The MultiRepository is a collaboration between CASTAC, the CaMP Anthropology Blog (Communication, Media, and Performance), and Boundary Shift, a multimodal podcast platform under development. Boundary Shift will highlight public-facing research and creative work focused on the intersection of contemporary media, fluid and durable social boundaries.
Blurb, translation, and other MultiRepository Contributors: Zaira Magana Carbajal, Falina Enriquez, Owen Kohl, Emma Wagh, etc.
Special thanks: Hannah Burnett and the dedicated students from MEAM (2020, 2021) and Global Studies at the University of Chicago
Table of Contents
- MultiRepository Contributions
- Fusco, Coco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña. The Couple in the Cage: A Guatinaui Odyssey. December 2018.
- Turajlić, Mila, dir. Cinema Komunisto. Dribbling Pictures, 2010.
- Husak, Amir. Dayton Express: Bosnian Railroads and the Paradox of Integration. 2009.
- Chin, Corrine and Erika Schultz. “Disappearing Daughters.” The Seattle Times, 2020.
- Razsa, Maple and Milton Guillén. dirs. The Maribor Uprisings, 2017.
- Fogarty-Valenzuela, Benjamin, Matthew Durington, Harjant Gill, Danny Hoffman, Fiona McDonald, Esteban Mendoza, Laurence Ralph, and Deborah Thomas. “‘Virtual Turns’: Multimodal Gallery,” 2020.
- Egan, Dan and Lyndon French. “A Battle Between a Great City and a Great Lake.” The New York Times, 2021.
1. Fusco, Coco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña. The Couple in the Cage: A Guatinaui Odyssey. December 2018.
Fusco and Gómez-Peña’s “parafictional art” demonstrates how research and multimodal performance can offer powerful critiques of Western imperial legacies, including contemporary anti-indigeneity and racist exoticization. Between 1992-94, Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit the West was performed at art and natural history museums and public plazas, including Covent Garden in London and Columbus Square (Plaza de Colón) in Madrid. Noticeably, some exhibit visitors were uncritical—at least in the initial encounter—when viewing the caged “Guatinauis,” an imagined “undiscovered” group from the Caribbean. The documentary shows the couple interacting with publics many of whom believed the artists to be actually from an unexplored island. To some, the performance was unremarkable, funny, or even an opportunity to have their picture taken as if visiting the zoo. Through their marketing as cultural oddities and their embodied and sartorial parody, the artists illuminate institutional racism and the lingering power of the “savage slot” in Western scientific rhetoric (Trouillot 2003). Playing upon expectations in museums, the documentarians track and elicit reactions from on-lookers witnessing the commodification and scientization of the couple’s existence. Signage near the cage outlined a history of ethnographic display that many onlookers ignored. The documentary thus renders exhibit visitors the subjects of the film rather than the “Guatinauis” themselves. Archival sources deployed in the documentary including films, photos, and magazine illustrations provide further historical context for the performance. The Couple thus offers a penetrating criticism of social scientific dehumanization and its bleed into encounters structured by racist imperial entertainments (see also Ames 2009).
Emma Wagh, Owen Kohl
anti-indigeneity, edutainment, the “savage slot,” parafictional art
2. Turajlić, Mila, dir. Cinema Komunisto. Dribbling Pictures, 2010.
Cinema Komunisto is a documentary film based on extensive archival work and interviews that focus on the enduring and forgotten meanings of socialist Yugoslavia’s culture industries that emerged in the aftermath of WWII. Through rich archival montage, director Mila Turajlić demonstrates how many of socialist Yugoslavia’s national narratives were—and continue to be—constructed through film. Her documentary about cinema situates viewers in spaces and places both ostensibly real and imagined; and the line between what’s fiction and what’s reality often blur. The legacies of Yugoslav socialism, its controversial leader Tito, and its film industry become topics of interrogation for older actors, directors, and scenographers who once dominated the now dismembered country’s entertainments. Turajlić has argued that socialist Yugoslavia evinces the capacity to become many things: an emotion, a former country, a political construct, an abstract space, and a film (see CEERES 2018). Scenes from classic partisan action movies, actors visiting now decrepit costume shops, and script commentary from cinephile Tito himself all offer the director powerful possibilities for eliciting further comment in her interviews with older film workers. Turajlić captures a range of affects that extend beyond the Yugonostalgia that is often the subject of scholarship (see Gilbert 2019). Her research practices in Cinema Komunisto demonstrate many ways in which archival and historical ethnographic research can utilize multimedia. The shifting use, significations, and politics of audiovisual media are central to the documentary’s creative analysis of the past.
Emma Wagh, Owen Kohl
documentary film, memory, socialist culture industries, Yugoslavia, multimodal/multimedia methods
3. Husak, Amir. Dayton Express: Bosnian Railroads and the Paradox of Integration. 2009.
Dayton Express is a rich web documentary in which director Amir Husak explores the challenges, possibilities, and significations of the Bosnian railroads in the aftermath of socialist Yugoslavia’s dismemberment. According to Husak, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s railway system becomes “a metaphor for social disintegration and the problems of integration.” Once an effective grid that crisscrossed the republic, Bosnia’s railroad system was interrupted by the Yugoslav Wars and has yet to reestablish its previous capacities since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. Nonetheless, the railroad remains a mode of travel in which citizens of the countries segregated entities continue to encounter one another. The challenges of post-Dayton integration continue to resurface as the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina continues to be undermined by political elites from both domestic and international communities. Through targeted interviews with rail workers, photojournalistic visits to current stations, and careful attentions to how the trains operate in relation to Bosnia’s internal divisions that Dayton legally enshrined, researchers gain numerous insights. The project demonstrates how multimodal ethnography reveals the poetics and politics of infrastructure (Larkin 2013). By attending to Husak’s careful methodologies, researchers can learn how archival stills, travel video, railyard soundscapes, and photos animate the numerous meanings of aging transportation technology. Through Husak’s deployment of everything from public service campaign posters to different eras of railway maps, viewers encounter the painful ironies and possibilities of history in post-socialist spaces where both “express” and slow travel can tell detailed stories.
Owen Kohl, Emma Wagh
post-socialist infrastructure, (im)mobility, Bosnia-Herzegovina, multimedia/multimodal web documentary
Online Write-Up (temporary Flash issue with browser)
4. Chin, Corrine and Erika Schultz. “Disappearing Daughters.” The Seattle Times, 2020.
“Disappearing Daughters” blends investigative reporting on femicide in Mexico with visual journalism, poetry, photography, and film. The multimodal report endeavors to capture the anguish, anger, and search for justice among mothers in Ciudad Juárez, whose families have been subjected to gender-based violence that is inextricable from global inequalities wrought by a violent border and capitalist wealth accumulation. The reporters highlight mothers’ persistent struggle for recognition in the face of racialized, economic, and gendered violence and a globalized crisis of femicide in recent decades. While their journalism is grounded in interviews with activists, poets, and lawyers among others, Chin and Schultz also highlight the various ways in which mothers and community members have memorialized their missing daughters. Visual poetry featuring murals, keepsakes, and other materialized memories emphasize the emotional weight of familial struggle. The report references other in-depth projects on femicide in Ciudad Juárez, including the Netflix documentary “The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo” and the podcasts “Forgotten: Women of Juárez” and “The Red Note.” Interviews are edited to elicit strong responses from readers in the hopes of showcasing mothers’ activism, highlighting international support, and promoting broader understanding of the costs of consumer habits in the US that support maquiladora production and company bottom lines that benefit from a relative lack of worker protections. Their journalism unabashedly pushes for change and greater attention to systematic violence against precarious women that is by no means unique to Juárez.
Emma Wagh, Owen Kohl
gendered violence, journalistic activism, multimedia poetry, visual journalism
5. Razsa, Maple and Milton Guillén. dirs. The Maribor Uprisings, 2017.
Razsa and Guillén’s film offers a powerful means for audiences to carefully consider the possibilities and risks associated with collective protest actions and subsequent violent state reactions. Unlike a standard documentary film, The Maribor Uprisings features multiple possible storylines audiences collectively decide upon while watching. In doing so, they experience the myriad perspectives on major events that ethnographers and documentarians encounter. The documentary shows how the once successful, small, automobile manufacturing industrial city of Maribor, Slovenia became the site of mass protest in the face of rampant post-socialist political corruption. As a “live participatory film,” the directors facilitate the audiences’ choice of different potential pathways that follow more non-violent, or alternatively, more confrontational protestors. Some are met with terrifying state repression. The film’s power lies also in thinking through how contemporary videomaking can move beyond YouTube, flatscreen televisions, and multiplex theaters. The dilemmas over which storyline to choose during live screenings “parallel those faced by protestors everywhere as they grapple with what it means to resist.” Through collective watching, audiences learn not only of divergent strategies in Maribor, but even among their fellow audience members at screenings. The sonic and visual dimensions of the clashes with state authorities and the hopes and fears articulated by interviewees give the live participatory screenings an additional multimodal dimension that accompanies the face-to-face discussion with the directors. Interviews, participant observation, found police footage, and ethnographic filmmaking all combine to offer a unique cinematic and educational experience.
Owen Kohl, Emma Wagh
live participatory film; post-socialism; protest; state violence
Limited Online Access/Offline Performance
6. Fogarty-Valenzuela, Benjamin, Matthew Durington, Harjant Gill, Danny Hoffman, Fiona McDonald, Esteban Mendoza, Laurence Ralph, and Deborah Thomas. “‘Virtual Turns’: Multimodal Gallery,” 2020.
The “Virtual Turns” gallery tour accompanied a joint presentation at the Raising our Voices conference in 2020. The new initiative by the American Anthropological Association was introduced at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic when annual meetings were forced to go remote. The gallery tour, associated livestream discussion, and separate exhibits carefully consider the role of multimodality in contemporary social science research. In diverse locales from Jamaica to Brazil and Chicago, prominent anthropologists Deborah Thomas, Laurence Ralph, Matthew Durington, Fiona McDonald, and Danny Hoffman share their ethnographic and creative work. Exhibit contributors, as well as discussant Harjant Gill and convener Benji Fogarty-Valenzuela, situate recent methodological and theoretical turns toward multimodality in pressing institutional and political contexts. For example, in the livestream, contributors describe how contemporary interest in multimodal, collaborative publication relate to efforts to champion a decolonized and more diverse university, one more attentive to its audiences, accessibility, and the ongoing threat of research commodification. Viewers who take the gallery tour designed by Esteban Mendoza are presented with a range of methodologies employed by the aforementioned scholars. These also deploy a variety of media, including photo-essays, documentary film, as well as more traditional narrative and ethnographic description. Early career researchers will gain numerous insights from engaging the different outputs. In addition to hearing careful reflection as to the culturally specific rationale behind separate strategies of data collection, listeners will hear anthropologists describe their techniques with reference to relevant scholarship, disciplinary histories, and contemporary media ecologies.
multimodal ethnography, virtual gallery, Brazil, Jamaica, US
7. Egan, Dan and Lyndon French. “A Battle Between a Great City and a Great Lake.” The New York Times, 2021.
“Battle” offers a rich multimodal and journalistic consideration of how a major American city is being affected by climate crisis. Egan and French interview residents of different ages and backgrounds, but also hydrologists, urban planners, engineers among others whose professional and personal lives intersect with the Lake Michigan’s rising tides. In the authors’ words, Chicago was “a city built for a different time”, “the time before climate change.” During the 19th century, the city’s major structures were built on a low-lying swamp, which are now prone to ever bigger oscillations in water level. As the city grew, sewage was engineered to flow in reverse away from Lake Michigan, the city’s main source of drinking water. Typically water level would shift in inches, and now it swings between differences in feet. How do inhabitants reflect on their shifting lifeways and homes now projected to be at risk due to the likely coastal changes in the material landscape? Who or what forces will be held to account for the projected fallout? Video loops, aerial and satellite images, time lapse photographic comparison of beaches, topographical and hydrological maps, graphics, and other forms of photography like portraiture offer audiences different ways of understanding the city’s cultural, ecological and historical specificities. In their interviews and archival attentions, the authors elicit recollections about Lake Michigan, its surrounding architecture and terrain, and the changing nature of work nearby due to an ongoing dangerous “tug of war” between evaporation and precipitation.
political ecology, multimodal journalism, Chicago, Great Lakes
Online (potential paywall)
We regard the included resources as inspiring, invaluable tools in the instruction of early career qualitative researchers in the social sciences. Given the regular, ongoing possibility that faculty, teachers, and other educators are going to be asked to teach classes and otherwise work with students remotely via Zoom and other platforms, the MultiRepository offers a curated set of resources that offer a modest step toward multimedia and multimodal class preparation and discussion. In your class prep, please use our MultiRepository Assignment attached. Or feel free to design your own activities. Students of qualitative research methods will encounter a range of rich examples of contemporary multimodal projects, ones that often analyze communication or are creative in their use of media in their presentation of research results. In the long term, we hope to also expand offline offerings, such that institutions can host related in-person events when biomedical, political, ecological, and financial considerations allow.
…for featured Project Directors
The MultiRepository seeks to promote your work, especially among students, faculty, and other pedagogues in the social sciences and humanities who teach ethnographic, archival, or other qualitative research methods. While early career researchers may feel like a narrow audience, they’re a potentially large cohort, one that may prove dedicated and capable of sharing your projects in broader circles beyond their own. If your film, website, or interactive map was released years ago, we hope its review in the MultiRepository will also allow your work to circulate among new publics.
…for Review Contributors
In pursuing academic and other writerly careers, undergraduates, graduate students, and junior faculty will need both publications and service activities. Many should even be seriously thinking about the role of different media and modes in their pedagogy. While diminutive in size and necessary commitment, review contributions to the MultiRepository provide opportunity to tackle both objectives in efficient fashion. Our hope: All you’ll need to do is write 200 polished words produced at the end of maybe a day or two of engaging a remarkable project close to your research interests, followed by some eventual emailing with and suggestions from our editors. If time is tight, please don’t hesitate to propose a project to profile in the MultiRepository before drafting your text. This may save everyone some unnecessary back and forth.
Notes on Accessibility
Since many of the following resources were produced on limited budgets, unfortunately not all of them will be accessible to all audiences, including the visually and hearing impaired.
In the future, we hope to accept further contributions that may not yet be translated to English, Spanish, Chinese, or other widely spoken languages.
Further limiting accessibility in some instances are online paywalls and the fact that some contributions may still be offline. We are in full agreement with the trenchant critiques of multimodal research commodification under contemporary capitalism that emerged in the 2020 Raising Our Voices Conference livestream featured above. Commodification can limit audiences as well as narrowing the sorts of questions asked. Additionally, one must acknowledge that not all multimodal projects have the luxury of relying on academic funders, who themselves are riddled with political contradictions and compromises. Some of our featured project directors turn to Amazon subsidiaries, legacy news outlets, YouTube, and other private conglomerates to distribute and amplify their messages. Sometimes such decisions broaden potential publics for important messages; other times, they obscure their message by demanding audiences with fewer resources find ways behind a paywall.
We’re not here to evaluate difficult production and distribution decisions that often take many factors into account, including the need for project directors to support themselves. Nonetheless it’s important to note that one of the key paradoxes of “independent” critical media in the 21st century—our academic work included—is that we’re too often reliant on corporate entities to build our publics, whether scholarly, internet-based, or otherwise. Major corporate channels including many news organizations and universities are riddled with dangerous conflicts of interest that must always be critically considered when evaluating information that they disseminate. Conversely, the same platforms and sources may prove far less compromised in tackling certain politicized topics. It’s worth also remembering that during an age of Silicon Valley political dominance, invaluable multimedia, multimodal, and multisensorial projects need not have any presence on the Internet. In fact, they frequently occur at kitchen tables, in theaters, classrooms, shop floors, and other material venues that often feel too far removed from novel experiences of remote learning and work.
We thus ask everyone contributing to briefly describe the accessibility to broad audiences with a brief comment and a designation of “offline/online/or both.” Readers are thus strongly encouraged to make up their own minds about our tips, carefully weighing the value of that to which they have access, how it was funded, and how constraints as well as opportunities shaped final results.
Propose your own contribution to the MultiRepository by following the rubric below!
In v. 2.0 we’ll also be looking to include offline variants, in addition to those that are easily accessible by anyone on the Worldwide Webs!
- Add the necessary citation and a still from the film, platform, or resource.
- Include an opening sentence of praise that doesn’t read as a film/music review — one that answers the question: “What can the site or resource teach an early-career researcher about methodologies?”.
- Add two sentences about how the researcher describes the resource/site itself. This shouldn’t be focused on them as a researcher but instead on the project as a whole. Either paraphrase something relevant they have said about the project or use a direct quote.
- Add a sentence: How is this a multimodal or multimedia platform/project? Here, we define “multimedia” as the layered forms of communication technologies (e.g., languages, apps, podcasts, films, maps, photos, etc.), sometimes referred to as “channels”. “Multimodal” platforms, by contrast, refer to ways, types, or processes of communication. That is, the channel or technology of communication is less the point of emphasis, and instead the focus is on the process of communicating information. The senses, embodiment, affects, emotions, materiality, and collaboration among many others are central to modes that communicate beyond channel technologies. The difference between mode and medium is frequently less a hard, discrete binary, and more often a question of emphasis. For the blurb, answer: what media forms are available on the platform? How does the researcher attend to different communicative modes (e.g., sensorial, affective, sartorial, embodied, material, collaborative, and so on)?
- Relatedly, one sentence should answer the questions: “What research methods produced this?” or “What did the researchers attend to as they were engaged in data collection?” This might be a little redundant, but it shouldn’t read as such in the blurb. This sentence focuses on method rather than platform (for young researchers, think of this as the “methods sentence”; students of Professor Kohl can also think of this as the “MEAM sentence (MEAM is the acronym for the ‘Methods — Ethnographic, Archival, and Otherwise Mediated’ taught at the University of Chicago’s Global Studies Program in 2020 and 2021)”
- If you are an undergraduate or early-career contributor, consider seeking a professorial co-author to shield yourself from any audience critiques. Even if the goal here is partly to promote colleagues’ work, status can help if anyone is frustrated by a blurb.
- For the entire blurb, shoot for a modest 200 words that includes your name and 3 to 4 keywords or tags that are key to researchers and pedagogues (e.g., “multimodal ethnography,” “investigative journalism,” “racial capitalism,” “photography”).
Boundary Shift’s MultiRepository: The Assignment(s)
Spend 30 minutes responding to ONE of the following tasks…
Want to go further? Please do! But just make sure you’re spending at least 30 minutes on one warm-up task before trying to tackle more.
In 20 minutes, begin reviewing one of the multimodal projects listed in the attached document that take a city, region, or country as objects of analysis. Attention to geographic scales can focus research projects and your consideration of another researcher’s results (more on that idea below).
In 10 minutes, jot down any initial notes that you can about how the project you chose utilizes media and communication either as topics of analysis, or in the presentation of research results.
The blurbs are there just to help you choose a topic that might interest you.
As early career researchers, you are no doubt pondering (maybe even already writing) rich projects about a variety of topics in contemporary urban, national, or otherwise social life. You may be doing so at a much smaller, or even broader scale, including by focusing on small villages, global trade, or interplanetary travel. Some of you may even be focused on science fiction, microbial viruses, or space programs, so no social scale is too far-fetched!
How would you briefly describe the role of media and communication in your proposed project?
If your research remains too unsettled, don’t despair! Instead describe how media and communication impacted a social event that you recently attended, whether virtually or in-person. Or maybe at an event you heard about?
To keep this assignment modest, start by writing three bullet points like:
- Zoom/Microsoft Teams
You can, of course, now be more specific. What kinds of music, language, or social media apps became salient in your project? Can you describe the communication modes that you witnessed in other terms beyond the media people deployed?
For example, this should include adding details to your bullet points that feature sensorial, affective, material, sartorial or other communicative modes. Be prepared to talk briefly about your proposed project or selected event.
If you saw a concert, what affects accompanied the lyrics? Were they sorrowful, soothing, frenetic? What dialects or other ways of speaking did the performers use? How did they dress and what did the clothing communicate? Since the concert no doubt featured all sorts of side conversations, stage patter, light shows, journalistic write-ups, among many more forms of communication, you’ll need to set some limits on what you can describe in detail.
Read the following recent short blog post that speaks to contemporary trends in communication and social science research methods:
Write down one question in relation to the text as it pertains to your research project or course of study.
Based on the reading, see if you can also answer the questions: What media are featured in your research? How is your project multimodal?
Additional Works Cited…(including more to come…)
Aidi, Hisham. 2014. Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture. New York, NY: Pantheon.
Ames, Eric. 2009. Carl Hagenbeck’s Empire of Entertainments. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.
Appadurai, Arjun. 1988. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
CEERES. 2018. “CEERES of Interviews: Director Mila Turajlić and The Other Side of Everything.” April 17. https://youtu.be/qpaMjiciwvw?t=1877.
Forgotten: Women of Juárez. 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/forgotten-women-of-ju%C3%A1rez/id1458661510
Gilbert, Andrew. 2019. “Beyond Nostalgia: Other Historical Emotions.” History and Anthropology 30 (3): 293–312.
Imperative Entertainment. 2020. The Red Note. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-red-note/id1523681333
Khabeer, Su’ad Abdul. 2016. Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States. New York, NY: NYU Press.
Kopytoff, Igor. 1986. “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process.” In The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, edited by Arjun Appadurai, 64–91. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Knowles, Caroline. 2014. Flip-Flop: A Journey Through Globalisation’s Backroads. New York, NY: Pluto Press.
Kotlowitz, Alex. 2019. “Telling Our Own Stories.” https://www.themarshallproject.org/we-are-witnesses/chicago/about.
Larkin, Brian. 2013. “The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure.” Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (1): 327–43.
Naaman, Dorit. 2020. “On the ‘We’ in Jerusalem, We Are Here.” August 3. https://graylit.org/blog/jerusalem-we-are-here.
Osorio, Carlos Perez, Juan Manuel Fraire Escobedo, Alejandro Fraire, and Blanca Escobedo, dirs. 2020. Las Tres Muertes de Marisela Escobedo. Netflix Studios.
Razsa, Maple and Milton Guillén. 2017. “About.” Mariboruprisings.org. http://mariboruprisings.org/howitworks.
Husak, Amir. 2009. “Dayton Express: Bosnian Railroads and the Paradox of Integration.” Amirhusak.com https://www.amirhusak.com/wp/portfolio/dayton-express-bosnian-railroads-and-the-paradox-of-integration/
Sirota, David and Andrew Perez. 2021. “The Reconciliation Bill’s Gutting Is What Happens When<br>Your Party Is Addicted to Corporate Money.” Jacobin. October 29. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/10/build-back-better-corporate-democrats-biden
Trouillot, Michel Rolph. 2003. “Anthropology and the Savage Slot: The Poetics and Politics of Otherness.” In Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World, 7–29. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Von Eschen, Penny. 2006. Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.