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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/m4g4-0x81

invited talk

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

The Study of Power, Media, and Revolution in Iran & the U.S.: From a Ginsburg-ian Lens


middle east

action anthropology


This panel examines the impact the work of Faye Ginsburg has had on recent anthropological projects based in the broader Middle East region, particularly in feminist anthropology, visual anthropology, Indigenous media, global media cultures, and disability studies. While Ginsburg does not work in the region, the reach of her work as well as her mentorship through the creation of NYU’s Culture and Media program has shaped the ethnography of media and visual anthropology across a diversity of geographic regions, especially the Middle East. In this panel, we ask: How can the anthropology of media probe enduring assumptions about authoritarianism and democracy? How can it reflect on shifts in the terrain of state religions and secularisms? In what ways can critical approaches to popular media both amplify and undercut nationalist ideologies? How does generational difference and professional training impact how television and film producers think about religion and national media? What are the implications of producing multi-modal ethnography, from documentary film to comics? How can creativity, play, and collaboration, especially through multi-modal anthropology, enrich anthropological approaches to justice? And how can critical engagement with media production cover structural constraints in the mass dissemination of marginalized people’s experiences? A “Media Worlds” (Ginsburg, Abu-Lughod, Larkin 2002) approach has helped us as ethnographers to look at the interrelationships among various kinds of media as well as between media practices and other practices of daily life. Ginsburg’s writing about and curation of Indigenous media--including documentary, fiction, and experimental film--inspired a focus on local and regional journalisms--long an underdeveloped field in media anthropology. We have addressed journalism as a practice of media and knowledge production that allows marginalized figures to speak back to global structures of empire, even though journalists do so within severe constraints. Ginsburg has cultivated an interest in media producers as complex actors with many different biographical, political, and artistic motivations, informing ethnographies that reject an easy reduction of the politics of media production, whether by state-affiliated filmmakers in Iran, television producers in Turkey, or Afghanistani or Palestinian journalists. Ginsburg’s early research on aborion debates in Fargo, North Dakota has inspired many of us as we work in fraught and polarized fieldsites, or as we write about the Middle East in the US academy. Ginsburg’s analytic of the parallax effect as well as her commitment to a feminist and collaborative practice has not only informed our field methods but given us a vision for working creatively with partners across disciplinary, geographic, political, and artistic difference. It has also helped us to think through and manage the deep challenges of our roles as region-related scholars working in the US academy. Through Ginsburg’s path-breaking analysis of various forms of Indigenous media and taking heed of her call to decolonize visual praxis, we demonstrate our commitment to make anthropology’s active engagement with social justice issues more accessible to broader publics through creative media collaborations and productions.


Transcript English (automatic)

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