Empirical Art.
Filmmaking for fieldwork in practice

This book looks at the modes and impacts of ‘filmmaking for fieldwork’ techniques across the disciplines. It takes ethnographic filmmaking to be an ‘empirical art’ that is informed by re-significations of sensory experience and good practice while mediating and exploring relationships between self and other. We consider the unique potential of filmmaking in creating interpretative spaces that address contemporary issues within the disciplines of social anthropology, politics, history, memory studies, development, international relations and psychology. The three critical areas of documentary practice we will address are: 1) politics and ethics of engagement, 2) narrative approaches in between description and analysis, and 3) transformative potentials between the production and reception of a film. We seek to explore methodological approaches and filmmaking techniques that create spaces to bring together complex realities and creative imaginations through artistic expressions. Practitioners will reflect on completed documentary film projects (which will be able to upload to the conference website) concerning one of the key areas mentioned above. We are interested in the interweaving of practical experience, personal journey and theoretical analysis made tangible through the artistic process of a filmmaking for fieldwork research endeavour.

While films have the potential to evoke the physical, emotional, performative and experiential aspects of social life, film-making has and often is misconceived as illustrative and/or representational tool for research. We advocate for filmmaking as a form of personal and ethnographic discovery, which lies at the heart of our notion of empirical art. Artistic empiricism is another way of exploring and articulating human relationships that extends from direct experience, using a combination of scientific methods and storytelling techniques. We are concerned with the art of/in empirical research through the filmmaking lens. In other words, we seek to learn about the distinctive approaches to filmmaking our contributors, who have conducted extensive fieldwork in controversial, difficult to access or impassioned arenas of research, developed to engage and learn about the lives of their research collaborators. We hope to show how intertwined our modes of discovery become with the data we gather and the knowledge we generate. With this edited collection of works, we wish to offer an in-depth learning and teaching resource to an increasingly multi-disciplinary community of researches who seek different modes for exploration, transformation and expression.

Edited volume by Andy Lawrence and Martha-Cecilia Dietrich
Publisher: Manchester University Press
Forthcoming 2022