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Ambient Memory

Ambient Memory
19 Russell Street, Room AP330
Time: Mar 2nd, 5:00 pm End: Mar 2nd, 6:30 pm
Interest Categories: Ethnography, Anthropology (UTSC), Anthropology (UTM), Anthropology (FAS), 2000-

The Department of Anthropology Ethnography Lab Workshop Series presents

Ambient Memory

Workshop Facilitator: Jean Chia, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

It happened when Boon Kiang and I were walking along the old railway tracks. Boon Kiang motioned me ahead, and drew my attention to a huge longkang (drain). "I was the kind of kid who, after school, went down to the longkangs to fish" he said with a laugh. "I caught a lot of guppies in here". I looked down into the large drain, 5 metres wide by 3 metres deep, and cordoned off by steel railings painted a cobalt green. Beneath, I saw 5 inches of water, tinged light brown with muddy silt, and travelling down the length of the drain at a leisurely pace. Suddenly, what was once a fuzzy memory in the distant corners of my mind came into focus. My brother and I, both in jersey shorts and white trim, squatting by the drain with nets, trying to catch the orange guppies darting about while my grandfather poked about in the bushes nearby.

Longkang fishing, childhood days, and grandparents, are all classic themes in Singaporean nostalgia. Each time I go on guided historical tours or take walks with my informants, their own stories of the past trigger and colour my own memories of youth and childhood, inevitably lending a distracting sepia tint to fieldwork data. At the same time, memories are notoriously unreliable and this slippage is also possibly a fictive result of working extensively with heritage enthusiasts and archives. What happens when informants' historical and archival photos trigger the ethnographer's own memories and reflections? I liken the attempt to working between two modes at once; part analytical, part auto-ethnographic. Paying attention to the ambient and rarely acknowledged memories that hover at the "very edge of semantic availability" (Williams 1977:131) can draw out nuggets of insight that form the arc of an ethnographic story. In this workshop, we will explore ways to interpret and analyze the ambient memory as an (auto)ethnographic object that arises in conjunction with fieldwork data.

This event is free an open to all. Registration is not required. For further information, please contact Jessika Tremblay at ethnography.lab@utoronto.ca

The Ethnography Lab is excited to launch its 2016-2017 Workshop Series. This year, the series will focus on experimenting with different techniques for interpreting ethnographic data. Once primary data has been gathered in the field, every ethnographer must grapple with deciding which techniques are best suited to analyzing it before it can be included in a monograph, dissertation, or other published work. Most ethnographers don’t hesitate to spend hours pouring over field-notes, listening to audio recordings, or scrawling the perfect ethnographic vignette to tell a story about their data. But what actually happens between the gathering of that data and its transformation into abstracted, anthropological analysis, is often a mystery.

This workshop series, entitled Ethnographic Objects: Materialities and Meanings, is designed as a collective experimentation with different ways of interpreting the ethnographic object. Each workshop will center around one particular kind of ethnographic object that is commonly encountered in the field: the video interview, the mystical object, the selfie, the music playlist, the Facebook post, and others. Presenters will spend time contextualizing the object within their own field-work experiences, after which participants will be invited to join in the “workshopping” of different techniques to arrive at creative ways of analyzing their meaning. The objective of this series is to encourage critical and active thinking about the processes that are involved in transforming primary data into an anthropological product.

Located in the University of Toronto Department of Anthropology, the Ethnography Lab strives to encourage dynamic discussion and experimentation with the various ways in which ethnography is practiced and imagined.

Join us in the Ethnography Lab Seminar Room, located in the Anthropology Building, room 330, on select Thursdays from 5-6:30pm for stimulating discussion.

This series is FREE and OPEN to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Contact Jessika Tremblay at ethnography.lab@utoronto.ca for more information.

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