Let us share with you what we're up to, and the insights that strike us while we are doing fieldwork.
Anastasia is completing a 9-month collaboration with Scribe Video, the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and the Paul Robeson House to produce a film for the Precious Places Community History Project. The film, “This is Where Art Lives,” and eight others in the series will be screened on December 4 at 7 pm at the International House’s Light Box Film Center. This film series is unique in that all the films are authored by community members who are the experts of their respective sites, putting the tools of representation into their hands so they can tell their own stories as they see fit.
EDITING A SPECIAL ISSUE OF SENSES AND SOCIETY
Beth and Laurian are currently editing a special edition of the journal Senses and Society celebrating the 20-year publication of Sensuous Scholarship by anthropologist Paul Stoller. This volume continued Stoller’s work of encouraging a multi-sensory approach to ethnography and qualitative data collection. Ethnologica finds sensory methodologies important to epistemological questions about how to best collaborate and collect data with “vulnerable populations,” including people whose histories have been marginalized or who have experienced trauma or violence. Our contribution to the special issue focuses on the affinities between sensory and feminist methodologies in field research. The project is fueled by hummus and coffee.
Understanding the Opioid epidemic in Philadelphia
Ethnologica and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health are collaborating on a mixed-methods project to learn more about a largely hidden population of drug users in Philadelphia: those who are overdosing at home. While opioid addiction is a health crisis that is unfolding in public view, much drug use happens in private, out of sight. Of the 1,217 people who died of opioid overdose in the City in 2017, almost 3/4 died in a private residence. Harm-reduction approaches to drug use, like Narcan, are instrumental in saving lives when overdose occurs, but the very population that is dying at home is the least likely to be exposed to harm-reduction interventions. In this 2018-2019 project, funded by the Council on State and Tribal Epidemiologists, Ethnologica will conduct qualitative research to learn more about who makes up this group, and how to design programming that will reach them.
CULTURAL ASSET MAPPING
For the past year, Beth has been collaborating with Amber Art & Design and Fairmount Park Conservancy to lead a cultural asset mapping process in Strawberry Mansion, Philadelphia which culminated in the creation of a deck of playing cards. The cards honor the richness of neighborhood memories that emerged through oral history collection and ethnographic research. Rather than a static map or asset list, Beth wanted to create something that could move and change depending on who was—literally—holding the memories in their hands. People have different neighborhood memories and experiences depending on many factors; cards literally play with this multivocality. As well, neighborhood histories and voices are often erased, silenced, ignored or co-opted through processes of dispossession. Read more about the yearlong community engagement process in this PlanPhilly article.
STRAWBERRY MANSION UP CLOSE
Amber Art & Design was recently awarded a grant from the Velocity Fund to continue its collaborative work with Ethnologica and other community partners in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia. We will be working to transform the many oral histories we’ve collected over the past year into multi-sensorial stories. The Velocity Fund is administered by Temple Contemporary with generous funding from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Fund directly supports artists to organize collaborative projects throughout the city of Philadelphia and is open to a wide range of experimental practices, particularly those that emphasize collaboration between artistic genres leading to expanded audiences, fresh outcomes and an enriched multi-disciplinary discourse.
RIVER BEASTS AND BESTIES
Ethnologica recently won a Ecotopian Toolkit award from the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities for a project entitled Monsters of the Deep, Myths for the Future. As part of our ongoing work researching community conceptions of health and wellbeing, we have been developing a public workshop to explore local fears of and hopes for urban waterways. Fear of touching, wading in, or boating on river water has resulted from decades of Philadelphians experiencing local rivers as contaminated, and the physical and psychic dumping ground for the ills of urban life—including human and animal bodies. Through storytelling, drawing and myth creation, our workshop will engage our monster imaginings of the river by creating stories and visualizations of what we most fear about immersion in urban waterways. We will also ask: what newly created benign spirits are available to usher our imaginations into new relationships with local rivers? What new mythological mascots might help us re-imagine and work to protect our watershed?
OUT ON THE WATER
Anastasia and Beth spent some time over the 2018 summer season out on the water, collecting data and collaborating with youth from Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ who are working to protect our local watershed and promote environmental stewardship. These youth are part of Riverways, a collaboration between Bartram’s Garden, Independence Seaport Museum, Urban Promise, and Glen Foerd on the Delaware.
MY PARK, MY NEIGHBORHOOD
This summer, Beth has been collaborating with community partners in Strawberry Mansion to develop a community-based historical curriculum and implement a photography camp for local youth. Funded by Fairmount Park Conservancy, the camp is in partnership with East Park Revitalization Alliance, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center, and Strawberry Mansion Learning Center. Youth have been documenting their neighborhood and East Fairmount Park through weekly excursions and field trips while exploring local history and meeting local artists. In addition, The New Community Project collaborated with us to develop and facilitate roundtables to capture youth stories (a project funded by HatchLab, The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture). The New Community Project is an academic program that believes stories and storytelling is the catalyst for social justice. The New Community Project hopes to inspire and empower young people to impact their communities through critical thinking, mindful collaboration, and meaningful action. Youth images and stories are part of our larger year-long community engagement process with Amber Art and Design and Fairmount Park Conservancy, funded by ArtPlace America. Photos, videos and stories will be showcased at our final exhibition at Hatfield House on August 31st.
Revising a chapter
Over January and February 2018 Anastasia was working to revise a chapter for the 3rd edition of Gender Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Laura L. O'Toole, PhD. The revision updates the 2007 edition of the chapter entitled "Problematizing the Discourse: Sex Trafficking Policy and Ethnography." That chapter argues that US policy too broadly defines trafficking to include people who willingly migrate for work in the sex industry, too readily defining them as victims of unconscionable violence and oppression. This policy focus on "demand" requires a law-and-order response by countries around the world, and they must comply or risk the cessation of multilateral funding. A focus on "supply" instead would refocus state-level attention on the factors that make choosing sex work the best of many bad choices. The chapter contrasts the assumptions on which US policy is based with what Anastasia learned from debt-bonded sex workers during ethnographic fieldwork in Cambodia: most said they had come to the brothel village because of a crisis in their families, and they needed to earn money to solve their problems. Interpreting sex workers not just as victims of fraud and force, but as people making rational and difficult decisions would be more helpful because it would require a recognition of the structural conditions that caused women to seek this line of work. Taking steps to provide alternatives to entering debt-bondage instead of "rescuing" sex workers would be more beneficial for the women's well-being. The revised chapter incorporates follow-up research about the continuing impacts of the Trafficking in Persons Report and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Collecting Oral Histories in NOrth Philly
Beth is collaborating with Amber Art and Design to collect oral histories and map neighborhood assets in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of North Philadelphia. In these photos, long-term resident Trisha Sealy speaks with Keir Johnston from Amber Art and Design while Snapshot Anderson and MiNG media document the interview. Trisha Sealy is an artist and community organizer who once ran Blackberry Arts, an organization that planned events and curated exhibits for artists of color from the U.S. and the African diaspora. Trisha is sharing her recollections of civil rights activism in North Philadelphia including the Columbia Avenue riots of 1964 and the campaign to desegregate Girard College.
Data from these oral histories and ongoing asset mapping will inform programming and development initiatives in the neighborhood and are part of a residency at the historical Hatfield House, guided by a consortium of community members and the Fairmount Park Conservancy.