The slanting gaze. Visual studies and ethnographic activism


May 28th and 29th, 2015
Palazzo Ducale

Our society has already been defined as “the society of the spectacle”, as our lives are filled with stimuli from visual media and we are constantly surrounded by images created to catch our attention. From the Frankfurt School to McLuhan, Levy, Baudrillard, Debord, and de Kerckhove’s theories, critical thinking has moved towards a reflection on the possible effects triggered by a highly visual context, deeply affected by the media, and its influence on the social construction of reality.

During the 1970s, visual methods in social sciences were strongly criticized and considered partial and non-objective. During the 1980s, they started to gain recognition in the academy, although as a mere complement to social research. Since the 2000s, the interest in the visual dimension of reality has been growing. Nowadays, visual methods are considered fundamental research tools in order to investigate contemporary socio-cultural transformations and their reflexive relationship with the visual dimension. The present recognition of visual methods is linked to a general redefinition of knowledge. On the one hand, postmodernism and postmodern anthropology has reconfigured the epistemological perspective of ʻgrand narrativesʼ to the advantage of interpretative and phenomenological approaches, with a special focus on social practices (practice turn) and spatial dimensions of social life (spatial turn). On the other hand, a progressive recognition of the importance of the multi-sensorial dimensions of knowledge is taking place (sensorial turn). In this context, visual methods are a prolific resource for the collection, interpretation and circulation of this kind of knowledge.

In the last ten years, the development of experiments in this field has produced its first results, in terms of theory and methodology, and in the academic arena as well as in independent research. The aim of this conference was to define the state of the art in visual practices in social research through a reflection on the most recent and original international developments, bringing together scholars, researchers, students, and video makers. The conference will explore and try to find a convergence between these ethnographic and activist experiences, using visual methods and formats to describe, interpret, and transform social worlds.

Scientific Committee: Emanuela Abbatecola, Maddalena Bartolini, Sebastiano Benasso, Massimo Cannarella, Isabel Fanlo Cortés, Annalisa Frisina, Erik Gandini, Francesca Lagomarsino, Pino Losacco, José González Morandi, Lorenzo Navone, Andrea Mubi Brighenti, Cristina Oddone, Luca Queirolo Palmas, Federico Rahola, Pietro Saitta, Joyce Sebag, Andrea Segre, Luisa Stagi.


Corso Andrea Podestà, 2 - 16121 Genova (GE)

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