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Enthusiastic facilitator, reluctant anthropologist

Sobers, Shawn

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Shawn Sobers
Professor of Cultural Interdisciplinary Practice


After 17 years of working in community media video projects as a facilitator and later as a researcher, I felt the time was right to now reconnect with my own creative practice of photography and filmmaking. As a facilitator I was ever conscious of the power dynamics involved, and went to
great efforts to support workshops from the back, foregrounding the participants own creative ideas and directions, rather than leading from the front with my own agenda. As a ‘maker’, the principles that informed my work in community media projects and drew from my research, now inform my approach to my arts practice, which I position within the discourse of visual anthropology, drawing
on the methods of participant-observation, auto-ethnography and participatory approaches to involvement.

Paradoxically this embrace of anthropology coincides with observations I made, that since approximately 2004 onwards publicly funded community media video projects themselves were becoming more like pieces of anthropology. Driven by New Labour policies and influences, young people became the new natives, and participatory media projects were mobilised to gather their voices, in creative forms of anthropological consultation. This paper discusses these tensions between community media and anthropological discourses, not avoiding the critiques that the former aims to be highly inclusive, with the latter accused of exploitation. I argue that the principles of community media could be employed more to inform models of auteur arts practice, along with the lessons of post-colonial anthropology.


Sobers, S. (2013, July). Enthusiastic facilitator, reluctant anthropologist. Paper presented at International Visual Sociology Association

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name International Visual Sociology Association
Start Date Jul 8, 2013
End Date Jul 10, 2013
Publication Date Jul 8, 2013
Publicly Available Date Jun 7, 2019
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords community media, visual anthropology, participatory media, alternative media, media facilitation
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Conference for the International Visual Sociology Association


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