Feminist Sensory Ethnography: embodied filmmaking as a politic of necessity

A talk by Emily Hong and Elena Guzman about their feminist approach to ethnographic filmmaking.

This event will take place on Zoom at 11AM on October 3. Please note the Zoom venue and earlier start time, which we chose to accommodate our speakers’ various time zones.



About the talk:

In this talk, we call for a feminist sensory ethnography that centers relations of care, subjectivity, and power between filmmakers, film “subjects” and audiences. Through in depth discussion of two films, Smile4Kime (Guzman 2023) and Nobel Nok Dah (Hong, Lai, and Mihai 2015) we explore three techniques of feminist sensory ethnography–a multisensorial theory of the flesh, sensory accompaniment, and narrative intimacy–that draw on feminist and non-Western genealogies of sensory knowledge production. We see this move away from observational filmmaking as a “politic of necessity” (Moraga and Anzaldúa 2015) through which the sensory is imbued with embodied knowledge.


About the speakers:

Elena Herminia Guzman is an Afro-Boricua documentary filmmaker, educator, and anthropologist raised in the Bronx with deep roots in the LES. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University and is now an Assistant Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her ethnographic research focuses on the way Black women and non-binary people throughout the African diaspora use ritual performance in African diaspora religions as a means to forge Black feminist borderlands through spiritual crossings. Her film work centralizes the spiritual and magical of Black religious traditions throughout the African Diaspora. This includes her debut film Smile4Kime which is an experimental autoethnographic film that tells the story of how two friends transcend time, space, and even death to find hope and resilience through their struggles with mental illness. This work has received support from Black Public Media, Independent Public Media Foundation, Velocity, and Good Pitch Philly amongst others. She is also the producer and director of cinematography for a film called Conjure: The DocuSeries which explores the Black spiritual traditions of Hoodoo, Conjure, and Rootwork throughout the United States. This work has received support from the Crossroads Project at Princeton University and Center for Arts and Humanities at IU Bloomington.


Emily Hong is a Korean American visual anthropologist and filmmaker based in Philadelphia. Emily is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Visual Studies at Haverford College, a co-founder of Ethnocine and Rhiza Collectives, and a Leadership Team member of the Asian American Documentary Network. Informed by her experiences as a multiracial immigrant with ancestors on both sides of the colonial equation, her work seeks to challenge the colonial legacies of anthropology and documentary filmmaking by creating space to honor non-Western ways of knowing and being. Emily’s short films GET BY (2014), NOBEL NOK DAH (2015), and FOR MY ART (2016), have explored solidarity and labor, womanhood and identity in the refugee experience, and the gendered spectatorship of performance art, respectively. Her current feature project ABOVE AND BELOW THE GROUND features indigenous women and punk rock pastors leading an environmental movement in Myanmar. Emily’s work builds on over fifteen years of experience facilitating cross-cultural organizing and campaigns with grassroots social movements in Asia and the US with a focus on indigenous rights, environmental and economic justice. She has received support from the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, Bertha Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, and the Gotham Film & Media Institute.


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