Disfigured Memories is the ethnographic representation of a six-months anthropological research in the Archipelago of Sundarbans, West Bengal, India which I made before arriving at the Granada Centre. It is primarily a way of exploring the role of the memory and the inner landscape of the native women of the Sundarbans, and an attempt to describe the ways in which it seems to be bounded up and shaped in a system of local embodied forms of historically grounded socio-cultural dispositions. The photographs (mixing abstract and ethnographic genre conventions) are placed in conversation with additional narrative and non-narrative evocations through juxtaposition with five different kinds of text-based modes of representation: essay fragments, poetry, fieldwork diary, transcript of conversation, natives’ own spoken narratives and accounts. By means of the interaction of diverse forms of representational language, this book aims to rise a critical question: to what extent the co-presence of narrative and visual anthropological motives of representation can help anthropologists to make theoretical and ethnographic insights visible and legible? How visual anthropology can help to delve into question of memory and human suffering from a sensorial perspective of ethnographic inquiry?
From this point of view, through the alternation, interlocking, overlapping and encounter of narrative and visual ethnographic materials, Disfigured Memories intends to create a space of dialogue which may potentially help the audience to grasp something about human experience and suffering at a sensuous and affective level that often might be more difficult to be conveyed through the mere materiality of the written text. An anthropology in and through the visual image that may potentially serve as a way to offer the audience a space to create a direct and intimate relationship with people and place through the photographs and related descriptive notes. An anthropology in and through the visual image that may provide the anthropologist the means to amplify and share very concrete aspect of what it might mean to live as a women in an highly class and gender-based society. A site of representation that is meant to make the audience sensuously near to the embodied biographies and visual stories of women whose everyday lives seems to be intimately tided up and shaped by the materiality of the physical and socio-cultural environment in which they dwell.
- Mirco Polichetti