Graphic Anthropology
Development of graphic skills as an observation technique.

workshop of the Off The Beaten Track field school 2016

Hosted by
University of Leuven (Belgium)
Expeditions, Research in Applied Anthropology vzw

General Information
The use of sketches and drawings in anthropology and other social sciences takes us back to the early beginnings of the discipline and its naturalist legacy. But brushes and pencils soon disappeared from the anthropologists travel kit. Next to the rise and spread of photography, a verbocentric focus within our academic field was certainly a cause of this evolution.

Yet, graphic anthropology is being revamped, both from within the field of anthropology with established scholars like Manuel Joao Ramos making extensive use of drawings as a means to distribute research findings, as from within the field of comics, where the development of the (documentary) graphic novel has meant a move towards more investigative forms of storytelling. Graphic anthropology shows refreshing potential, as it can uniquely bring together ways of making, observing and describing. As a universal language, graphics can serve the democratization of knowledge and lead to a more collaborative practice of anthropology. For instance, drawings can be used in the field both as ice breakers and cultural brokers. Thinking even further towards comics-like research reports, it is not hard to see how this could facilitate the appropriation of research conclusions by one's informants, and thus helping academical knowledge when it leaves the ivory tower.

The project is a pilot project aiming to deepen insights about the possibilities and limits of graphic anthropology: can a comic book replace a scientific article? Are graphics equally useful to any research topic? Participants engaging in this project will explore the possibilities of drawing and sketching in field notes, self-reflections and research reports.

  • Development of graphic skills as an observation technique.
  • Through discussions and brain storming over freshly crafted drawings from the field, participants will create a common understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of graphic anthropology, specially when it comes to compare it with notes taking.
  • Exploring the grammar and vocabulary of comics and graphics novels.
  • Discussing methodological, epistemological and ethical issues of graphic anthropology.

Leading professors & researchers
Sam Janssen (Expeditions)
Kim Tondeur (Université libre de Bruxelles)
Dr. Maarten Loopmans (KU Leuven)

Practical Information
This workshop is part of the Off The Beaten Track field school. Registrations can be done on our website.

Information about the workshop
Kim Tondeur

Practical information about the project
Sam Janssen (program director)
Expeditions, Research in Applied Anthropology vzw

Session dates
June 10, 2016 - June 29, 2016
July 4, 2016 - July 23, 2016
July 28, 2016 - August 16, 2016