An Ethnophenomenographic Approach to Subjectivity

Brylla, Catalin (2014) An Ethnophenomenographic Approach to Subjectivity. In: Directions and Connections across Anthropology, 24 June 2014, University College London.

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Abstract

This paper discusses my practice-based ethnographic research, which explores the audio-visual representation of blindness and subjectivity through documentary film form.

The portrayal of blindness in Western culture has largely constituted of stereotypical representations, branding blind people as either unfortunate, disabled, traumatised or deprived, or exotic, mysterious and supernatural (Barasch, 2001). This exclusive focus on the ‘extraordinary’ has come at the expense of omitting the ‘ordinary’. Corbella and Acevedo (2010) state that “it is infrequent to find characters with visual impairment represented as people who do housework, go shopping, or travel; that is, coping with the everyday tasks that are common to all people”.

Consequently, my ethnographic films endeavour to map blind people’s subjectivity through studying their everyday practices in relation to domestic artefacts in which they invest emotions and feelings (Baudrillard, 2005). Using Husserl’s phenomenological concept of the epoché, my field work attempts to identify and represent these artefacts that are peripheral and “blindingly” obvious, using two essential interventions by anthropologist Daniel Miller (2010): Firstly, Miller dismisses the semiotic dualities of subject/object and interior/exterior, claiming that objects make us, as part of the same process by which we make them (objectification). Secondly, Miller believes that objects are not intrinsically good or bad, but contradictory. Everything we produce has a tendency to autonomous interest and the potential to oppress, rather than serve. Therefore, my films represent objects and spaces as embodied experiences of the subjects, as well as contradictory and multi-layered entities.

This ethnophenomenographic approach needs to be regarded as a two-level process where the first level includes the gathering and analysis of field data, for which I propose a phenomenological methodology. The second level constitutes the representation of that data through audio-visual means, for which I employ audience reception theories that potentially render phenomenological data into an audio-visual narrative form with intersubjectively shareable meanings, thus translating the everyday experiences of blind characters on-screen into an equivalent (not identical) sensory experience of the viewer.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Film and television
Depositing User: Catalin Brylla
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2016 20:55
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2016 10:44
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1617

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