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.