Melissa Nolas and Christos Varvantakis
Recommended citation: Nolas, S-M., and Varvantakis, C. (2019). ‘‘Editorial’, entanglements, 2(2): 1-7.
We are really pleased to publish another exciting issue of entanglements.
In this issue of entanglements, drawing and illustration feature heavily, as do paper and filmic collages. At a time when practices of animation and the graphic novel are making their way into academic practices of communication and dissemination (see here, here, here, here, and here), it is especially exciting to have several contributions engaging with these artistic practices.
Cartoons and illustrations hold open the possibility of capturing fieldwork moments which are laden with affect and which lie slightly beyond comprehension (Bonanno), of continuing conversations with long-term interlocutors on potentially tricky topics (Theodossopoulous), and of bringing theory out of the university into the field and in so doing transforming and extending it, glancing at theory anew (Arican). These pieces engage with the potential of drawing – an old technology – as a way of capturing the hard to articulate and formulate, and in so doing enabling us and our interlocutors to make sense of our experiences and forge (joint) new meanings.
For anyone sufficiently intrigued about the potential of incorporating drawing and illustration into their own ethnographic practices, but worried that ‘they cannot draw’, Lynda Barry’s Syllabus would be an excellent place to start (circles and boxes can make people and from there, you’re flying).
Elsa Gilly’s contribution employs a mixed media wall-mounted collage to show and tell a story in which biography and history are woven together in the construction of nationhood. Comparably, the theme of collage also features in Man Cheong’s film A Useless Fiction, as subtitles in the filmmaker’s languages of references criss-cross our screens and a tale of composition in this issue that explore themes of place, memory, identity and the (im)possibilities of communication.
Boycott-Garnett describes the poetic wanderings and entanglements of the ethnographic (and qualitative) methods, in a deeply reflective and sensory piece of writing: ‘If I drink from her cup do I know her tastes?’
In a contribution to the récits section of this issue, Geska Helena Brečević and Robert Brečević reflect on magic, belief and traditional cleansing in rural Mexico and discuss the processes of making private matters public during a stint of fieldwork that coincided with the early days of parenting, blurring the boundaries between artist, fieldworker and parent. Filak explores how bringing her video camera into the tobacco fields of southeastern Bulgaria enabled her to gain a more embodied and sensory understanding of her research topic: the interweaving of longtime labour practices with regional identity and migration, and the use of visual ethnography capturing and creating a social memory in the making.
Finally, our two reviews by Chien Lee and Anna Pilson share reading and event participation experiences respectively, of a book and conference, both of which bring together the social sciences with the arts and humanities.
Meanwhile, it has been a busy year for the entanglements journal and team.
The entanglements team is growing again. Over the summer we were joined by Beth Logan, a professional librarian, to support our adventures and efforts in navigating the landscape of Open Access. Over the next year Beth will be looking at various indexing platforms for the journal, and we’ll be listing those on the website once we have been registered. We have also been joined by two new editorial board members: Isabel Machado, a Brazilian historian, living and teaching in Mexico, and Magali Peyrefitte, an urban sociologist and photographer currently at Brunel University in London.
The set up of the entanglements installation in the data cafe, Data Stories confestival. Video credits: Constantinos Diamantis
In June, we took part in the Data Stories confestival (conference and festival) organised by one of our editorial board members Penelope Papailias. The confestival took place in Volos. For the event we contributed an installation inspired by café culture: a table in the common area, where delegates, during coffee breaks, could find devices on which to read a sample of contributions to the journal, to listen to the accompanying audio of these pieces, to browse printed photographic material from these contributions, and to talk about the material encountered amongst themselves. With a nod to café culture and reading rooms as well as online browsing and digital reading practices, the installation folded together temporalities of past and present, online and offline practices of public participation. The installation featured articles by Kristin Koptiuch, Mihai Andrei Leaha, Panayotis Panopoulos and Paulina Semenec, and feedback from the organisers suggests that it was well received. Christos also participated virtually in the conference, sitting on a keynote roundtable, a format the confestival adopted in order to move away from the sole speaker keynote. Together with Steffen Köhn (Freie University Berlin), Maple Razsa (Colby College, Maine), Eleana Yalouri (Panteion University, Athens), and chaired by Penelope Papailias (University of Thessaly), the group discussed ‘networked images and participant ethnographies’, in which Christos shared experiences from the entanglements endeavour and engaged in discussions on doing and publishing multimodal ethnographic research.
In September, we participated in a one-day workshop entitled Academic Freedom, Academic Integrity and Open Access in the Social Sciences. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together European Open Access advocates and practitioners to discuss the future of academic publishing. The workshop was organised by LSE anthropologist Andrea Pia, and was attended by a number of other open access journals from across the social sciences, some established and some new kids on the block, including: Journal for Political Ecology (which has been publishing open access for 25 years!), Water Alternatives, Made in China, the British Journal of Chinese Studies, AllegraLab, ANUAC, the International African Institute, and Roadsides. We were also joined by colleagues from UCL and LSE Presses, Libraria, Knowledge Unlatched, as well as librarian colleagues from LSE who were joined by Beth Logan, the Open Access Fellow at entanglements. Melissa presented on the experiences of entanglements so far; it was a stimulating event where the challenges and joys of open access journal publishing where openly shared amongst those present. We learnt a lot, not least that there isn’t one way to do open access and that many of us are struggling with similar problems. Watch this space for further developments from the workshop.
In our last editorial we discussed the possibilities of ‘another review process’. One of the claims we made was that we endeavoured to create a more appreciative form of feedback to authors. We, however, forgot to close the feedback loop internally with our editorial board both in terms of getting feedback on their first experiences of reviewing for entanglements, as well as us giving them our feedback on how that round of reviews had gone. This, in turn, prompted us to also elicit further feedback from authors who have had their work published in the journal. It is important that in any attempt to change the current culture of peer review is that we remain open to ongoing conversations, reflection and learning from all who are participating in that process and that the process is adapted as necessary. To this effect we have set up a short feedback page for authors and encourage anyone who has published with us to date to submit any reflections they have on the process and their experiences.
We would like to also acknowledge that the #hautalk is back again. We believe that the affair is a significant one, with immense implications for anthropology but also wider implications for OA publishing, and an opportunity to discuss openly the place of patriarchy, seniority and western authority in academia. This is an issue that is of course too important to be left to libel, reactionary and superficial journalism, the article on the issue recently appearing in Quillette being a case in point. The coverage of #hautalk in question also revealed yet again that the value of whistleblowing for public life is little understood and much less protected. On the other hand, we were really pleased about the EASA’s recent announcement of a review panel to investigate the HAU affair (2011-2017). We maintain that the EASA is an appropriate professional body to investigate the affair, particularly as HAU’s internal investigation (and whatever has followed by the journal or the society for ethnographic theory) has failed to provide any meaningful answers and recommendations for good practice that might ensure that others do not have similar experiences in the future. The fact that one of the biggest professional bodies for the anthropology community has made the decision to investigate the affair, in light of other concerned parties’ failure to do so, is a recognition of the issue’s seriousness and significance; it is a decision that we fully support and we will be following the process closely. In the meantime, we do remain optimistic, in that we too, along with Zoe Todd (and many others) think that ‘anthropology is already heading in a different direction than the one elite anthros are desperately clinging to.’
Finally, it is with great sadness that we note the passing of Gunter Kress, a pioneer in the field of multimodal research and communication and author of “Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication” (2009) and “Multimodal discourse: the modes and media of contemporary communication” (with Theo van Leeuwen, 2001). His work explored the interaction of the multiple modes at play in communication and how they are socially shaped. He argued that meaning-making is always multimodal and that ‘there is no meaning without framing.’ He also established (with Carey Jewitt) the Centre for Multimodal Research at the Institute of Education at UCL in 2006 – the first centre of its kind.
Dr Sevasti-Melissa Nolas is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC funded Connectors Study. Melissa has an interdisciplinary background in the social sciences and has been carrying out multimodal ethnographic and other qualitative research since 2000 focusing on human agency and everyday life. Previous research has engaged critically with the topics of child, youth and family welfare, well-being, and social support. Her current research explores the relationship between childhood and public life and political activism across the life course.
Dr Christos Varvantakis is an anthropologist, working as researcher at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has a BA in Sociology (University of Crete, Greece), an MA in Visual Anthropology (Goldsmiths, UK) and a PhD (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany). His research focuses on the intersections of childhood and public life, politics and urban environments, as well as on visual and multimodal research methodologies. He has carried out ethnographic research in Greece, India and Germany over the last 15 years. Christos is a founding member and the Head of Programming of Ethnofest, an international festival of ethnographic film held in Athens, Greece every year.