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CEE #26




I recently attended a gathering organized by Mabel O. Wilson, my friend, colleague, and co-conspirator in the Practicing Refusal Collective, a Black feminist forum of artists and scholars dedicated to initiating dialogues on blackness, anti-black violence, and black futurity in the 21st century.  As a way of introducing the gathering, Wilson argued that enclosure doesn’t merely refer to the material conditions of the “hold” – whether this hold is a slave ship, a plantation, a garrison or “ghetto” community, a prison, a map, or a museum.  Enclosure also encompasses the spatial, temporal, and psychic forms of restriction that confine our existence and our imagination.  Moreover, it legitimates various forms of extraction, the logic which supports both the colonizing impetus (what Wilson referred to as “mine-ing”), and the cooptation of the decolonizing efforts of Black and Indigenous scholars and artists seeking to explore the boundaries of enclosure.  We are so grateful for this work of explosion, and for the ways colleagues, friends, and students are attempting to turn enclosures into other kinds of portals!  We have had a busy year, and as we look toward summer (and toward potentially gathering again with those we love) we also look to support and replenish each other!

Deborah A. Thomas
R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology
Director, Center for Experimental Ethnography

Getting Caught: A Collaboration On and Off Stage Between Theater and Anthropology   
ANTH-588-401 I FNAR-388-401 I FNAR-588-401 ITHAR-388-401 
Cristiana Giordano is an associate professor of anthropology at UC Davis. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her M.A. in philosophy from the University of Pavia, Italy. She works on foreign migration, mental health, the body, and cultural translation in contemporary Italy. Her research addresses the politics of migration in Europe through the lens of ethno-psychiatry and its radical critique of psychiatric, legal, and moral categories of inclusion/exclusion of foreign others; and through the lens of research on the human microbiome and migrant health in Europe. MORE...
Greg Pierotti is an assistant professor of dramaturgy and collaborative playmaking at the University of Arizona, and an interdisciplinary theater artist. He and his collaborator Cristiana Giordano are currently investigating the intersection of ethnographic and theatrical writing and research practices. MORE...
Ricardo A. Bracho
Surrealism in Americas: A Creative and Critical Writing and Performance Workshop
ANTH-596-401 I GSWS-398-401 I LALS-596-401 I FNAR-596-401
Ricardo A. Bracho is currently Sachs Artist-in-Residence in the Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies program here at Penn, where he teaches creative and critical writing. His plays have been staged read, workshopped, and premiered in theaters and at universities nationwide.  He has a committed focus on working with feminist, queer, Latiina/o, community-based, and experimental theaters including Mabou Mines, INTAR, and Company of Angels. His plays have also been staged read and workshopped at Vassar, Stanford, DePaul University, and the University of California campuses at Riverside, Berkeley, Irvine, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara. MORE...
“Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet”: Museum Collections and the Demand for Principles of Accountability

The recent controversy surrounding the existence of the remains of two black children killed in the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE revolutionary collective in Philadelphia that were thought to be repatriated and buried by their family members have ignited new questions about anthropology’s use of those remains in museums and teaching forums.  Many questions abound about why contemporary museums still hold the skeletal remains of people who never consented to their use and what responsibilities universities and funding agencies have to ensure that their researchers are in compliance with moral, ethical and political standards.

This panel serves to open a series of conversations dedicated to exploring the possibilities of an anthropology grounded in a commitment to “radical humanism.”   In a radically humanist anthropology, equality, connection, and becoming serve as guiding principles that (1) disrupt predominant conceptualizations of a stable, knowable, liberal subject in “the field,” (2) recognize the many ways that humans and non-humans are entangled, and (3) center justice, equity, and the reduction of harm as key aims of the anthropological project.  The goal is to not only understand the histories that shape this development but to also ponder a new way forward in considering the foundational basis upon which we rethink anthropological work.

In this open forum, a community of over 200 attendees joined their voices with Krystal Strong and Deborah Thomas in raising questions and proposing and amplifying action points, regarding the recent revelations that two children who had been killed when the City of Philadelphia dropped two bombs on the MOVE compound in 1985 – Tree and Delisha Africa – had their remains held in the Penn Museum and used for research and teaching over the past thirtyfive years. Following an introduction by Deborah Thomas, Krystal shared serious concerns about the way that Penn Museum and Princeton administrations responded. She highlighted how their responses were tied to legacies of legal, bureaucratic, and disciplinary exploitation of black life, and a continued refusal to engage meaningfully in reparative work. The discussion was fruitful and intense, with students and publics at Penn and beyond speaking out to administrators who attended from both institutions. Throughout the event, participants created a list of resources for further action, highlighting the importance of the MOVE press conference, and a recent documentary on MOVE's response (full resource list here). Later, participants contributed to a collective document, offering their ideas on the responsibilities that Penn has to the surviving members of the family, the reparative work that could be done, and how insitutional change might happen in ways that align with the MOVE family's demands
This was the second forum facilitated by the Center for Experimental Ethnography, after the recent revelations that two children were killed when the city of Philadelphia drops two bombs on the move compound in 1985 – Tree and Delisha Africa – had their remains held in the Penn Museum and used for research and teaching over the past thirty-five years. Physical Anthropology, Evolution, and Histories of Scientific Racism interrogated further whether there is a need to have unconsented human remains. Our guests Rachel Watkins (American University), Aja Lans (Syracuse University), and Delande Justinvil (American University helped us think through the various ways in which institutions from museums, to universities and hospitals, benefit from historical justifications based on scientific racism and the dehumanization of marginalized persons even in death.
The recording of the forum can be found HERE.
The Contest over "Indigeneity": Film and Ethnography in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
With eleven films, three dialogues, two essays, and one live Zoom conversation, this film series illustrated the productive “unruliness” (to quote U Penn Professor Chenshu Zhou) of ethnography and film in exploring the contours of Indigenous identities and politics. Indigeneity, as the films and conversations revealed, encompasses stories of personal loss and memories of suffering, reflections on current social transformations and cultural subjectivities, and narratives of state violence and power in marginalized communities and upon individuals. Filmmaking has become a means to confront the lived realities of cultural and ethnic differences, claims to political sovereignty, and shared social histories that together constitute some of the possibilities of Indigenous experiences in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. [While the films are no longer available, the event website with film and filmmaker descriptions, dialogues, and essays is online:
  "GROUNDS THAT SHOUT!!...and others merely shaking" 
On May 1, we were honored to host a conversation featuring Reggie Wilson in dialogue with Jasmine Johnson, John Jackson, and Jawole Zollar regarding the film, “GROUNDS THAT SHOUT!...and others merely shaking.”  This film emerged from Reggie’s work in 2018-2019, sponsored by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and organized through Philadelphia Contemporary, the Danspace Project, and Partners for Sacred Places.  For this project, Reggie curated dance with local choreographers and dance groups at historical churches in Philadelphia.  “Grounds that Shout!” was meant to explore the relationships between religion, movement, race, place, and the body, and to foreground how the histories of contemporary performance are intertwined with the legacies of African-American religious and religiously-affiliated spaces.  Thanks to generous support from the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, graduate students in CAMRA documented the project, and the resulting film, directed and produced by Gordon Divine “Dee” Asaah, provided the basis for our conversation.  The film bears witness to Reggie’s process, documenting the development of movement, the relationships between performers and space, and the city and its denizens.  The conversation was wide-ranging, addressing the overlapping circles of performance, method, and community-building, and the simultaneity of past and present.  Listening to the distinct sounds of places and bodies in the film became an important way of becoming literate, of being able to hear the ground shout.  And rapport with death, in this work, became a generative possibility where choreography was a practice of life.


CIMS 201 I ENGL 291 | ARTH 391 | COML 201
MONDAY   12-3 PM    
This course is a study of non-fiction film practices internationally, beginning from the invention of cinema and ending in the contemporary landscape. Although the bulk of the class is organized chronologically, the course is divided into types of non-fiction filmmaking practices, including ethnographies, experimental non-fiction films, essay films, activist documentaries, and animated documentaries. Lectures, screenings, and discussions will be oriented around the theory of documentary filmmaking as well as an in-depth analysis of the films themselves. Requirements will include readings in film history and film analysis, short response papers, active participation, a research paper, and an optional creative assignment.
The Racist in the Machine: Conspiracy Theories, Cultural Criticism, and Contemporary Mass Mediation
COMM 864
WEDNESDAY 05:15 PM-07:15 PM
British philosopher Gilbert Ryle used the imagery of a “ghost in the machine” to characterize that fundamental Cartesian separation between mind and body. Ryle also provided interpretive anthropologist Clifford Geertz his oft-cited distinction between thin and thick descriptions of social life. For scholars of communication, examining how debates about race are organized and framed can be a valuable way to reimagine what interventions the field might make into ongoing scholarly and popular disputes on the subject. With such a goal in mind, this course will ask students to consider (i) what kinds of dualisms organize racialist logics, (ii) whether conspiracy theories might be said to pivot on racialized understandings of difference and power, (iii) how people ground assertions of racial authority/authenticity, and (iv) the ways in which these inter-related themes are impacted by our decidedly new/social media moment.  Students will be encouraged to produce multimodal projects for their final assignments. 
THAR 120.301
Tuesday & Thursday 10:15 AM to 11:45 AM
Rooted in the system devised by Constantine Stanislavsky, but incorporating a wide variety of approaches, including improvisation, this course takes students step by step through the practical work an actor must do to live and behave truthfully on-stage. Beginning with relaxation and physical exercise, interactive games, and ensemble building, students then learn and put into practice basic acting techniques, including sensory work, the principles of action, objectives, given circumstances, etc. The semester culminates in the performance of a scene or scenes, most often from a play from the Realist tradition. This course strongly stresses a commitment to actor work and responsibility to one's fellow actors. Practical work is supplemented by readings from Stanislavsky and a variety of other acting theorists that may include Uta Hagen, Robert Cohen, Stella Adler, among others. Students are required to submit short essays over the course of the semester in response to the readings and in preparation for their final scene project.
CIMS 283 I THAR 283 | ENGL 202 I
TUESDAY & THURSDAY  1:45-3:15pm  
Inviting audiences into a special relationship with illusion, backstage dramas (whether on film or on stage) and plays-within-plays reach beyond and alongside traditional plot-driven narratives, to reflect on the process of representation itself. Drawing from classical debates about the relationships between reality, illusion, representation, and imitation (mimesis), we will examine a variety of plays and films as we articulate the complex network of responses and underlying assumptions (whether cultural, political, or social), about art and life, that these works engage. This course centers on plays and films that are about their own production, or about the "backstage" realm of their own creation. They reflect on artistic construction, and/or their reception by the audience (through metadrama and other devices), to articulate a critical perspective on themselves as experiences and representations, even as we watch/consume them. Engaging fields of aesthetics, adaptation, and cultural studies, the course provides multiple ways to talk about relationships between representation and audiences, illusion and reality, in political, social and personal terms. Students develop their ability to read, write, discuss and think critically about issues that straddle scripted and unscripted worlds.
EDUC 586 /ANTH 583
This ethnographic methodology course considers filmmaking/videography as a tool in conducting ethnographic research as well as a medium for presenting academic research to scholarly and non-scholarly audiences. The course engages the methodological and theoretical implications of capturing data and crafting social scientific accounts/narratives in images and sounds. Students are required to put theory into practice by producing videos and films.  In service to that goal, students will read about ethnography (as a social scientific method and representational genre), learn and utilize ethnographic methods in fieldwork, watch films (to be analyzed for formal properties and implicit assumptions about culture/sociality), and acquire rigorous training in the history, theory,  skills and craft of digital filmmaking. This is an ABCS course, and students will produce short ethnographic films with students in Philadelphia high schools as part of a partnership project with the School District of Philadelphia. Due to the time needed for ethnographic film production, this is a year-long course series, which will meet in both the fall and in the spring semester as Community Youth Filmmaking (EDUC 752) .


Applications are due Friday, May 21, 2021
The fundamental objective of the CAMRA Mellon Fellowship Program is to increase the national pipeline of undergraduate students who complete Ph.D. programs in core fields that engage with both the theoretical and practical underpinnings of multimedia research, interrogating the politics of representation and power at play in visual scholarship and media, as well as harnessing the potential of visual methods to democratize the production of knowledge in academic spaces. Through a three-year pipeline, the program aims to increase the presence of individuals from underrepresented groups pursuing Ph.D. programs on college and university faculties, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities. Learn more and apply here
Congratulations to the CEE summer 2021 award recipients!
Oreoluwa Badaki
Leah Giesler
Bethany Monea
Elliot Montpellier
Nursyazwani Jamaludin
Jake Nussbaum
Will Owens
Rebecca Winkler
Chrislyn Laurie Laurore
Gillian Maris Jones
Angela Ross Perfetti
 Critical Museum Studies
Hakimah Abdul-Fattah  
Charlotte Williams
Chelsea Cohen
Francisco Diaz
Chris Green
Katleho Shoro  
Chrislyn Laurore  
Stephanie Mach  
Breanna Moore
Paul Mitchell
VanJessica Gladney
Copyright © 2021 Center for Experimental Ethnography, UPenn, All rights reserved.

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