Fejos Postdoctoral Fellow: Larisa Jasarevic

Upon receiving a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2020 Larisa Jasarevic was able to pursue working on her film, “Beekeeping in the End Times”. We are thrilled to be able to share the following trailer and blogpost.

Beekeeping in the End Times_Teaser.mp4 from Beekeeping in the End Times on Vimeo.

At the closure of the Fejos Fellowship for Postdoctoral Ethnographic Film, awarded to the “Beekeeping in the End Times” for 2021, I can report a number of accomplishments, a frank uncertainty about the film’s future course, and a deep appreciation for the grant itself.

Fejos Fellowship was a phenomenal opportunity. Wenner-Gren Foundation and its reviewers gave a chance to the project that, in retrospective, was rather bold to propose. The trust bestowed, as well as the generous funds, have gotten me fully engaged in all aspects of the filmmaking process, from shooting and script writing, to producing and editing. Moreover, the grant has also launched two co-directors–and sisters, Larisa and Azra Jasarevic–both first-time feature directors, into a fulltime filmmaking venture. By the end of the year, we have a small, independent studio established in our village home (by the apiary), a trusted crew, the first cut ready, and a number of plans for the rest of the post-production and distribution process. Just as importantly, we have developed a network of the film’s friends, in and out of the film industry, which vitally connects our budding and local storytelling enterprise to film workers and connoisseurs, worldwide, as well as to academics whose impressions and advice, we hope, we’ll guide us onwards.

In what follows, I will 1) reflect briefly on the production process, including several adjustments made to the original proposal, then 2) will give a digest of the first-cut, and 3) will summarize the near future plans and, indeed, hopes.

The film’s production lasted from January through October of 2021. We started by reviewing the archived footage and drafting tentative scripts for the three main stories the film intended to depict. However, in March, when the reported number of COVID infections subsided in the region and the regulations on social distancing eased, we decided to go into a full filming mode. For several reasons. First, the field footage was shot with three different cameras and, often, too rushed to make a coherent (let alone compelling) aesthetic impression on the viewers. Second, the local ecologies were changing so dramatically over the last few years that we wanted footage to focus, more explicitly, on several emerging patterns. Third, the principle field collaborator, whom we imagined as the storyteller whose voice and presence would pull together the film’s two strands—the honeybee climate change ecology and Sufi eschatology—has passed away from a Covid infection, just weeks after the grant had been awarded. Heartbroken, we grappled with the loss the way anthropologists (and filmmakers, apparently) often handle existential issues and crises: we invested into our work. What followed was a full-fledged, intense, well-travelled, field shooting schedule that took us cross-country. We have filmed eight beekeepers and three shepherds at 32 locations in the mountainous, riverine, and Mediterranean sub-climates of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Inclusive of the vignettes shot at our village apiary, we have amassed 72 hours of footage. In the process, I also took photography and film camera classes as it soon became obvious that great and fleeting filming opportunities will not oblige our shooting schedules, made in advance, nor wait for the principle camerawoman, Azra, to be at hand. This investment paid off tremendously, I think. (The first scene in the teaser, for instance, of a honey harvest, shows just how a camera novice, like myself, armed with patience and willing to experiment, can “luck out.” The light I discovered and captured that August afternoon, in the attic, while bottling honey, has never quite repeated itself).

72 hours of footage is an accomplishment but also a liability in post-production. Predictably, we were overwhelmed and had hard decisions to make while drafting a post-production script. Luckily, we began reviewing and cataloguing materials in September, as soon as the major honey forage sites began closing off. By December of 2021, we have made an assembly cut. At the same time, we found a great local musician, Mirza Redzepagic (https://www.mirzaredzepagic.com) to write the film’s score. The original project proposal counted on a local Sufi dervish musician to write music for the film but some extenuating circumstances have made this arrangement infeasible. The turn of the events was, ultimately, for the better. Mirza’s performance scope is much wider, he runs an independent studio, which made score production much easier to conduct, and his intuition proved vital for depicting the eschatological and spiritual mood we envisioned. Hiring Mirza entailed reshuffling our original budget allocations, but Azra and I decided that the music was an integral part of the film. As a result, we are hoping to secure additional funds for sound editing and color correction, sometime later in the process. We have spent many days in Mirza’s studio since, producing music, scene-by-scene. Our first trial in collaboration was the teaser, followed by a 11-minute video, drawing on the film’s footage, which we presented as a part of a keynote for an academic conference (see https://beekeepingintheendtimes.com/The-Film). Finally, we produced the score for the first cut.

All along, I have been exploring various options for linking up with producers, production houses, and distributors in and out the region. Many trials, indeed, dead-ended. Getting a foot into the industry must be a challenge for all first-time filmmakers. After the assembly cut was finished, it became obvious that producing three stand-alone stories, as originally proposed, was not as doable (nor as desirable) as it initially seemed. It was already difficult enough to convey the rich blend of diverse themes in 90 minutes. The film is still framed by three Islamic stories, but the first story now functions as an introduction to the main themes and concerns that recur throughout the film. I am determined to try out a hand in short films in the near future, but this unruly first project, I feel, holds best as a whole. In addition, we are still hoping to develop the film’s festival route, which means that the film would not be made available online until after it has travelled to international showrooms. After public screenings, we are committed to making Beekeeping in the End Times available on the basis of free access, on our website.

With the first cut ready, we are holding our breath for the comments and impression of the handful of first viewers we have secured. Among them are producers, directors, anthropologists, journalists, and humanities scholars. We expect the comments to help us move onwards: decide how to revise, what form and scale of an outreach to plan, and, possibly, what sorts of affiliations to seek out with film institutes, producers, and distributors.

The first cut, in other words, was a hard-won achievement but it also feels as if we have stepped out onto a threshold. Only now we may know what is the potential of the story we have (or could) make. Can it travel internationally? Might the film be fit for the festivals or is it, rather, more suitable for a more modest but, nonetheless, public broadcast, including on our web page.

In this report, I am bracketing some very substantive concerns and questions we have about our storyline, about the portrayal of the characters, and, indeed, about the “end times” atmosphere we’re depicting. Suffice to say that, I suspect, much work remains to be done if the film is to shape up and travel well. I plan on applying for additional film funds in order to secure financing for the remainder of the post-production and distribution process. I have been awarded a fellowship for 2022 with the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISFR) and an affiliation with Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. These awards will not only sustain me as an independent academic but will also ensure that our village studio is up and running and that the film is enjoying our full attention through the end of the year. While the film’s future is being worked out, I will take the news of its making on the road. Giving talks on the subject of the research project itself (the book by the same title is due to be published by IUP in the Fall of 2023) and showing film excerpts, I will carry on telling the story about the bees weathering the treacherous times on our planet.

Webinar – June 1st: Proposal Writing for the Wenner-Gren Foundation: Applying for an Engaged Research Grant

On June 1st at 9:00 AM EST, 20:00 WIB, the Foundation will be hosting, “Proposal Writing for the Wenner-Gren Foundation: Applying for an Engaged Research Grant“.

To register for this event please click here.

The past two years have forced anthropologists to reckon with their discipline’s history and the nature of the relationships they forge through their research. They are finding themselves asking themselves hard questions about the ethical implications of the work they do.

The best way to advance knowledge in anthropology is to draw on new sources of insight. The best way to ensure anthropological research has an impact is to make sure projects are meaningful for everyone involved. By supporting projects that are collaborative from the get-go, the Wenner-Gren Foundation hopes to demonstrate the value of this new approach to research for the field more generally.

Join the Foundation’s president, Danilyn Rutherford, for a discussion of the Engaged Research Grant program. Danilyn will describe the program’s objectives, go over the criteria of evaluation, and offer tips on writing a winning proposal. There will be lots of time for questions.

This workshop is co-sponsored by the Universitas Indonesia, Depok, INDONESIA with CART captioning and Indonesian translation.

This event will also be livestreamed on Vimeo.

Proposal Writing for the Wenner-Gren Foundation: Applying for an Engaged Research Grant from Wenner-Gren Foundation on Vimeo.

 

Workshop – April 21-22: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Hospital Ethnographies

Organized by Divine Fuh, HUMA – Institute for Humanities in Africa at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and Fanny Chabrol, CEPED-IRD, France and funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, this workshop is located within the framework of the project Future Hospitals: 4IR/AI and the Ethics of Care at HUMA – Institute for Humanities in Africa headed by Divine Fuh, and the “Hospital Multiple” at CEPED-IRD headed by Fanny Chabrol.

The workshop aims at proposing new ethnographic methodological and conceptual tools to think and imagine the “hospital of the future” in Africa, in particular, the way artificial intelligence (AI) seeks to transform and is currently transforming access to health care in hospitals today and in the coming years. Our project aims to build a problematisation of the hospital of the future and an ethnographic method to critically analyse the ethical, regulatory, and political issues with respect to AI, healthcare, and hospitals on the continent. We consider the “hospital of the future” – through the digitalization and computer automation of healthcare – as a global promise that needs to be challenged by ethnographic methods within hospitals, engaging with persons interacting with them. The first line of inquiry will challenge the logic of adoption and Africa as a place where development policies are implemented, where infrastructure projects are developed, in which technological innovation, mainly coming from the West, is presented as the promise of better health for those in need.

The second axis will explore and propose methodological and conceptual tools for the study of the transformation of the hospital landscape with regards to Artificial Intelligence promises to improve access to healthcare and, therefore, healthy living.

Among the key questions we wish to ask are the following: What kinds of hospitals will we need, and what will they look like? How are representations of the hospital of the future transcribed in various locations in Africa? How will AI affect the hospital infrastructure, medical and care work, and hospital ethnography? What kind of regulatory mechanisms and policy instruments is being developed? How can anthropology/ethnography contribute to the public debate and ethical reflection on AI and hospitals?

Workshop Format

The workshop will be organized as a hybrid event (in-person and virtual). It will aim towards producing an edited collection by Divine Fuh and Fanny Chabrol on “Artificial Intelligence and Future Hospital Ethnographies.” Draft papers will be pre-circulated before the workshop, during which period participants and contributors will review each other’s contributions. A set of core readings will be circulated for all workshop participants to read and discuss. The morning of Day 1 will focus on discussing the key questions, the conceptual framework of the project, while the afternoon will begin individual chapter contributions from participants that will continue into Day 2. One hour will be dedicated to critically discussing each contribution.

Programme

8h30-9h00: Registration + Coffee

9h-10h00: Welcome and Introducing project, context, ideas
Divine Fuh | HUMA, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Fanny Chabrol | CEPED | France

10h00-10h30 Coffee break

10h30-12h00: session 1
Marisa Mika | CSTMS, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Benson Mulemi | Catholic University, Kenya
Innocent Ali, University of Dschang, Cameroun

12h00-13h00 Lunch break

13h00-14h30: session 2
Dominique Somda | HUMA, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Amina Soulimani | HUMA, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Georges Eyenga | WISER, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

14h30-15h00 Coffee break

15h00-16h30: Session 3
Chikezie Uzuegbunam | HUMA, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Leah Junck | HUMA, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Min’ehle Ncube | HUMA, University of Cape Town, South Africa

NYAS Lecture 4/25: Building Ice Age Community In Stone

On April 25th, 6:30 PM EST, the New York Academy of Sciences will host, “Building Ice Age Community In Stone”, presented by Dr. Kathleen Sterling.

To register for this event please click here. This event will also be livestreamed on YouTube.

Right or wrong, Westerners use the hunting and gathering peoples of the Ice Age as models of what is natural for human behavior. These “common-sense” reconstructions often have a very narrow survival focus that emphasizes neoliberal ideas of competition, rationality, and efficiency as seen through a modern lens. This only serves to recreate present ideologies in the past, and in so doing, justify them. The limits of archaeological preservation, especially the further back we look in the past, compound the impression of “lack” in their lives. The two popular names for the late Pleistocene, the “Ice Age” and the “Stone Age” further contribute to the feeling of lack: a lack of warmth, and a lack of materials. The result is a grim image of the lives of human ancestors: nasty, brutish, and short. These notions are in contrast to some of the best-known material production from this very long time period: the painted and engraved caves and rockshelters; the figurines, flutes, and bas-relief objects; as well as the fact that this lifeway persisted for tens of thousands of years.

Stone, the most abundant material we can recover archaeologically, can create a different picture. Rather than see stone as a lack of better options, we can look at the ways in which they used stone to fulfill their wants and needs, express their worldviews, and mediate their relationships with the world and other people. We see an example of this at the site of Peyre Blanque, located in what is now the French central Pyrenees and occupied nearly 20,000 years ago. In a landscape filled with caves and rockshelters, people carried blocks of stone uphill to create a structure that was likely used as shelter. They created tools out of other blocks of stone they carried from 300 meters away, from 200 km away, and points in between. They were likely connected to people who painted caves and rockshelters, or did that themselves, and carried pieces of important places with them in the form of stone. If we insist on looking to the Ice Age for lessons about humanity, it is not difficult to find examples of community and connection through stone, and community was how people not just survived, but thrived in the deep past.

Featured Speaker

Kathleen Sterling’s research is centered in the French Pyrenees, where she is currently co-director of Peyre Blanque, an open-air late Paleolithic site. This project grew out of a long-term pedestrian survey project that has collected thousands of lithic objects spanning the Paleolithic. Her interests include lithic technology, learning and identity, communities of practice, Paleolithic visual imagery, hunting and gathering groups, gender and feminist science, Black feminist theory, landscape archaeology, and the sociopolitics of archaeology. The themes of her work are concerned with dispelling myths about human ancestors as violent, primitive, and limited. She is also concerned with equal opportunity in anthropology and science in general, particularly in the ways in which this has an impact on knowledge production.

Discussant

April Nowell is a Paleolithic archaeologist and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Victoria, Canada. She directs an international team of scientists in the study of Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites in Jordan and collaborates with colleagues on the study of Paleolithic rock art in Australia and France and on ostrich eggshell beads in South Africa.  She is known for her publications on cognitive archaeology, Paleolithic art, the archaeology of children and the relationship between science, pop culture and the media. She is the author of the new book Growing Up in the Ice Age: Fossil and Archaeological Evidence of the Lived lives of Plio-Pleistocene Children.

Spotlight on Dr. Irma McClaurin and the Black Feminist Archive

Dr. Irma McClaurin (Senior Consultant, Irma McClaurin Solutions) received funding from the Foundation’s Historical Archives Program in 2020, to preserve and deposit her papers in the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive, an interdisciplinary repository based at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Here’s an update on the Black Feminist Archive’s progress reported from The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.