As many visual anthropologists acknowledge, cameras are helpful tools to conduct research. This is especially true when research deals with people who have been marginalised, either because they wanted to stay outside of the reach of the state or other hegemonic authority or because they have been place at the margins of society. For those, the camera is a promise to come out of invisibility.
Of course, the documentary movie can also be a way to make the research(er) visible. Dissemination of research results is important but movies can offer much more than just illustrating what cultural anthropology or social research are about. As I understand it, doing visual anthropology is a way to practise research, in other words a medium to produce scientific knowledge through diverse forms. This approach follows the tradition of observational cinema (Young, 2003), i.e. an attempt to understand everyday life experiences from the perspective of the subjects. The viewer will notice the absence of voice over which is meant to allow the viewer to explore the polysemy of meanings and the fundamental ambiguity of social life.
L’anthropologie partagée (shared anthropology) proposed by Jean Rouch has a prerequisite: trust. I believe that this website can be useful for many users interested in people on the move. I believe that sharing knowledge, information, emotions is not only beneficial to both the giver and the reciever but also a fruitful process that might lead us to a better understanding of the various issues at stake in a field of research. My interest, so far, lays in the citizenship-migration-development nexus, the experience of being a stranger, negotiating rights, access, resources, obligations.
The ideas and information contained in this website cannot be ‘stolen’. It is a present for the future. It is an experimentation of doing collaborative research. I hope that you are willing to participate in this experimentation by exploring the rushes and contributing with your coding, your interpretations and your comments.
The classic process of academic knowledge production is most often a blackbox. Researchers all know that the validity of what is produced depends on the ways it has been produced. But academic writing gives little space to know more than a paragraph about the how academic knowledge is actualy produced.
Although a film is another way of telling, it shares the same shortcomings as academic texts. We see the final product but we don’t know much about the process of selection of the empirical material that is presented to the reader/viewer.
A film is an arte fact, an arbitrary and intentional reconstruction of the reality as we see it. Although the anthropologist aims at giving an account of the actor’s point of view, it is still a constructed story that reflects the ethnographer’s perspective.
To make this story coherent, I needed to leave apart a number of facts, precious information, because they couldn’t fit into the story I wanted to tell.
It doesn’t mean that they are not worth.
Too many empirical data remain unused, stored on shelves, in boxes and files. Most often they are then abandonned to dust and oblivion, lost for research and knowledge.
This open access website is an attempt to make a better use of ethnographic data not only for myself (I can review my observational data in a new light at any time) but potentially for all interested researchers.
For a broader audience (non academic public), it is also an opportunity to look through this window into the black box of academic research.
In this section, the reader will find what the cameraman was able to seize and what I decided to exclude from the final movie. This is a space to be explored.
Do you find that the story told by the master of the water was too short? Give a try and view the whole interview. That is what this section of the website is made for.
This menu allows the viewer to watch the video-recorded interviews (ITV) that have not been selected for the final movie. The interviews are conducted either in Hausa (a lingua franca in West Africa, especially for trade) or in Zarma (also written Djerma. also called Dendi and Songhay, two regional variations of Zarma). The content of the interviews is translated in English and French below the video.
All interviewed persons have given their consent. In some cases, fragments of the interviews have been censured in order to protect the informants (especially when they speak about corruption).