces. The past is highly fractured and strategically reassembled in Cyprus. The memories of the past have been transforming since the Greek and Turkish communities fell apart in 1974. On the one hand, there is longing for a lost past and for a lost future, and on the other hand, a need for creating a new present and future. The reference to past is omnipresent in all narratives related to now and onward. Temporalities turn into permanence, permanence is absent and only imagined.

By introducing the practices at the shared sites and the transformation of them, the exhibition is designed as an invitation to explore the disregarded communication and exchange at these sacred sites before and after the division of the island in 1974. The exhibition creates a new avenue for the local people to contribute with their own stories, and memories that could both expand the dissertation research on shared sacred sites and also foster dialogue between the two communities on a topic that is relevant to them in their everyday lives.

Rabia Harmansah and Aslı Tanrıkulu in front of the exhibition space

The exhibition covers six religious sites, where both Orthodox Christian and Muslim communities visit and assert claims: Apostolos Andreas Monastery (Karpas Peninsula), Hala Sultan Tekke (Larnaca), Holy Forty (east of Nicosia), Hz. Ömer Tekke (east of Kyrenia), Saint Barnabas Monastery (Famagusta) and Saint Mamas Monastery (Morphou). The physical sharing of sacred sites has been restricted since the de facto division of the island in 1974, but they have started to be visited again by both communities with the opening of the dividing Green Line in 2003. Two of the mentioned sites (Saint Barnabas and Saint Mamas Monasteries) have been functioning as museums since their re-opening after the division.

Each site expresses a different story; manifests a deeper and shared history, bringing to view the complexity of exchanges for Cypriot people. The exhibition takes a fresh look at the Cyprus conflict and highlights both the coexistence and conflict happening at the shared sites. It aims at communicating the themes of sharing and understanding without defaulting to the hollow rhetoric of ‘peaceful coexistence and tolerance.’ The stories and memories harmonize with one another as much as they contrast. In that sense, the project goes beyond the sterile picturing of shared sacred sites in scholarly debates that approach these sites either as sites of tolerance or conflict. In some cases, the multivocality of holy sites provokes discussion over the identity and politics of these places. In other cases, Cypriots, whose cosmologies about these polysemic holy places are embedded in a land of many cultures, have been going beyond the political and ethnic boundaries with their shared cultic practices.

Visitors at the exhibition

This public anthropology work is designed in the form of an exhibition, not only for involving people in the research endeavor but also for questioning and rethinking social science methodology. I seek to reconceive methodology to bridge the conceptual gaps between disciplinary approaches, and between art and science. I collaborated with two artist-curators in this exhibition, Aslı Tanrıkulu, a graphic designer and a painter, and Ersan Ocak, an urbanist, a (visual) cultural researcher, and an independent filmmaker. This has provided an excellent opportunity to widen my perspective for thinking through the data collected in the field as well as the alternative ways to share the research with the public.

Visitors’ comments on the

The exhibition was held between June 19th-26th, 2018 at the Home for Cooperation, a space easily available to Greek and Turkish Cypriots for bi-communal activities in the Buffer Zone in Nicosia. The exhibition is intended to be moved to several other locations in both parts of Cyprus, including the Bedesten in North Nicosia, Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta, and Peace House in South Nicosia. It is also invited to be displayed at the Ruhr Universität Bochum in Germany and TED University in Ankara, Turkey. The stories were displayed in three languages, English, Greek, and Turkish. Visitors were provided cards to express their opinions about the exhibition, contribute their own memories about the sites, or answer the question “what would you like to remember forward about Cyprus?” The exhibition is complemented by an interactive website, which was launched to promote the project, and to provide a platform for exchanging ideas, memories, and photographs.

 

Upcoming August Conference

15th Biennial European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

August 14 – 18, 2018

Stockholm, Sweden

Recent times, for much of humanity but not least in Europe, have been marked by dramatic mobility. It has taken many forms: refugee streams and labor migration, but also pilgrimage, tourism, and the transnational leisure migration of retirees. It is continuously in the news. Mobility has long been a topic in anthropological research. In view of the range and importance of its current forms, mobility is a suitable main theme of the 2018 conference of EASA. The conference will not only focus narrowly on the forms of spatial movement, but willl reflect the variety of its backgrounds, forms and contexts, and longer-term implications ranging from communities left behind, infrastructures of mobility, and the meaning of home, to the relationships between mobility and social media, and the public uses of anthropology. While providing opportunity for reports on ongoing and recent research, this will in addition inspire future anthropological investigations.

The conference brings together scholars and students from across Europe and beyond;
thus creating new formal and informal relationships and collaborations. The Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University has a longstanding extensive engagement with EASA. The Department is prominent internationally not least through its teaching, research and publications on globalization and migration. Building on this, the 15th EASA conference will be an excellent opportunity to further develop this international network, and encourage scholars, especially young ones and students, to broaden the scope of their collaborative networks.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Jane Lynch

Image 1

While a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Jane Lynch received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2010 to aid research on “Fashioning Value: Materiality, Cloth, and Political Economy in India,” supervised by Dr. Webb Keane.  In 2016 Dr. Lynch received an Engaged Anthropology Grant which allowed her to return to the field and carry out her project, “Beyond Art and Labor: Representing the Everyday Politics of Weaving in India”.

Last summer, I began work on a collaborative project, organized and executed together with textile weavers in a town in Central India.  This project emerged as an outgrowth of my dissertation research, substantial parts of which were based in this town, which is famous for the eponymously named “Chanderi” cloth produced there.  Many of my collaborators were thus old friends and informants.  The focus of our work was to create a temporary “pop-up” exhibition, which aimed to re-envision—and present, as a catalyst for dialogue—the ways in which the practice and process of handloom weaving are represented.

Image 2

The 34 photographs included in the exhibition were exemplary of phenomena that weavers and traders showed me during my research to explain the work they do, the ways in which business is conducted in Chanderi, and the possibilites for reimagining both.  These photographs challenge conventional representations of handloom weaving in Chanderi, which emphasize a predictable, unidirectional technical process.  Put differently, they foreground dimensions of the weaving process that at first, appear to be either outside of or deviations from a normal course of production but are in fact integral to the making of cloth.  We organized these images into three groups, focusing on: (1) the homes and domestic lives of weavers; (2) the organization of business and profit; and (3) how weavers create value through the reuse of cast-off yarn and cloth.  Together, these photographs drew attention to aspects of Chanderi weaving that are often hidden from public view and discourse.

Image 3

These photographs revealed the work of weaving in Chanderi as part of domestic life.  Everyday activities—such as caring for children, bending down in prayer, and counting to see if enough cash has been saved for school fees—are interwoven with the production of cloth.  Looms are the foundations of homes in which weaving is the family business.  Both the technical skill and business of weaving are learned within families, often while sitting next to a parent (Image 1).  Looms also reveal traces of the people who spend long hours sitting in front of them working.  The stickers of political parties, cricket players, and gods adhered to their wooden frames offer one example of this (Image 2).

Image 4

These photographs also documented the organization of business and profit in Chanderi’s weaving industry.  These activities are rooted in social values and expectations.  One articulation of this is the principal and aspiration of shubh labh, which—in the words of one trader from Chanderi—translates into English as “profit with goodness” (Image 3).  These photographs show how account books (i.e., both the ledgers kept by traders and middlemen as well as the small diaries, referred to locally as sargas, kept by weavers) are used to record exchanges of raw materials, finished cloth, and cash (Image 4).  We also documented the aspects of the weaving process (e.g., street-warping and the dressing of the loom) that are unaccounted for in these ledgers, but which nevertheless carry a cost, typically borne by weavers.

Image 5

At the end of each warp, weavers in Chanderi are left with and collect scraps of cloth.  They acquire remnants in other ways too.  For example, cloth that has been rejected in processes of “quality control.”  Such cloth—particularly that which has been put to new use—challenges the representation of weaving as a predictable and uni-directional process with a neatly defined beginning and end.  For example, one photograph showed a red salwar suit made from leftover material (Image 5).  From the remnants of her own weaving, this weaver stitched the clothing that she wore on her wedding day.  Another photograph showed a men’s dress shirt tailored out of “corporate scraps” (Image 6).  This cloth had originally been woven as curtains for the retail company, Fabindia, but was rejected during the “quality control” process.  Remnants are also used by weavers to give as gifts, to decorate their homes, and save for future needs.

Image 6

In conceiving of and planning for the pop-up exhibition, I invited weavers and others in Chanderi to participate in the project of re-envisioning and representing the practice and process of weaving.  The exhibition was also organized so that it could be viewed freely.  Instead of displaying the photographs in a private, interior space, we used a broadly accessible, public space.  The openness of the exhibition was, in part, an effort to dispel concerns on the part of some weavers that a more formal event would be dominated by the interests and presence of local traders and middlemen.  By using walls in the town’s central market, Sadaar Bazaar, as the site of the pop-up exhibition, we sought to encourage spontaneous experiences of viewing, discussion, and engagement (Image 7).  All visitors were invited to ask questions, share their thoughts, and write down their reactions as part of the formal record of the event (Image 8).

Image 7

By bringing the diverse perspectives of weavers to the foreground, this project aimed to help cultivate more equitable and inclusive conversations about the stakes and significance of handloom weaving.  Rather than looking at textiles as they fit with formal representations of their processes of production, the exhibition revealed instances where the purposes and possibilities of cloth were reclaimed, reconceived, and reimagined by weavers.  Calling attention not only to what is hidden by conventional representations of the production process, but also to what is imagined in this process, this approach brings to the center of analysis the uncertainty, possibilities, and fantasies bound up in the process of production.  As an anthropologist, the “dialogic editing” involved in this project unsettled aspects of my original ethnography, even as it came to ground my new analyses—and imaginings—of it.

Image 8

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Paul Wolffram

The flow of great content continues from our Fejos fellows! Dr. Paul Wolffram was awarded a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2014 to aid filmmaking on What Lies That Way? We are proud to share the following trailer and blog post for his project.

WHAT LIES THAT WAY – Official trailer from Paul Wolffram on Vimeo.

What Lies That Way?

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Production Stage.

January 3 – February 25, 2015

The production period of this project was undertaken in the months of January and February 2015. The cinematographer and I were able to spend almost seven weeks in the Lak region of Southern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. In an environment where transportation and communication are often unreliable we were very fortunate to complete the production stage without any significant problems. The cinematographer and I both managed to maintain good health and returned to New Zealand in late February without contracting malaria. This is the first time I have returned from Lak region without malaria! Much of our video, audio and computer equipment did not return in such good order. The heat and humidity of the rain forest played a heavy toll on both of our audio recorders, one of our cameras, an external hard drive, and the computer we took to log footage. Fortunately, I anticipated the conditions and was able, through the support of this grant, to take backup hard drives and spares for the other essential equipment. I have never taken so much electronic equipment into this region before and providing power to the equipment also presented a significant challenge. We were able to recharge most of our equipment on a daily basis using a solar panel. We shot several hundred hours of footage totaling almost three terabytes of audio and video recordings.

The proposal for the film involved my own initiation into the sorcery practice locally known as Tena Buai. The Tena Buai master whom I hoped would conduct this initiation with me and guide me through the process was insistent that I actually initiate with a more senior sorcerer. Fortunately, I had previously met this master and he was also happy to conduct the initiation process. The initiation itself was a particularly arduous undertaking. I was required to fast in isolation in the rain forest for four nights and five days. During this period of no food and no water I experienced extreme dehydration. I consumed the Buai substances on the second day and was able to endure the initiation process without incident. Throughout the initiation I was frequently visited by the master sorcerer and his assistance. The cinematographer visited the location every second day to film key processes and I was able to record some of the isolation stages myself with fixed cameras.

The insights and understandings gained through this process, the weeks of preparation in the region before the initiation and the two weeks in the region following the initiation, combined to form an amazing experience. This experience of deep engagement with another way of thinking about the world, spirituality and shamanistic practice has been captured in some unique footage and sound recordings. As this account suggests, this was an extreme experience, and one that I only felt able to undertake following what is now more than 15 years of working with that Lak people. The Fejos fellowship allowed me to conduct this highly participatory oriented research with adequate funding support to cover many of the potential contingencies that arose in the course of this fieldwork.

Post-Production Stage.

July 2015 – May 2016

Returning from Papua New Guinea in late February 2015 I was only able to backup footage before returning to teaching duties between March and June 2015. With the support of the fellowship and my host institution I was able to dedicate a total of six months on the post-production of this film from July – December. I spent a total of four of these six months logging, syncing, and preparing the footage for editing. This process took much longer than I anticipated. This was in part due to the addition of conforming footage from earlier shoots into a usable editing format. It was late October 2015 before I was able to begin the first assembly process and late November before editing proper began. Working with a very experienced supervisory editor, Annie Collins, from the early stages of logging and binning I was able to push through the early labor intensive stages. I have also been fortunate enough to have the experience of a renown local producer, Catherine Fitzgerald, who co-produced my last feature documentary.

Editing continued into 2016 and was finally completed with a ‘locked off’ film in May. Between May and October final coloring, sound design, and audio mixing were conducted. The film has also been subtitled in English, German, French and Italian with the assistance of Victoria University of Wellington’s translation services.

In November I returned to my host communities in the Lak region and was fortunate enough to be able to screen the film for all the key participants over several weeks. The film was met with much interest and has certainly invigorated interest in the traditional practices associated with Buai shamanism throughout the region.

Final Comments

This has been an incredible projet that has resulted in a unique film work that explores not only the spirituality of the Lak people but also my own ongoing relationship with the people as an ethnographer and film maker. I believe the film has the potential to reach a wide viewership, and to engaged both ethnographic viewers and a general audience.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Fejos Fellowship team for your support.

Upcoming July Conferences

Eighth Conference of The International Society For Gesture Studies: Gesture and Diversity

July 4-8, 2018

Cape Town, South Africa

The first conference on gesture on the African continent will focus on the rich diversity of human gestural communication. Gestures and gestural behavior are dynamic and changing –  varying not only across languages and cultures but also within cultural groups according to social levels, age, gender and situation.

The main aim of this conference will be to examine the wide range of linguistic and cultural phenomena and other factors that influence and shape gestural diversity. Special emphasis will be on comparative work looking at, but not limited to:

  1. Studies on gestural form, meaning and function;
  2. The relationship of gesture to language, whether spoken or signed;
  3. Gesture in language development and learning among children in different cultures and multilingual contexts;
  4. Gesture in language learning and conceptual development;
  5. Individual variation in gesture use and comprehension;
  6. The link between gesture and cognitive, cultural and linguistic diversity;
  7. Studies of gestural forms and practices across languages and cultures;
  8. Gesture and its role in sign language variation.

Global Survey of Anthropological Practice (World Council Of Anthropological Associations Biennial Conference)

July 14-15, 2018

Florianopolis, Brazil

The 2018 biennial conference of the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA) will assess the contemporary global range of anthropological activities, including such foci as: the articulation of applied and academic anthropology; the institutional distribution of anthropologists’ employment; the local, regional and global challenges addressed by diverse forms of anthropological engagement; and the teaching of anthropology in non-university contexts. WCAA delegates representing member associations will present papers based upon research they have conducted to explore the parameters of anthropological practice among their constituencies in each nation-state and region they represent, as well as drawing upon the results of a common survey instrument designed and administered by the WCAA in 2017. This conference seeks through these facets of this Global Survey of Anthropological Practice to investigate how anthropologists are confronting such issues as precarity across a range of work places and the populist backlash against policies of multiculturalism, accommodation of migrants and other aspects of globalization by examining what anthropologists across diverse settings are doing and contributing both within the academy and in applied occupations and thus address how ‘scientific research and scholarship can be, has been or will be employed to understand and engage in social processes’.

18th World Congress Of IUAES World (Of) Encounters: The Past, Present And Future Of Anthropological Knowledge

July 16-20, 2018

Florianopolis, Brazil

Anthropology is always remaking itself. Whilst keeping old and new relationships with several other disciplines, it has proven to be able to fill unique scholarly niches that have granted the discipline a distinct and recognizable profile. This proposal is a large umbrella to discuss the many old and new encounters anthropology is made of as well as to prospect for what anthropology might be in the future. It is ample enough to accommodate different research, methodological and theoretical interests of cultural and social anthropologists, of physical anthropologists, archaeologists and linguists. Research is made of encounters and findings. What/which are the encounters that inform anthropologists’ findings? In a changing globalized world how has anthropological knowledge persisted and how will it tackle the political and epistemological challenges of our times?

From this theme, key notes, panels, symposia, workshops, exhibitions, ethnographic videos, short courses, workshops and other activities of interest to IUAES will be organized, with ample participation from the world anthropological community.

 

Twelfth International Conference On Hunting And Gathering Societies (CHAGS 12)

July 23-27, 2018

Penang, Malaysia

The Twelfth International Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS 12) will deliberate on the theme of “Situations, Times, and Places in Hunter-Gatherer Research.” This broad umbrella is meant to provoke thinking on productive connections and confluences across disciplines and with non-specialists while maintaining CHAGS’ historical embrace of egalitarian inclusiveness. These conferences generate intellectual exchange, advanced knowledge of the lives and times of hunter-gatherers, and have shaped anthropological theory. For CHAGS 12, emphasis will be placed on Southeast Asian peoples, and what they continue to teach us about anthropological models and practices. We aim to cultivate not just diversity in concept-building but good anthropological practices of working with and relating to hunter-gatherers by:

•     Drawing into conversation researchers who do not normally identify with CHAGS or hunter-gatherer studies (particularly local and regional scholars), and nearby hunter-gatherer communities and their advocates;

•     Promoting discussion and debate across the four fields of anthropology on hunter-gatherer practices and their potential to revitalize anthropological models;

•     Highlighting problems in doing and producing hunter-gatherer ethnography that is more aligned with indigenous models of knowledge, and recognizing the value of ethnography across the subfields;

•     Encouraging more precise geographical comparisons.

In Memoriam: Dr. Ira Berlin

It is with heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Dr. Ira Berlin on June 5, 2018.  Ira was a beloved member of the Wenner-Gren Foundation Board of Trustees (2008-2018) and Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland.  He was a renowned historian revered for his groundbreaking scholarship on slavery and life during its aftermath.

His compassion and commitment to the Wenner-Gren Foundation was steadfast as was his belief in the potential of anthropology to make a difference in the world.  The Foundation is forever grateful for his many contributions and extraordinary friendship over the years, and extends condolences to his family on their loss.

Ira Berlin, transformative historian of slavery in America, dies at 77 – The Washington Post

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Simon Uribe

The Foundation is proud to share a trailer and blog post from Dr. Simon Uribe who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on Frontier Infrastructures.

SUSPENSIÓN_TEASER_Abril2018_Subt_INGLES from PAUSAR on Vimeo.

Frontier Infrastructures

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

In October 2015, I was awarded the Fejos Fellowship in ethnographic film to support the project “Frontier Infrastructures”. This project originated form my PhD research, originally conceived as a history and ethnography of transport infrastructure in the Colombian Amazon (the results of this research were recently published in the book Frontier Road: Power, history, and the everyday state in the Colombian Amazon, Wiley-Blackwell 2017). As stated in the project’s preliminary abstract, “Frontier infrastructures” sought to explore the material, affective and moral relationship between humans and transport infrastructures in the Colombian Amazon. Specifically, the film would follow different persons in their everyday journeys across various man-made and natural infrastructures (roads, rivers, trails) in order to explore and interrogate the different ways in which they make sense of their past, present, and possible futures through the perceived and lived realities that such infrastructures embody or symbolize.

Although the central aim of the project has remained the same, the film’s story and plot have undergone substantial changes for different events and circumstances that we (myself and the film crew that has collaborated in the conception and materialization of the project) encountered during the last two and a half years.

The first turn in the project had to do with an event during an early trip in December 2015 aimed at selecting locations and characters for the film. In the middle of this trip we came across a scene –the building of a large concrete bridge part of a large road project- that would later become a central feature in the story. At that point, we decided that we would follow workers, engineers and contractors for a period of time in order to capture their material and affective relations with infrastructure. During the next eight months we carried out two film trips, basically following the everyday life of the road project.

In January 2017 we traveled to the Putumayo for a final three-month period of filming. At that time, we found that works were indefinitely suspended due to lack of funding, so our daily routine became now to capture all sorts of situations that emerge in a road project that seems to go nowhere (it was also in that moment that the film acquired its current and final title: Suspensión). A few days before leaving the Putumayo, however, a tragic event that affected us in several and unexpected ways took place. In March 31st , a torrential flash flood hit Mocoa (capital of Putumayo) killing around 400 people and leaving several parts of the city totally destroyed, including the house where we were living. We managed to recover the film material recorded during those months but lost equipment and other goods. Sadly, Guillermo, the film’s central character, died in the event.

The March 31st event forced us to reconsider several aspects of the film, yet it also reassured our commitment to bring the project to completion. In September 2017 we were granted a very prestigious grant from Colombia’s Film Development Fund (FDC), which provided the required funds to carry out two more film trips and to cover the post-production costs. This grant also allows us to access different film festivals and distribution markets for the next two years. Last February, for instance, we attended the co-production market at the Berlinale, an important event for documentary film-makers worldwide. We hope to attend similar events in the near future in order to secure the widest audience possible for the film. Also, I will show some parts of the film and discuss the project next June in Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Studies Summer School of Social Sciences, to which I was selected as fellow together with a small group of scholars from Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Catalina Tesar

In 2007 Catalina Tesar received a Wadsworth International Fellowship to aid training in social anthropology at University College London, supervised by Michael Sinclair Stewart. After completing her Wadsworth Fellowship Dr. Tesar received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on “O Taxtaj: The Chalice”. We are proud to present the following trailer and blog post.

TAXTAJ TEASER from Ciprian Cimpoi on Vimeo.

O Taxtaj: The Chalice

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Romanian Cortorari Gypsies from Transylvania convey a strong commitment to the possession of specific putative objects, namely chalices (sg. taxtaj, pl. taxtaja) which were bequeathed to them by their ancestors and passed on from father to son. Though chalices are permanently tucked away in the granaries and houses of neighboring Romanian peasants, and thus invisible in everyday life, they are in fact an ubiquitous topic, stirring up passionate talks and feelings. Like the hereditary regalia of medieval European nobility, chalices are symbols of the prestige of a family, instigating machinations, theft, fights among brothers and matrimonial strategies to keep them inside the family. Chalices are central to the arrangement of marriages which is the Cortorari’s chief preoccupation at all times: parents of girls seek to marry their daughters off to grooms who own a valuable chalice, while parents of boys demand big cash dowries from the bride’s family to offset the value placed on their chalice. In reality, people are continuously challenging the hierarchy of chalices which, far from being objective, depends on their owners’ ability to boast their value. On the occasion of a marriage arrangement, the groom’s chalice is pledged to the bride’s family and will remain entrusted to them until the young couple beget a son — the ultimate guarantee of the endurance of a marriage. Therefore, there is a yearning among young couples to bring forth a baby boy to weld them together.

My PhD research — which was funded by a Wadsworth International Fellowship — resulted in a thesis titled ‘Women Married off to Chalices’: Gender, Kinship and Wealth among Romanian Cortorari Gypsies that I defended at University College London in 2013. Focusing on the articulation of gender relations with the flow of chalices in the process of marriage, the thesis adopted the stance of the generation who arranges the marriages of their children or grand-children. At the time of my PhD fieldwork, namely between 2008 and 2010, I was in my early 30s, an age at which a Cortorari woman is in the prime of her motherhood, if not already a grandmother. I was thus embraced by women of my age, which pointed my research in the direction of their understandings and representations of gender issues in relation to ceremonial wealth.

The documentary I have made as a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient gives voice to the generation that had been almost entirely left out of my PhD dissertation, namely the newly wed and especially the women in this life stage. Upon marriage, women go to live with their husbands’ families. As young daughters-in-law (bori), most of the chores in the household become their responsibility. Moreover, until they give birth to a son, newly wed women live under the continuous threat of being forsaken by their husbands and their families. They live in a limbo and often seek refuge from the harshness of their marital family into their parental family. Daughters are not desired because they bring for their parents and grandparents the prospects of paying big cash dowries to marry them off. The young couple who have already brought forth a daughter live under the pressure to bring forth a son. It is a pressure which is laid on the couple by the older generations in the extended family and equally internalized as a longing by the young couple. The son is seen as the essence of the family; he ensures both the succession of generations within the household and the passing on of the chalice to future generations. If they have a daughter and a son, parents can arrange a marriage by exchange (of daughters), and this kind of marriage ideally results in the writing off of the dowry. In case a female baby comes after a first-born daughter —and they use ultrasounds to find out the sex of the foetus — the couple resort to pregnancy termination.

The documentary follows the couple Peli and Nina, both in their mid-20s, parents to a five-year old daughter, as they strive to bring forth a son to redeem the chalice belonging to Peli’s family from the trust of Nina’s parental family. The viewer is taken along on the rough journey that the couple and their families must make as they negotiate the twists and turns of  Cortorari marriage making and breaking and engage in passionate arguments over the chalices.

In making this documentary, I took on at least three challenges: 1) I wanted it to reach beyond an anthropological audience; 2) I wanted to avoid the use of authoritative voice-over and allow the characters to speak for themselves instead; and 3) I wanted the film to help clarify and offset preconceived notions or prejudices about the Roma, so I used an inside perspective to convey the broader picture of how they live. The result is a documentary deeply grounded in anthropology yet creative. The film opens and ends with scenes featuring ceremonial events, involving big gatherings of people, a wedding and a discussion about chalices respectively. Both of these scenes stage Cortorari central cultural tropes, namely  marriages, wealth in chalices, and dowries. Between these two big scenes, we get a chance to have a close look at how the couple Peli and Nina live and experience these very cultural tropes in their everyday lives.

‘The Chalice’ is a feature-length observational and participatory documentary. Pure observational scenes entwine with non-conventional interviews in which the characters tell their private stories to the camera and to me while minding their own business. One of the secondary characters, Peli’s sister Băra – who is married to brother of Peli’s spouse (a marriage arranged by exchange of daughters) – confides her own experience as a daughter-in-law expected to bring forth a son to the camera and recounts the story of her brother’s marriage. She does so while reflecting on idioms that are central to the Cortorari universe, such as family, household, arranged marriages, and the lived condition of women. All her appearances in the film consist of indoor footage in the form of confessional interviews – in choosing this, I wanted to convey that this particular character is representative of (almost all) Cortorari women of her age and marital status. The camera never follows Băra outside of her house – as the house, and its nearby surroundings, is anyway the space to which newly wed women are confined.

Peli and Nina live under the same roof as Peli’s parents, Costică and Uca, and a sense of transience and uncertainty looms over their household, both in regard to material possessions and to human relationships. Their main source of income is the money earned by Costică and Uca begging abroad, which is little and unpredictable. Peli trained as a clown selling balloons on the streets in Italy, but the urge to conceive a son to redeem his family’s chalice has kept him coming and going between Italy and his home village. Nina’s parents have supplied livestock to her marital household, and most of the time Nina is busy looking after them. Five years have passed since Peli and Nina were matched, and Costică is impatient to get back his family chalice. He thus periodically lashes out against Nina for not having conceived a son yet, and to her family who hold his chalice. When Nina finally gets pregnant, the foetus is a baby girl and she has to go through pregnancy termination. We learn about the termination of Nina’s pregnancy from her five-year old daughter Rada who is a witness to all of her mother’s pregnancy ultrasounds. Similarly to Băra, yet less articulately than her aunt, Rada is there to make the viewer aware of the condition of women in Cortorari society. She is the symbol of the next generation of Cortorari women who will follow a life-trajectory punctuated by similar events, namely they will have their marriages arranged for them and then give birth to a son and/or resort to pregnancy termination in case they bear a girl. The arguments over chalices relentlessly bursting through the fabric of the Cortorari everyday lives – as shown in the prologue to the film – is the very source of the predictability of scripted individual life courses.

The shooting started in December 2016, when the pressure on Nina and Peli to bring forth a son turned into a genuine battle ground for their respective parental families, and stopped in November 2017, when the couple learned the sex of their baby and resorted to pregnancy termination. Throughout 2017 shooting sessions alternated with editing sessions. At the beginning of 2018 I completed a rough cut with the story line of the film.

In October 2017 I pitched the project at the ‘Romanian Docs in Progress’ Industry Section at ASTRA International Film Festival in Sibiu. My film was awarded entrance to the 2018 Outlook International Market by the head of the Industry program at Visions du Reel International Festival. This will be a great opportunity to find co-producers and distributors for my film. The documentary will be launched in the fall of 2018.

Laurence Ralph Appointed Editor of Current Anthropology

The Wenner-Gren Foundation and the University of Chicago Press are delighted to announce the selection of Laurence Ralph to serve as Current Anthropology’s next editor.  As of January 1, 2019, he will succeed Mark Aldenderfer, the journal’s current editor, who has led the journal with wisdom and vision for the past ten years.

Currently a Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Harvard University, Ralph earned his doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Institute of Technology where he majored in History, Technology, and Society. Ralph has a diverse set of research interests, which include urban anthropology, medical anthropology; the study of gangs, disability, masculinity, race, and popular culture.

Ralph brings to Current Anthropology a wealth of editorial experience. He has served on the editorial boards of American Anthropologist and Transitions and as a reviewer for many of the major journals and presses in anthropology and related fields.  He is known for his achievements as Associate Editor of Transforming Anthropology, the flagship journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists.  In this role, Ralph acted as a liaison between authors and reviewers and participated in the curation of content for Transforming Anthropology. He was instrumental in putting the journal on firm footing, raising over $300,000 to fund a managing editor and field office and to found an editorial internship program that involves doctoral students in projects designed to enhance the journal’s public presence.

Ralph’s first book, Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago, earned him a long list of accolades, including the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) and honorable mentions from Society for Cultural Anthropology’s Gregory Bateson Prize, the American Ethnological Society’s Sharon Stephens First Book Prize, and the Society for Humanistic Anthropology’s Victor Turner Book Prize Competition.  Ralph’s latest book, Torture Trees: Police Violence from Chicago to the War on Terror, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.