Blog Archives

Staying Focused

by Maria Sharova

These first few weeks of school have been crazy—between family issues, the GRE, and my amazing new internship at the U.S. Global Change Research Program, I am finding it difficult to sit down and flush out ideas for longer than an hour at a time. But I have made some progress!

Maiombe Forest, Angola

Maiombe Forest, Angola

When I left off my Independent Project last semester, I had compiled a series of 10 photos from Angola and Mozambique depicting visual change over time—whether it be environmental, political, or economic. This semester, I am working on my honors thesis, which involves the same set of images, but with a different set of questions in mind. I will still be doing a comparison of old pictures to modern images, but I will be focusing on landscape photographs rather than portraits. The main idea I hope to address in my research is that of pictures being a legitimate source of information (in the way that quantitative measurements are). Can images created for non-research purposes be used as scientific evidence for identifying and quantifying environmental change? What changes can be measured based on images we have?

Zambia

Zambia

With this set of questions in mind, there are already several aspects of my research that I would like to identify more thoroughly. I would like to solidify my methods for comparing the images I select. What exactly will I be looking for between the old photograph and the new photograph? Erosion? Change in water? Change in crop yield? Change in crop type? This will of course depend on the images I select. Furthermore I would like to identify methods of quantifying that change. Will I be literally taking a ruler to the picture? Most likely not, but how will I quantify change in the photographs? Unlike last year, I am not confining myself to a specific country—instead I am working with the full range of images I have.

Elming Beach Area, Western Region. Ghana

Elming Beach Area, Western Region. Ghana

 

I have a few meetings set up with other faculty members who have done some visual anthropology, and I am excited to discuss their methods and projects with them. My project, I feel will be significantly different, since I am viewing my analysis as a form of citizen science, without the citizens knowing that they are participating in research. Social networks and social media can be regarded as an untapped data source. People are constantly taking pictures of the places they visit, so developing a methodology for using those photographs to analyze changing climates could be very interesting and useful to scientists. Here’s to hoping the next few weeks go well!

 

ANTHRO+ to highlight visual anthropology research

Maria Sharova will be presenting the results of her visual analysis of historic photographs from Mozambique and Angola at ANTHRO+, a conference hosted by the graduate student organization, PASA, in UMD’s Department of Anthropology.

Public Heritage: A visual study of changing environments in Mozambique and Angola

Mozambique and Angola gained their independence from Portugal in 1975, but subsequent political and economic events have significantly affected the governance of their natural resources and landscapes. Chambers (2006) notes that governments and other institutions often craft specific images to promote a public heritage that will “drive broader socio-political and socio-economic aims.” Others have used such public heritage imagery to assess the success or failure of national and international programs like poverty elimination or crisis management. In this presentation, I compare visual public heritage images produced by Mozambique and Angola on the cusp of their independence with contemporary images of the same or similar locations found on the Internet to analyze how differences in politics and economics at the national level have affected local natural environments over the past 30-40 years. What did these countries make available about their environmental public heritage in the late 1960s – early 1970s? What does this say about what they valued as public heritage? Have these places flourished or deteriorated? Are these places still valued as public heritage today? What, if any, connections between broader political and economic events and environmental governance can be made through this analysis?

Changes: Navigating Relationships in a Changing Environment, Margaret Brent A Room, STAMP, 9:30-10:30AM

Bilene, Mozambique (early 1970s)

Bilene, Mozambique (early 1970s)

More information about the conference can be found in the Schedule Anthroplus 2014.  Conference highlights include:

  • Powered by Pecha Kucha Session
  • Interactive alumni-student workshop on marketing your anthropology background
  • Special session on labor and environment, featuring music, narrative and traditional papers
  • Storytelling session, reprised from last week’s SfAA Annual Conference
  • Poster and photography session
  • And of course our keynote speaker, Dr. Wilton Martinez, President of the Center for Visual Anthropology of Peru, speaking on his work in applied visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking

All session titles play on the songs of David Bowie.  😉  Who says conferences have to be boring?