[-empyre-] Queer Ethnography, Methods, and Play

Chase Joynt chase.joynt at gmail.com
Fri Oct 18 04:06:44 AEDT 2019

I feel persuaded by Jerry’s summary of ethnography as the work of encounter
and incentivized by Kale’s uptake of the method as a conceptual art
practice. As a scholar-practitioner steadfastly positioned in between
disciplines – and resulting legacies and legibilities – I read each
rebranding above as a call for methodological spaciousness and receptivity.
I am reminded of a moment while shooting the Agnes project that feels
relevant to our conversation. In a preproduction meeting with Angelica Ross
(actor, activist, entrepreneur, moderator of the recent Presidential Forum
on LGBT issues, current star of American Horror Story**), I offered my
understanding of the person from history she was playing: “Georgia is
black, working class, partnered, ex-military…” Angelica soon interrupted me
to say, “I know her.” We smiled at each other, and I stopped my summary.
This moment is emblematic of the project method, which I situate in the
porous borders between autobiography and ethnography. The work is informed
by history, yet inhabited and ultimately haunted by the contemporary. As a
result, the logics of authorship are constantly shifting: between me, the
actors, the subjects from history, and the representational technologies.

** I would be remiss not to give you more reason to Google…

On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 1:24 PM Kale B. Fajardo <kalefajardo at gmail.com>

> Hi Everyone,
> Thank you, Margaret Rhee, for inviting me to participate on this dialogue
> on queer/ethnography/play and thank you to all who join in the conversation
> and read our posts!
> Like Erica, I'm returning to some things I started as a younger
> ethnographer/grad student and when I was more centrally situated in the
> field of cultural anthropology. I have been in the field of American
> Studies and Asian American Studies as an Assistant and now Associate
> Professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities since 2005 and my
> work is pretty interdisciplinary. I'm now getting back into visual
> anthropology and photography (two things I felt strongly about as a grad
> student at UC, Santa Cruz, but didn't centrally pursue because my research
> on "Filipino seafaring, masculinties, and globalization" were already
> unwieldy and I was trying to "demonstrate mastery" in these areas, so I
> didn't prioritize visual anthro or photography. It was totally my loss!)
> To make up for lost time, these days, I'm thinking about Nikolai
> Ssorin-Chaikov's ideas around "conceptual ethnography." Ssorin Chaikov
> suggests that we think about ethnography as a kind of "conceptual art
> practice." This really speaks to me in how I have ben approaching
> ethnography and fieldwork (even prior to reading Ssorin-Chaikov). When I
> read it, I thought Wow! I've found my people in anthropology! (To be
> honest, I have really been more in conversations that are situated in
> Philippine Studies, Asian American Studies, and queer and trans studies),
> so it was really exciting to learn about Ssorin-Chaikov.
> I just got back from Astoria, Oregon where I played around with
> Ssorin-Chaikov's ideas concerning conceptual ethnography. (I'll explain how
> shortly.) I've also been inspired by Dawoud Bey's photographic practice in
> "Night Coming, Tenderly, Black" (2019) where Bey re-imagined what Black
> folks escaping slavery may have seen as they came up north. Most of the
> photos I saw in Night Coming, Tenderly, Black were photographed at night
> (b/c Black runaways/fugitives from slavery had to avoid getting caught.)
> In my case, I've been conducting ethno-historical research on Filipino
> migrant men in the 1920s and 30s who worked in Astoria's fish canneries.
> There's not a lot of research on this. I'm interested in the "down time"
> these men experienced (so *non-working time*). I'm interested in migrant
> moments of rest, reflection, pleasure, play, and stillness. What came to
> mind is that the Filipino men would have had down time before or after
> work. Thus, this past weekend, I took photographs at an old cannery site in
> Astoria on the Columbia River at dusk and at sunrise.
> I also used to work on a boat in the San Francisco Bay (at the National
> Maritime Museum - when I was ABD), so for me, doing photography at sunrise
> and dusk was super fun and reminded me of when I literally worked on the
> Bay and could watch the most beautiful sunrises. I set my alarm, packed my
> little dog, and went on a photographic-ethnographic "adventure" and thought
> about the Filipino men who used to work in Astoria's canneries.
> I'll be presenting some of these photos at the upcoming AAA meetings in
> Vancouver, BC. Hope this sparks some other thoughts in folks. To be
> continued...
> Best,
> Kale
> On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:50 PM Chase Joynt <chase.joynt at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Hi all,
>> Thanks so much for the invitation to join you this week. My current film
>> project, Framing Agnes, is inspired by years of ongoing research in the
>> archive of Harold Garfinkel, a sociologist working at the UCLA Gender
>> Clinic in the 1950-60s. Garfinkel’s 1967 case study of Agnes is broadly
>> understood as the locus classicus of sociological research on transgender
>> people, as well as the building block for social constructionist theories
>> of gender. The film utilizes the continued relevance of Agnes as a
>> springboard to consider the legacy of transgender representation in the
>> contemporary moment.  Made in collaboration with University of Chicago
>> sociologist Kristen Schilt, the film reveals never-before-seen case files
>> we found alongside Agnes in the archive, and charges contemporary
>> trans-identified artists with the task of inhabiting these historical
>> subjects. When exhibiting the work in public, I often encounter questions
>> about ethics and authenticity, and am excited by the ways in which the
>> project puts pressure on people’s understanding of historical truth.
>> Narrations-of-self produced in clinical settings for the purpose of seeking
>> approval for services are never authentic, but rather performative and
>> strategic, ever mediated through the logics of the surveilling system. (For
>> further reading, Dean Spade’s ‘Mutilating Gender’ is a great exploration of
>> these stakes, and in fact uses the case of Agnes as example.) As we
>> continue conversation this week about play, I’m interested in these
>> pressure points, and the ways in which art/moving image/collaboration can
>> make visible the structural interferences which impact the telling of any
>> history.
>> A trailer for Agnes is available on my website, should it be of interest:
>> Chase joynt dot com.
>> On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 10:40 AM Jerry Zee <jzee at ucsc.edu> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Hello all, and thank you for having me,
>>> I’m looking forward to riffing along with others. But first, a few
>>> thoughts on ethnography, lightly sparked by the soft injunction to think
>>> with Erica’s skating as play, and how this sits with, skirts, or displaces
>>> ethnographic practice.
>>> I’m trained as an anthropologist, with ethnography as the methodological
>>> center of that disciplinary practice. What people call ethnography might
>>> mean a lot of things. For some people it stands of a qualitative research
>>> practice, opposed to, say, surveys, and oriented toward truth at granular
>>> scales. For others it’s a kind of deep hanging out, a phrase that suggests
>>> both ease and rigor, which gets at something of the weirdness of
>>> ethnographic work. To me, I like to think of ethnography as a work of
>>> encounter. More than a question of data gathering, it’s a matter of the
>>> thought or insight or realignment that could not have happened unless you
>>> were there, somewhere. It’s a work of allowing your world and thinking to
>>> be permutated by someone else’s.
>>> Two quick thoughts. My work involves exploring political, cultural, and
>>> ecological worlds that take shape with strange modern weather. I’m
>>> especially interested in massive dust storms that form in China’s interior
>>> hinterlands, pass over the country, then surge across the Pacific. As they
>>> do, they create unexpected relations, reorganize the conditions of
>>> political and physical life, and have folks turning their attention to the
>>> places where earth and sky become one another.
>>> I realized as I was working that I wasn’t studying, say, scientists or
>>> farmers interested in storms. Instead, I was moving through a weird crew of
>>> folks who were perplexed by dust, but in ways that were different than I
>>> was. Learning about those reorganized mine, offering me weird an unexpected
>>> ways of thinking about materials, or sometimes finding myself deploying
>>> some idea that had come through the attention of some people to their land
>>> to suddenly understand air differently. Ethnography here: a play of
>>> displacements, bound in a delicate parallax toward the same thing.
>>> And to return to Erica’s skating and the matter of courage. I think it’s
>>> interesting because *doing *ethnography has sometimes felt like play,
>>> but, during fieldwork, not often like fun: more like an activation of every
>>> kind of latent social anxiety. Other people describe it as developing deep
>>> friendships, which sometimes happens. But for me it was emotionally complex
>>> and often disassociating, including that it involved me being not-out for
>>> the first time in my adult life. I wonder what courage in such a conundrum
>>> may have looked like.
>>> On Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 10:00 AM Erica Rand <erand at bates.edu> wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> Hi everyone,
>>>> Thanks for the opportunity to join the conversation on queer
>>>> ethnography, methods, and play. I’m thinking about this a lot lately, as
>>>> changes in my figure skating life and my body—one chased and avidly
>>>> pursued; the other one involuntary/unsought—have caused me to return to
>>>> (re-up and revisit) an autoethnographic project begun in 2005 that turned
>>>> into “Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the
>>>> Ice” (2012).
>>>> That project, which involved participant-observation research in  adult
>>>> (ie grown-up vs triple-xxx) figure skating, grew partly from my desire to
>>>> play more. Maybe I could be brave enough to compete if I had a research
>>>> project to help me overcome fear and shyness. Plus, I could justify skating
>>>> as my job. (No I can’t join you in pseudo-collaborative institutional
>>>> planning; I have to work on my loop jump and camel spin.)
>>>> Now I generally skate for pleasure only. Pleasure sort-of in that
>>>> skating way: You’ve got to be up for cold, bruises, frustration as well as
>>>> exhilaration, thrill, wind on your skin. I’ve got to wrest queer femme
>>>> pleasures, and they are mighty, from figure-skating’s tweaked version of
>>>> racialized heterofemininity. Boyish figure made girlish ideal through
>>>> athletic necessity. Muscle development thwarting white fragility oops
>>>> balletic grace.
>>>> Then this happened: I started skating pairs with a non-binary skating
>>>> partner. Navigating the rules itself will be interesting. Start with gender
>>>> markers that do and don’t match gender identities, and with neither markers
>>>> or identities adding up to the M/F norm for testing and competition. (But
>>>> where, how, what is written in the rulebooks, not totally clear.)
>>>> And meanwhile this happened: my body hip-checked my queer gender when
>>>> menopausal hormone changes disrupted a cushy gender/body relationship.
>>>> Then, take it all onto the ice. But our 300-word allotment is short!
>>>> More later.
>>>> Erica
>>>> --
>>>> Erica Rand
>>>> Professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Gender and Sexuality Studies
>>>> she/her
>>>> From: Margaret Rhee <mrheeloy at gmail.com>
>>>> Date: Mon, Oct 14, 2019 at 3:46 PM
>>>> Subject: Queer Ethnography, Methods, and Play
>>>> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>
>>>> Many thanks again to Maria, Lynne, Truong, and Kenji for this
>>>> discussion on Poetry and Play, I hope the conversation continues into this
>>>> week's continuation into play through the lens of queer and trans theory,
>>>> methods, and ethnography.
>>>> For this week and the month's discussion, we're interested in artists,
>>>> thinkers, and activists with practices that cross over boundaries and
>>>> intervene in dichotomous logics. With attention to justice, we explore how
>>>> multiple forms of art practices prompt us to reimagine different kind of
>>>> worlds, as strategy and survival. We're honored and grateful to our
>>>> participants this week Chase Joynt, Erica Rand, Jerry Zee, and Kale B.
>>>> Fajardo for engaging in this topic.
>>>> Through interventions in queer and trans film, archival research,
>>>> performance and writing in Chase's work that intervenes in the historical
>>>> archive, to embodied forms of ethnographic and auto-ethnographic queer
>>>> writing and athletics in Rand's interventions in skating, Kale's research
>>>> and visual ethnographic interests in environmental humanities with
>>>> photography and writing with the ocean, and the crossing social scientific
>>>> methods and borders through questions of the environment and Asia in
>>>> Jerry's scholarship and thinking.
>>>> Our participants provide vital interventions in their work. I invite
>>>> them to share further, and if and how play impacts their approaches and
>>>> creative practices?
>>>> *On Practice and Play: Gestures Across Genres *
>>>> In this month's -empyre- forum, we take up the question of
>>>> productivity and and the politics of play, and how playing across genres,
>>>> mediums, forms, disciplines, and departments, etc. makes for new kinds of
>>>> innovative art, thinking, and community; and in doing so, better intervenes
>>>> and gestures toward transformative futures. The current conspiracy-us
>>>> versus them- culture perhaps exemplifies the problem of singular thinking
>>>> and the need for creative, eclectic, and innovative practices more than
>>>> ever. We’re interested in artists, thinkers, and activists with practices
>>>> that cross over boundaries and intervene in dichotomous logics. With
>>>> attention to justice, we explore how multiple forms of art practices prompt
>>>> us to reimagine different kind of worlds, as strategy and survival.
>>>> Initially inspired by Tony Conrad's work, his practice spans across film,
>>>> music, writing, and sculptures, we playfully ask how play lends itself to
>>>> more libratory ways of creation and practice.
>>>> We begin with the first week on media and new media art in
>>>> conversation. with Tony Conrad's playful work across mediums, we then move
>>>> into a second week asking questions on poetry and playing across the
>>>> visual, cinematic, and theoretical, the third week is dedicated to the
>>>> theme of ethnography across forms such as photography, film, and poetry,
>>>> the forth week focuses on the ways artists advocate for decolonial and
>>>> racial resistance through playing across genres and forms. While seemingly
>>>> diverse, we hope the loosely organized topics will lend itself to
>>>> connections between the weeks, and across the genres and themes presented.
>>>> With attention to questions such as capital, creativity, institutional
>>>> critique, and justice, we’re honored to have the following artists and
>>>> thinkers join us for this conversation and reflect on the possibilities of
>>>> practice, gestures, and play.
>>>> We also invite our -empyre- subscribers, whose own work broadly
>>>> resonates with the themes of practice and play, to join the conversation.
>>>> What are the ways your practice has played or plays across genres? Have you
>>>> faced institutional challenges in crossing disciplinary divides, and if so,
>>>> how did you overcome them? Is play and practice productive? We explore this
>>>> topic of play through four loose themes. We welcome our guests and all -
>>>> empyre- subscribers to actively participate and post this month and
>>>> share your practices and experiences of playing across genres and any
>>>> questions that arise. We look forward to the conversation.
>>>> *Queer Ethnography, Methods, and Play *
>>>> *Biographies *
>>>> *Chase Joynt*
>>>> Chase Joynt is a moving-image artist and writer whose films have won
>>>> jury and audience awards internationally.  His latest short film, *Framing
>>>> Agnes*, premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, won the Audience
>>>> Award at Outfest in Los Angeles, and is being developed into a feature film
>>>> with support from Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch program. Concurrently,
>>>> Chase is in production on a feature-length hybrid documentary about jazz
>>>> musician Billy Tipton, co-directed with Aisling Chin-Yee. Joynt’s first
>>>> book *You Only Live Twice* (co-authored with Mike Hoolboom) was a 2017
>>>> Lambda Literary Award Finalist and named one of the best books of the year
>>>> by *The Globe and Mail *and CBC. His second book, *Conceptualizing
>>>> Agnes* (co-authored with Kristen Schilt), is under contract with Duke
>>>> University Press.
>>>> With projects supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the
>>>> Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Chase’s work is distributed by the Canadian
>>>> Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre
>>>> and VTape.
>>>> *Erica Rand *
>>>> Erica Rand is a professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Gender and
>>>> Sexuality Studies at Bates College. Her writing includes Barbie’s
>>>> Queer Accessories (1995), a study of the doll’s history and
>>>> manufacture in relation to corporate and consumer meaning-making; The
>>>> Ellis Island Snow Globe (2005), a queer, anti-racist alternative tour
>>>> of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty; and Red Nails Black Skates:
>>>> Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the Ice (2012), a collection of
>>>> short essays grounded in participant-observation research in adult figure
>>>> skating. She serves on the editorial board of Radical Teacher and is
>>>> currently working on The Small Book of Hip Checks on Queer Gender,
>>>> Race, and Writing, in which autoethographic fragments bump up against
>>>> other engagements, working to make muscle memory of experimentation against
>>>> traditional ideas of heft and fluff.
>>>> *Jerry Zee *
>>>> I am an anthropologist of environment and politics. I explore
>>>> embroilments of land and air as openings into political experiment. My
>>>> research tracks the substantial dynamics of sand, dust, and wind as a way
>>>> of gaining insight to contemporary environmental politics in China and
>>>> downwind.
>>>> I work, in my research, with scientists, engineers, foresters, farmers,
>>>> artists, and breathers of all kinds. Overall, I wonder over how an avowedly
>>>> post-natural contemporary meteorology displaces analytic habits and ways of
>>>> asking inherited from a more confident social science, and, through this, I
>>>> ask what anthropology has already been becoming in this strange weather.
>>>> *Kale Fajardo *
>>>> I'm an Associate Professor of American Studies and Asian American
>>>> Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. (Pronouns:
>>>> He/Him/His.) I received my PhD in cultural anthropology from the University
>>>> of California, Santa Cruz. In graduate school, I focused on visual
>>>> anthropology, postcolonial studies, gender/sexuality studies, and Asian
>>>> American Studies. I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Human Development
>>>> Studies from Cornell University, with concentrations in Southeast Asian
>>>> Studies and feminist studies. I'm currently working on my second book
>>>> entitled, _Fish Stories: Photos/Essays from St. Malo to Manila Bay_. In
>>>> this transnational research project, I engage with the “environmental
>>>> humanities” and I'm also returning to my past training and passions in
>>>> visual anthropology. In _Fish Stories_, I photograph, write about and
>>>> theorize the intimacies and interconnections between “Filipinx, fish, and
>>>> marine ecologies” (historical and contemporary), while also engaging with
>>>> anthropological debates about the “border zones between art and
>>>> anthropology practices” (Schneider and Wright, 2010). My methodological
>>>> (re-)orientation (that is, moving towards art/photography-as-anthropology)
>>>> is also informed by Tim Ingold’s notion that “artists and anthropologists
>>>> come to know…through an art of inquiry that emphasizes thinking through
>>>> making” (2013) and Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov’s concept of "ethnographic
>>>> conceptualism," which he defines as “ethnography conducted as conceptual
>>>> art.” _Fish Stories_ is also a homage to Allan Sekula and his book Fish
>>>> Story (1995). In _Fish Stories_, I include original photographs and written
>>>> essays on “siyokoys” (mermen) in Philippine visual media and folklore to
>>>> theorize human-fish-sea intimacies and queer/trans masculinities. I also
>>>> analyze and engage with ethno-historical images and photos of "Manila-Men”
>>>> sailors and fishermen and their descendants in the bayous and coastal areas
>>>> of Louisiana. These fishing grounds are adjacent to the contemporary “Dead
>>>> Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico (which cannot sustain marine life.) I also
>>>> analyze and engage with old snapshot photographs of Filipino migrant
>>>> workers who worked in salmon canneries in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
>>>> Currently, these are sites where salmon populations have significantly
>>>> decreased. Lastly, in _Fish Stories_, I return to the Philippines to
>>>> photograph and write about contemporary fisherfolk in coastal Bulacan
>>>> Province and the broader Manila Bay Area. Fisherfolk in Manila Bay are
>>>> stressed by global warming, rising seas, depleted fisheries, urbanization
>>>> and mega-regionalization, and marine pollution. On campus, I'm active in
>>>> Asian Studies + Environmental Humanities (ASEH) programming at the
>>>> Environmental Humanities Initiative.
>>>> --
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> empyre forum
>>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>>> --
>>> *Jerry Zee*
>>> UC Santa Cruz Anthropology Department
>>> 331 Social Sciences 1
>>> 702 College Nine Road
>>> Santa Cruz, CA 95064
>>> --
>>> *How we live like water: touching*
>>> a new tongue with no telling
>>> what we’ve been through. They say the is sky is blue
>>> *but I know it’s black seen through too much air*
>>> *.*
>>> *From "Untitled (Blue, Green, & Brown): oil on canvas:Mark Rothko: 1952"
>>> by Ocean Vuong*
>>> The Landscape Lab <https://landscapelaboratory.sites.ucsc.edu/>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>> --
>> chasejoynt.com
>> Director
>> Official Selection: 2019 Tribeca Film Festival
>> <https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/framing-agnes-2019>
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu


Official Selection: 2019 Tribeca Film Festival
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