Sensory Ethnography Lab

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Sensory Ethnography Lab

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The Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) at Harvard is a unique collaboration between the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Visual & Environmental Studies (VES). Harnessing perspectives drawn from the human sciences, the arts, and the humanities, the aim of SEL is to support innovative combinations of aesthetics and ethnography, with original nonfiction media practices that explore the bodily praxis and affective fabric of human existence. As such, it encourages attention to the many dimensions of social experience and subjectivity that may only with difficulty be rendered with words alone.


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The Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) at Harvard is a unique collaboration between the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Visual & Environmental Studies (VES). Harnessing perspectives drawn from the human sciences, the arts, and the humanities, the aim of SEL is to support innovative combinations of aesthetics and ethnography, with original nonfiction media practices that explore the bodily praxis and affective fabric of human existence. As such, it encourages attention to the many dimensions of social experience and subjectivity that may only with difficulty be rendered with words alone. SEL provides an academic and institutional context for the development of work which is itself constitutively visual or acoustic — that is conducted through audiovisual media rather than purely verbal sign systems — and which may thus complement the human sciences’ and humanities’ traditionally exclusive reliance on the written word. The instruction offered through SEL is thus distinct from other graduate visual anthropology programs in the United States in that it is practice-based, and promotes experimentation with culturally-inflected, nonfiction image-making.

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