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Fieldwork Sketches: Blurring the Lines between Art and Anthropology
Friday 16 February 2024, 10:00am - 05:00pm
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Workshop organised by the Anthropology of Art Committee, Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI).


Friday 16 February 2024, 10am - 5pm GMT


This is a hybrid event.

Register for online attendance via Zoomhttps://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_sAiI8SVZTCG_2PVj7JUuhQ#/registration 

Register for attending in Person at the RAIhttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fieldwork-sketches-blurring-the-lines-between-art-and-anthropology-tickets-772156209007?aff=oddtdtcreator 
(In-Person tickets are now sold out!)

  

Programme

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome (Tea and coffee available)

10:15 – 10.30 Opening of the workshop

10.30 – 10:55 Leonie Stevens (Monash University)
Underwhelmed, underwater and trampled by sheep: Representation of Encounters in the Australian sketches of William Westall, 1802-3

10:55 – 11:20 Karen Jacobs (Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia)
Drawing the anthropological body: von Hügel’s late nineteenth-century Fijian tattoo sketches

11:20 – 11:45 Anita Herle (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
Lines of Enquiry: Torres Strait Islander Fieldwork Drawings

11:45 – 12:10 Sue Giles (Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives)
Case study: Adela Breton’s Mexican artwork

12:10 – 12:35 Jacopo Baron (Laboratoire d'Anthropologie Sociale) and Overseas referent for the Vanuatu Cultural Centre)
Enchanting Sketches: A study of the Deacon Collection held at the RAI

12:35 – 1:00 Discussion

1:00 – 2:00 Lunch

2:00 – 2:25 Dimitrios Theodossopoulos (University of Kent)
From Ethnographic Drawing to Graphic Ethnography: a critical intervention

2:25 – 2:50 Mette Lind Kusk (Aarhus University)
The quiet power of fieldwork sketches

2:50 – 3:15 Stephanie Bunn (University of St Andrew)
Sketching and making people, places, things and ideas: coming closer through looking, drawing and making

3:15 – 3:45 Tea and coffee break

3:45 – 4:10 Skylar Hou (Columbia University)
Drawing Anonymity: Exploring Drawings in Activism-Involved Fieldwork

4.10 – 4:35 Kyra Sacks (artist-anthropologist)
Between the drawer and the drawn: Intimacy through drawing in research

4:35 – 5:00 Closing and discussion

 

Abstracts

Leonie Stevens (Monash University)
Underwhelmed, underwater and trampled by sheep: Representation of Encounters in the Australian sketches of William Westall, 1802-3

William Westall was nineteen years old when, recommended by Sir Joseph Banks, he joined the crew of Matthew Flinders’ Investigator as landscape artist for the first European circumnavigation of Australia.

This paper applies an interdisciplinary, Indigenous Studies lens to the historical moment in February 1803 when British imperial notions about Australian isolation were complicated by evidence of longstanding cultural and economic ties between First Nations peoples and Southeast Asian mariners.

Westall’s sketches of people, watercraft and seascapes in northeast Arnhem Land provide a visual record of the southernmost node of the Spice Routes which connected northern Australia with networks extending to Indonesia, the Philippines, and north to China. His celebrated oil painting View of Malay Road from Pobassoo’s Island, now at the Royal Museum Greenwich, is a romanticised of the rendering of this pivotal encounter. Yet his sketches from the field tell a more complex and human story, of the ideal of the picturesque versus underwhelming reality, the fragility of sketches on paper at sea, and the dangers of leaving works to dry on deck when transporting sheep.

Karen Jacobs (Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia)
Drawing the anthropological body: von Hügel’s late nineteenth-century Fijian tattoo sketches

This paper will focus on the sketches of Fijian female tattooing (veiqia) produced and collected by Baron Anatole von Hügel, the founding curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. Made in Fiji between 1875 and 1877, Von Hügel’s sketches demonstrate the difficulty of scientifically recording and collecting tattooing as his drawings show patterns or fragmented body parts of anonymous women only. His sketches will be compared and contrasted with portraits of Fijian women drawn by other collectors who were visiting Fiji at the same time. The legacy of these drawings will also be considered. Whether they originated as acts of voyeurism or were intended to be ethnographic data or artistic portraits, these drawings have ongoing relevance for multiple audiences. While focusing on a specific case study, the paper will raise broader questions about the role of drawing in the anthropological collecting of the body.

Anita Herle (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology University of Cambridge)
Lines of Enquiry: Torres Strait Islander Fieldwork Drawings

Alfred Haddon created and collected several hundred drawings during his two ground-breaking expeditions to the Torres Strait and New Guinea in 1888 and 1898. Trained as a natural scientist, Haddon was an experienced draftsman and his notes and journals are full of sketches detailing people, material culture and the local environment. He also encouraged Islanders to make their own drawings as a means of animating discussions and eliciting information. Produced at the time that intensive fieldwork was first being advocated as the key methodology for the emergent discipline of anthropology, this presentation considers drawing as a fieldwork methodology and site for the creative co-production of knowledge. The resulting images blur the boundaries between anthropological data and Indigenous art.

Sue Giles (Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives)
Case study: Adela Breton’s Mexican artwork

Adela Breton travelled the world from the age of 38.  Her interests ranged from geology to Japanese temples to folk traditions, but she came to focus on ancient Mexico, after her first visit there in 1893.  From an interested tourist, she became a respected Americanist.

She used her art training to paint landscapes and ruins, and most importantly to copy wall paintings, at Teotihuacán, Chichén Itzá and Acancéh.  She worked with archaeologists and gave and sold copies of her work to museums and academics, but most of her work remained piled up in her house, unknown and unused.  The original wall paintings were damaged when she copied them, and are mostly and in some cases entirely lost now, with her copies as the best record.

This presentation will look at her work in the field and its use in the 1900s, at her insistence on accuracy, and on the life history of her collection after her death in 1923 and its increasing use by researchers.

Jacopo Baron (Laboratoire d'Anthropologie Sociale) and Overseas referent for the Vanuatu Cultural Centre)
Enchanting Sketches: A study of the Deacon Collection held at the RAI

The Royal Anthropological Institute’s Deacon Collection, which was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2013, brings together notes, drawings and photographs produced by the British anthropologist during his fieldwork in Vanuatu between 1926 and 1927 – the year of his untimely death on the island of Malakula. In my talk, based on the results of archival and ethnographic research begun in 2016, I will offer an overview of the collection, and then focus on the exceptional sketches devoted by Deacon to the study of ‘sand-drawing’ – complex geometric figures drawn on the ground throughout the north of Vanuatu, usually accompanied or followed by spoken commentary. Deacon was the first to bring this practice to the attention of European scholars. My aim is to reconstruct and show the enduring impact of his scientific legacy within the Anthropology of Art and the Ethnography of Vanuatu: from the first reactions in England to the posthumous  publication of Deacon’s sketches in the 1930s (Deacon 1934, Rowe 1936), to the revolutionary considerations produced by Alfred Gell in the 1990s (Gell 1998), to the use of his sketches in  fieldwork today (Baron 2023).

Dimitrios Theodossopoulos (University of Kent)
From Ethnographic Drawing to Graphic Ethnography: a critical intervention

I will discuss fieldwork drawings from the point of view of an emerging subfield, Graphic Ethnography, to which I have contributed from a theoretical and methodological perspective, see, among various recent interventions, https://culanth.org/fieldsights/series/graphic-ethnography-on-the-rise. Graphic Ethnography has developed in the 21st century as a conscious analytical and multimodal field of practice. Most of its practitioners approach fieldwork sketches from past centuries as reproducing static representations of a closed reality, serving from a position that is subservient to textual ethnographic narratives. In contrast, contemporary Graphic Ethnographers envision ethnographic drawing as fulfilling an analytic capacity, which expands beyond its limited use as a medium of popularisation and illustration. The emancipatory message from Graphic Ethnography challenges—as do other subfields of visual anthropology—the hegemony of textuality, and outlines a theoretical-cum-analytical vision for graphic practice. The latter can—and in my opinion, should—include graphic-ethnographic productions from previous centuries, but from a critical and decolonising perspective that is revitalised (theoretically and representationally) by contemporary innovation in Graphic Ethnography. I will reflect about the issues outline here in an attempt to draw into conversation Graphic Ethnography, Visual Anthropology and Anthropology of Art.

Mette Lind Kusk (Aarhus University)
The quiet power of fieldwork sketches

This paper focuses on the quiet power of fieldwork sketches and on their potential to draw analytical attention to sensuous and atmospheric aspects of everyday life. I take point of departure in sketches made during ongoing fieldwork among Congolese UN quota refugees recently resettled in Denmark.

Thinking along the lines of Michael Taussig (2011) and Ramos & Azavedo (2016) it is the unfinished, fragmentary, and suggestive character of fieldnote sketches and drawings I dwell on here. I argue that it is through their selectivity and pointing away from realist description that fieldnote sketches hold what Martin et al. (2020) term ‘quiet power’: a subtle but powerful potential to carve out new analytical openings by drawing attention to aspects of social life that are sensed and felt rather than explicitly verbalized (see also Kusk 2020). Inspired by Ingold (2011) and Martin et al. (2020), I reflect on the ability of fieldwork sketches to evoke a haptic rather than optic relation to the world. By dwelling on interactions between bodies, space, emotions, and materiality and describing these interactions through hand-drawn lines, colors and shade fieldwork sketches can direct our analytical attention towards the embodied experience of everyday life.

Stephanie Bunn (University of St Andrews)
Sketching and making people, places, things and ideas: coming closer through looking, drawing and making

The paper considers how making sketches and models or examples in the field can be activities for moving closer to understanding. The attention given and the marks made when making sketches are almost, as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Juhani Pallassmaa say, acts of touching and connecting with what is observed. In other words sketching and drawing are ways of coming to know and understand, bringing vision closer to touch through making marks and lines. The paper develops to considers the relationship between sketching and making models or examples of textiles, where the activity is haptic, and the connection is directly through touch. The textiles extend from rope making, an activity which can then lead to sketching again, through using cords as lines to mark space, to drawing and cutting out positive and negative imagery in felt textiles, where figure ground relationships can reflect local notions of reciprocal relationships with the environment.

The discussion and examples are drawn from the author’s experience of sketching people, places and artefacts in Central Asia, along with making artefacts from 1991 onwards. These examples are contrasted with the author’s current research working with mathematicians and basketmakers, where both groups make models and notations, which like sketches, act like ways to help think through things and come to know ideas, in this case, questions of form and mathematical relationships.

Skylar Hou (Columbia University)
Drawing Anonymity: Exploring Drawings in Activism-Involved Fieldwork

This proposed paper delves into the use of drawings in fieldwork associated with political activism, where the interlocutors’ identities are sensitive yet their actions carry great significance. By examining the interplay between drawings, ethics, and the production of anthropological knowledge, the discussion will be based on my fieldwork among the language revitalization activists in China to discuss how drawings in the field offer anonymity to the interlocutors while magnifying their presence and social interactions.

The drawings vividly capture the people and settings, identifiable to the researcher-artists as well as the interlocutors. These depictions serve not only as valuable resources for ethnographic documentation but also stand as testaments to the shared experiences between researchers and interlocutors. They function as an entryway into the field site, fostering reciprocal interactions and enabling researchers to contribute to their interlocutors' efforts, rendering the researcher's engagement truly participatory. Simultaneously, the intentional artistic liberties within drawings veil the interlocutors' identities from readers, emphasizing actions over individuals.

The paper manoeuvres the intricate balance between safeguarding interlocutors' well-being and conveying crucial anthropological insights. This discourse provides valuable perspectives on the multifaceted role of drawing as an ethnographic method within the context of anthropological research on political activisms.

Kyra Sacks (artist-anthropologist)
Between the drawer and the drawn: Intimacy through drawing in research

As an artist and anthropologist drawing is a central practice in my work. I draw in the field and as part of the outcome of research. I am struck by the intimacy that this practice creates between me, the artist-anthropologist, and the participants of my research, who at times also take up the role of artists of their own stories.

In this paper I want to better understand how drawing during fieldwork can create a specific kind of intimacy between the drawer and the drawn, with the drawer being the ethnographer and/or the participant. How can the practice of drawing, by both the ethnographer and the participants, bring closeness to stories and open up new ways of understanding? How does creating an intimate experience for both the ethnographer and the participants, unlock new meanings and interpretations of life stories? The vulnerability of drawing in plain sight, of being observed and sketched or of transferring own stories onto paper seem to be valuable elements for both a playful connection, and a deeper understanding of lifeworlds.

This paper will be informed by fieldwork carried out in the Gambia in August 2023 with young migrants who were unable to reach their destination in Europe and were deported back. By drawing these returnees during interviews and drawing with them in focus-groups I sensed an intimacy evolving that allowed us to talk about and understand the difficult topics from new angles and in more depth than during regular interviews. In this paper I want to critically examine the drawing methods I used, uncover what this intimacy entails and what it brings to anthropological research.