Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Visual ethnography part 2

A couple of weeks ago I did my first day in the city as a visual ethnographer trying to record something of the visual cultures that young people in the city might access and engage with. So far it's just experimental seeing what I come up with. The other idea was to bring my photos taken in the local communities to the interviews so that the young people can respond to them. I'm kicking myself however because I've only done one day in the city centre, and nothing in the more local areas or parks, although I had planned to. Just didn't get the chance, or the interviews have come up very fast and I didn't realise they are tomorrow. There's a chance I might do another round of interviews any way (partly because I have so many questions to ask the students and partly because a third of them have still not returned their cameras) so maybe I can do it then. Although it'll be still be ok to do the ethnography without the elicitation in the interviews, it'll just be my analysis and not the students' feedback.

The best thing about the first day in the city was going round the charity shops when I got bored of just walking round and round! They were pretty good for books. I picked up three books which all have a link to my research – or that's how I justified it, any way ;)

I also have a bit of the thing about only reading/buying books by women authors lately.

One is another novel by Anita Diamant, I just read her The Red Tent which was an amazing look at pre-monotheistic “Middle East” women's culture and society. Although women and men seemed to be separate then, women were largely left to themselves and ran their lives as they wished – childbirth, raising children, celebrating womanhood. It made the horrible ideas that monotheistic religions have had about women really stick out. I really enjoyed the book because it showed that women have not always been subordinate, passive objects in sexual relationships. In many ways the book hints that Judaism and Christianity were to blame for women's disappearance from public life. Anyway so the new book I got by Diamant is called The Last Days of Dogtown which I think has themes of women in “male” roles, this one set in 19th C America.

The next book I picked up is by Margaret Forster – I've never read any of her work before. This one is called The Memory Box and from the back it was quite clear that it portrays the women characters as having complex lives, not binaristic good/bad mother/whore stuff as happens so often. So that appealed to me, obviously.

The third novel was appealing not for strong women characters but for its seemingly links to things I have been reading/thinking about my own research – that cities shape the people who live there and people shape the cities where they live, it said on the back. It's called Marlene Dietrich Lived Here and looks at post-war Berlin trying to recover it's sense of self, and the people there trying to regain theirs. Quite topical while I am researching the importance of place to embodiment.

I also read a great historical novel recently called Company of Liars set during the plague. Slightly trashy but riveting, so I ordered the author's (Karen Maitland) other novel.

Time to get back to the proper reading...

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