Door Esther Platteeuw Op een warme dag in maart loop ik in de straten van Jinja Town op weg naar het internetcafé ‘The Source’. Met Oegandese radiomuziek in mijn oren zonder ik me af van de blikken, handgebaren en het ‘Mzungu’ geroep waar je als blanke veel mee geconfronteerd wordt in deze Afrikaanse stad. Ik ben net een straat overgestoken waarna mijn aandacht van een Oegandees popliedje naar de realiteit op straat wordt getrokken, ‘Esther’, ‘Esther’ hoor ik opeens. Automatisch draai ik mijn hoofd om en zie daar de stralende lach van een Ugandese meid van ongeveer dezelfde leeftijd als ik. Een gevoel van schaamte komt op omdat ik haar niet meteen herken, terwijl zij mijn naam wel kent. Na een paar tellen van onbegrip en vliegensvlug nadenken, besef ik dat een vriendin voor me staat. “Oh, it’s you, Fatima!”, zeg ik enigszins opgelucht. “Yeah, it’s me”, reageert ze, “I changed my hair, haha”. Continue reading
What is the value of film as medium for ethnographic fieldwork? With which dilemmas are film-making anthropologists confronted? What is the relationship between visual methods and other methods? What do visual methods contribute to research?
The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam presents the Amsterdam Ethnographic Film Day during which we will screen ethnographic films and discuss the various theories and methods of visual anthropology. We aim to provide a platform for anthropologists and documentary makers engaging in visual anthropology to show their films and communicate their experiences with, and thoughts on, ethnographic film-making. For more information, visit our Facebook page or website. Continue reading
By Laetitia Simorangkir Now that I completed my thesis (on care arrangements in South African communities), I can really say that I love anthropology and do research. But there were times I did not like my work at all. In this blog I will explain why.
“Naoko told me that Salma had come to tell her that she was pregnant. Although the women were not related, Naoko seemed to take a parental-role towards Salma.” A fellow student, who reviewed the draft of my thesis, commented on this statement saying that I should explain more about the parent-child relationship: “Don’t leave it end so flatly. I want to hear what happens between them!”. When rereading my field diary, looking for more notes on these women, I realized I did not have that much information about them. And soon I remembered why. Continue reading
Waarom vonden de Keulse aanrandingen juist op Oudejaarsavond plaats?
Een antropologisch antwoord.
Door André Droogers In alle culturen worden overgangen ritueel begeleid. Denk aan een bruiloft, bij ons van vrijgezel-lenfeest via de huwelijks-sluiting tot de huwelijksreis. De overgang gaat gepaard met afwijkend gedrag, zoals aparte kleding, maar soms ook moreel afwijkend, zoals bij het vrijgezellenfeest kan voorkomen.
Een ander voorbeeld is carnaval, als overgangsritueel naar de vastentijd. Daarbij wordt allerlei normaal gedrag omgekeerd. Deel van het spel is dat de burgemeester de sleutels van de stad overdraagt aan Prins Carnaval. Mannen verkleden zich als vrouw. Bij carnaval hoort de lichte suggestie dat afwijkingen van de normaal geldende moraal mogelijk zijn. In tussentijden staan de normale machts-verhoudingen en gewoonten even tussen haakjes. Continue reading
By Sophie Pape Are you happy with your life? The way you have constructed it? What if you were born in another country? Would it be the same? It is likely that it will be quite different. Questions like these popped up while watching the documentary Time to look at girls: Migrants in Bangladesh and Ethiopia, which was shown by Marina de Regt during the EASA Anthropology of Children and Youth Seminar on 19 November 2015. Since June 2009, this EASA Network organizes monthly meetings, which bring together students, researchers, NGOs and policy makers working with children and youth (www.anthropologyofchildren.net). Continue reading
Door Marina de Regt “Deze film moet iedereen zien”, was de reactie toen we Time to Look at Girls: Migrants in Bangladesh and Ethiopia afgelopen woensdag aan een groep jonge sekswerkers in Addis Ababa lieten zien. Ze hadden doodstil naar de film zitten kijken, sommigen konden hun tranen niet bedwingen, anderen keken af en toe slinks naar Tigist, een van de hoofdpersonen in de film. Tigist had de film al meerdere malen gezien en liet geen emotie zien. Na afloop legde ze uit waarom ze had besloten aan de film mee te doen en vertelde ze welke problemen ze bij het filmen tegen was gekomen. Continue reading
by Pál Nyíri
Around ten years ago I took some Chinese friends to the former royal castle in Gödöllö, near Budapest. We came upon a photo studio where you could dress up in costume from Queen Sisi’s era. My friends’ daughter, then around ten, donned the garb of a noble young lady; I dressed up as her governess. The photo was a hit, and recently it got into the hands of my three-year-old son. He wanted one too. The castle’s website informed us that the studio was still there. Off we went with my wife and my son. Continue reading
By Ila Luijten For my master’s research I’ve gone to Bali, Indonesia, to do fieldwork. My aim is to get an insight into the lives of sex workers, mostly freelance sex workers; the girls who go to clubs in the tourist destinations of Bali to look for money by spending a night with a guy. Here I will describe one night of fieldwork.
In the second week of fieldwork, I came in contact with Lola (23) and Dewi (22)*, two Indonesian friends living in Kuta, Bali. One Thursday evening in January I went for a night out with these girls to their favourite club, Sky Garden.
That morning, I was a bit nervous about my night with the girls, so I send Lola a text message to be sure if we were still on for the night. She responded quickly and told me to meet her at 1 a.m. in front of Sky Garden. Around eleven in the evening Lola sent me a text message asking if I wanted to come over to her place for some drinks. I jumped under the shower, got dressed and looked for her address on the GPS in my phone. It would be half an hour’s drive. On the way I bought some beers for us.
Krisztina Rácz On October 14, the Serbia-Albania football game made it to the news worldwide. The reason was not the excellent game but rather the fact that during the match a drone, or more precisely a banner with a map attached to a drone, was flown around in the stadium. It is a matter of dispute whether the map represents merely territories where Albanians live, or the politically charged Greater Albania; one would assume though that it is the latter because for instance Italy, a country with a large Albanian emigrant population, is missing from it, but it does include Kosovo, among other territories. With the flying of the drone in the stadium things got out of control: one of the Serbian players caught the banner, some of the Albanians players tried to take it away him, and then football fans (or hooligans, depending on the interpretation) joined the fight on the pitch. Very few Albanian football supporters were involved in the incident since they were banned from entering the stadium in the first place, due to security risks. When the referee instructed the players to leave the pitch, the police did not secure the Albanian players’ exit, so they literally escaped from the stadium amidst Serbian hooligans shouting “Kill, slaughter, so that Albanians don’t exist!” at them (in Serbian this scansion rhymes, and instead of ‘Albanian’ other ethnic denotations can be inserted, most often ‘Croats’). The person accused of flying the drone was held up for interrogation, but eventually released. The reason why he was not even officially detained for questioning is unclear: Serbian media report that it was because upon the request to identify himself he presented his passport, which was of the USA instead of Albania. It is not clear why this would prevent detention, but what is known is that the person in question, who allegedly controlled the drone from the VIP box, is Olsi Rama, brother of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić characterized the incident as a provocation. Serbian law has no provisions against taking drones into stadiums, however. Several days later the UEFA ruled that the official result of the match was 3:0 for Serbia, but Serbia was punished by having its 3 points taken away. Neither of the countries is satisfied with the result. Mr Rama’s official visit to Belgrade, planned for 22 October, was cancelled until further notice.
Master-student Firaas Fouani is currently finishing his thesis. In the report below he sketches the process and the outcomes of his research on debates on internet-forums and blogs on issues revolving around “unconventional gender identities”. His work is an example of how “the field” for anthropological research today might as well be an internet-site as a specific remote community or an organization.
By Firaas Fouani
For the many years I have dwelled the internet I have witnessed the multitude of aspects the gender spectrum contains being discussed and debated, although rarely with calm, restraint and nuance. Especially when the indisputable truth a specific view has long been thought to possess is being called into question, particularly those opposing this challenge will come out and defend the accepted view with great fervour. As a strong proponent of a view on gender that is more open and accepting to nonconventional ideas I have long wondered why this is the case?
What is it that leads people to so fiercely defend the views on gender they have accepted as normal and true and at the same time attack with just as much vehemence those that do not conform to or go against them? Why is this done with such conviction? Those questions I sought to answer in my 2012 Bachelor’s research through the analysis of comments on two news items challenging the conventionally accepted ideas about gender and in particular the dominant ‘Western’ view of the binary gender system: one about a Canadian couple not revealing the sex of their youngest child to the outside world and raising the child not specifically as a boy or a girl, the other on a 2011 report by Human Rights Watch seeking to improve the rights of transgender people in the Netherlands.
Both invoked much ire and resistance from online commenters reading about these issues. I set out to find out more. Who were these commenters? What did they say? Why did they say these things? By the end of this research I had a fairly expansive answer to the second question, but answers to the who? and why? questions still remained to be desired. Opportunity to fulfill this desire came a year later. The research accompanying my Master’s thesis was an excellent chance to continue and expand upon my Bachelor’s research.
So I ventured back onto the internet for a three month digital fieldwork period. The scale had been increased since the last research. Rather than comments on just two articles, I observed, participated in and analysed seven discussions on nonconventional views on gender, spread across five Dutch online discussion forums. This allowed for a larger amount of participants, and subsequently more data, as well as the ability to actually get in touch with these participants and gain more firsthand insight about them. Where the previous research had focused almost entirely on the commenters opposing the news items under discussion, this time I decided to look at the entire spectrum of reactions for a broader and more complete view on how nonconventional ideas or gender are received. The main research question, how people react to nonconventional ideas about gender and why, remained largely the same.
This was my first relatively large-scale research and it proved to be a more daunting and demanding task than I had anticipated. This became more evident the longer fieldwork continued. Keeping track of all the discussions across the varying online communities simultaneously, making certain they remained active and gathering, sorting and analysing all data they produced made research feel chaotic at times. The implications of it being an online research, furthermore, became evident in two aspects in particular. On the one hand there was the research aspect of the online: I was familiar with the internet, but this was the first time I had entered and actively participated in it in the role of researcher. On the other hand, the online aspect of the research demanded I took into account certain issues that distinguish it from offline fieldwork even before the research had begun. Attaining informed consent, transparency, participants’ privacy and their perception of privacy were especially sensitive as well as ambiguous issues. Both how and to which extent they were to be applied involved a great amount of consideration. Finally, in part continuing on these issues, not everyone was pleased with my activities on the forums, especially when publicly announcing my role as researcher and explaining my intentions during the conclusion of my fieldwork period. Condescension and mockery towards Master’s students, anthropology and social science in general were common. The covert conduction of my research was not appreciated and criticised as not properly handled. It even led to a ban from one of the forums. All these hurdles have certainly not been insurmountable, though, and through the gathered data I managed to come closer to answering the previously unanswered questions.
With the reactions in the Bachelor’s research in mind I had expected the number of people opposing nonconventional ideas to form the vast majority. However, there appeared to be very little consistency in views on gender. Even within specific groups on the individual forums most discussion participants had remarkably varying views on the different issues under discussion and in the less polarizing discussions there did appear to be at least some room for ‘dissenting’ views. Further emphasizing this was the mostly absent correlation between the identity categories I had identified among the forum users and specific views on gender. Even among the more conservative religious commenters, often strictly adhering to their beliefs, there was usually some nuance in the opinions people voiced. Finally, my expectations were further invalidated when issues that moved further away from the binary gender system did not necessarily generate more disapproval or hostility than those that remained ‘closer to home’. Unfortunately, while the what? and why? questions have been expanded upon, the idea of getting in touch with the participants did not unfold as planned and did not go further than forum posts an progress towards answering who? has thus been rather minimal.
Nevertheless, looking back at the research as a whole, I believe it has proven to be both an insightful and surprising experience. It allowed me to better learn the ropes of developing, conducting and work out research in an online research setting, as well as attain new and greater understanding of people’s perception of gender, if only within the scope of the five discussion forums under research. It will of course take more than my single research project to steer the perception of, the thinking about and the attitude towards gender’s many facets into being more open and accepting, but I do hope it will at the very least help push them further in that direction.