The UCL Multimedia Anthropology Postgraduate Lab: Research and Reading Group (UCL MAL) is a student-led research network aimed at developing innovative methods for anthropological practice. In a world where new technologies offer new ways to gather data and present research, UCL MAL experiments with mediums such as sound, film, VR/360 video, graphic novels, drawing, sculpture, and installations to explore how they can contribute towards alternative forms of anthropological thinking. If anthropology is to remain relevant today we must develop new forms of practice which can dialogue with more diverse audiences, collaborate with colleagues across disciplines, and disrupt existing models of thought.
UCL MAL draws on two theoretical movements that have been developed in dialogue with UCL Anthropology: Material Culture studies and the Ontological Turn. Material Culture studies has shown us that knowledge - both anthropological knowledge, and the knowledge of the people we study - emerges through relations to or with the material world, and the materials through which it is transmitted shape the ways in which it is received. This has led us to question the materiality of anthropological practice, and think through the relationship between our discipline’s materials and its concepts. The Ontological Turn has drawn our attention to the importance of cultural - or ontological - translation, where ethnographic engagements with the concepts of others allow us to re-shape the anthropological concepts with which we began. While this approach has led to important new models for anthropological enquiry, these models remain presented through text, restricting the ways in which our thought may be subverted and challenged by the thought of the other.
We propose to further these theoretical movements by experimenting with a multimedia approach to anthropological research, broadening the language through which translations can take place. In doing so, we explore experiences of alterity that are not reducible to text, and open space for concepts that cannot be expressed in words. We argue that these material translations of others’ worlds allow us to further the decolonising work that the ontological turn has begun. Our aims at UCL MAL are therefore threefold: firstly, by exploring non-textual forms of communicating academic research, we seek to facilitate new methods of public engagement, ensuring that anthropological research can bring benefit to wider and more diverse audiences; secondly, in doing so, we aim to encourage greater interdisciplinary dialogue, fostering collaborative platforms to address the urgent questions of our times; finally, by broadening the legitimate language of academic discourse beyond text, we widen the scope of those able to participate, and the ideas that can be expressed, leaving room for “other anthropologies” to co-produce the conceptual diversity required for an anthropology of tomorrow.