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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Rumsby

End of year wrap up: illustrating anthropology, Being Human podcast, and articles

Can you believe it is already December! This year! Whoa. It is nearly over. I don't know about you but I am realllly looking forward to a break. With the first vaccine administered in Coventry this week (whoop whoop C.O.V) I am in hope of a turn in the Covid tide during 2021. I miss seeing people and hanging out so much. Nevertheless, I have to say that even though this year has been particularly challenging, there have been some great moments of creativity and fun. In this blog I want to highlight a few.

illustrating anthropology

At the beginning of this year I submitted some illustrations, drawn by Ben Thomas of my PhD research, into a competition commissioned by Laura Haapio-Kirk and Jennifer Cearns: Leach Fellows in Public Anthropology at the Royal Anthropological Institute. Laura and Jennifer curated an online exhibition illustrating anthropology which complimented a goal of mine this year to exhibit some of mine and Ben's work. Ben and I were thrilled to be selected to be part of this exciting project. The best thing about the exhibition was that soooo many amazing researchers and illustrators also contributed; it has been great to see so many academics pursuing illustration. Off the back of the success of the online exhibition, Laura and Jennifer curated an exhibition of selected works at the OpenEyeGallery in Liverpool on the 15th - 30th November 2020 as part of the @BeingHumanFest. For those of you who (like me) did not get to see this wonderful collection in person, below are a few snaps of the exhibition and a list of the anthropologists featured.


Illustrating Anthropology was due to move from Liverpool to Sheffield on the 8th December 2020 to the wonderful @blocprojects, but because of local covid restrictions the exhibition has been postponed until early 2021. I will update you on the new dates asap.

See the full exhibition online


illustrating anthropology podcast

In September I was invited as a guest onto the Being Human podcast. For this episode of 'Being Human' the panel, which also included the wonderful Dr Letizia Bonanno who is a medical anthropologist working on issues of care and pharmaceuticals, and Dr Benjamin Dix who is a senior fellow at SOAS, and is also founding director of PositiveNegatives, discussed how anthropologists are turning to illustration to tell the stories from their research. I really enjoyed talking about how drawings and comics can help to reveal the human lives at the centre of anthropology. You can listen to our conversation here

It was a particularly timely chat for me as I had just submitted an article to entanglements journal which offered a practical reflection of the process of what I call 'retrospective (re)presentation': using the visual to offer alternative modes of (re)presentation to the written ethnographic text.



This year I decided that waiting for an academic article to be published is like waiting for a bus: nothing, then - bam - three turn up (i.e. get accepted). Of the three, two are now out for you to read! Whoop. One is the abovementioned entanglements article entitled: ‘Retrospective (re)presentation: turning the written ethnographic text into an ‘ethno-graphic’. The aim of this essay is to unpack the process of ‘retrospective (re)presentation’. To encourage researchers who, like myself, have little experience but a desire to work with visual modes of representation, to experiment with non-academic collaborations. Experimentation is made easier with an example of ‘how to’. To this end I invite you into my incomplete journey of co-creating an ethno-graphic novel. In particular, if you have not set out initially to contribute to graphic anthropology, or are not using drawings as observant tools for recording scenes in fieldwork, I hope to demonstrate how this endeavour can be undertaken retrospectively, drawing attention to the details of collaboration between author and illustrator. You can read it here

The second article Informal Christian education and emerging aspirations among de facto stateless children living in Cambodia was part of a special issue on ‘Youth, Aspirations and the Life Course: development and the social production of aspirations in young lives’ edited by Nicola Ansell, Peggy Froerer and Roy Hujsmans for the European Journal of Development Research 33(1). This paper foregrounds children’s experiences and argues that despite appearing to be ‘stuck’ in a position of liminality, de facto stateless children have much to teach us about the differing roads to aspiration. An analysis of the everyday lived realities of Cambodia’s stateless children reveals how religious identity, specifically through Christian conversion, becomes central to how their aspirations are socially produced, and how these aspirations come to assist them in navigating ethnic and institutional exclusion.

You can read the introduction to the special issue here What was lovely about this issue, apart from working with an incredibly supporting team of editors, was discovering that I was publishing alongside an old friend Lisa Rodan from my MA days at Goldsmiths. Small world.

The third article will not be out until 2022! It's entitled: ‘Children’s Experience and Practice of Belonging: the realities of integration among de facto stateless Vietnamese children in Cambodia’. This article will featured in another special issue on 'Children and Youth in Asian Migration: States, Families and Education' edited by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, Nicola Piper, Sari K. Ishii, and Carolyn Choi in positions: asia critique - watch this space!

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