Long before I became a filmmaking anthropologist, I had been questioning the conventions of academic text-making, which, as John Law put it, seek to ‘distort reality into clarity’. Clarity was exactly what was absent in the places I studied: war-ridden Serbia, where so many lives ended in the mud, and the temples of Afro-Brazilian Candomblé, with their possession rituals and bloody altars. These places where a mess, and I might add: flauntingly so. The academic dictum that the best way to understand them required the sorting out and cleaning up of that mess just did not make sense. The mess ought to be addressed as such.  

I found film to be a medium that is far more hospitable to the messiness of the world. In this video-talk, I will discuss (and show) how I have used film to introduce mess in my work. Initially by following the examples of “delinguified” sensory films that came out of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab; yet soon – for reasons to be explained – reintroducing the word as proposed in the genre of the essay film.

Keynote held in English