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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Rumsby

Ethno-graphic Collaborations: Crossing Borders with Multimodal Illustration

I am really excited to share a special issue recently published with TRAJECTORIA.

During a time when anthropologists are discussing the value of multimodal outputs and whether they should be valued similarly to text-based journal articles, it is exciting to see journals like TRAJECTORIA embrace and promote open access multimodal research.

Edited by the wonderful Laura Haapio-Kirk this special issue, ‘Ethno-graphic Collaborations: Crossing Borders with Multimodal Illustration’, presents and explores four different modes of anthropological collaboration through illustration. There are two artist-researcher collaborations, and two other pieces that expand the meaning and remit of collaboration through graphic ethnography across space and time. The subsequent video discussions consider the potential impact of interdisciplinary collaboration on the way anthropology is conceptualised as a discipline, and on the way it affects the world.

Artist-Researcher Collaborations


Waters of Death and Life: The Evolution of an ‘Ethno-Graphic’ Charlie Rumsby Sociological Review Fellow, Keele University Ben Thomas Independent Digital Illustrator

I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to film a discussion between myself and digital illustrator Ben Thomas who I collaborate with. Our conversation focused on issues of representation, contrasts between illustrating fiction and non-fiction, and Ben's motivation to collaborate with an academic to share research findings Listen here In this issue, Ben and I offer a behind the scenes tour of some of our work as we create an 'ethno-graphic' from my research with stateless children in Cambodia.

Turning Points

Laura Haapio-Kirk Department of Anthropology, University College London Megumi Ito Independent Artist

Following on the theme of artistic collaborations, Laura Haapio-Kirk was joined by artist Megumi Ito to discuss their collaboration. In this case Megumi’s autobiographical painting was used by Laura as the basis of object elicitation during an interview, the results of which can be heard in the audio clips embedded in Megumi's painting featured in this issue. Listen here

Discussing Multimodal Illustration


What I love about this issue is the approach. We went right back to basics working through the foundational questions that have informed our visual experiments and dialogues. You, as students, teachers, or researchers, can engage with the special issue by thinking about such questions as:

Laura Haapio-Kirk, Charlie Rumsby and José Sherwood González

Laura Haapio-Kirk, Charlie Rumsby and José Sherwood González

Laura Haapio-Kirk and Dimitrios Theodossopoulos

Graphic Ethnography across Space and Time


There is a second type of collaboration visible in the contributions of this special theme. It involves the relationship between an ethnographer-artist and the people in the field. José Sherwood González used his captivating drawings to illustrate Mexican stories of migration told by his family, but also, and more importantly, to elicit commentary and reactions from them.

Story of Mirrors: Together They Cross the Border

José Sherwood González

School of Digital Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University

Tracing the lines from Mexican oral storytelling traditions to pre-Hispanic codices, colonial ex-voto paintings, satirical nineteenth-century grabados and twentieth-century superheroes, this interactive comic explores the shifts in perception from orality to visuality to ethnographically represent intergenerational storytelling and Mexican family myths.

Produced by Sherwood González, this audio-visual multimodal ethnography explores different conceptions and perceptions of the stories told about how Chucho and Manuela (Sherwood Gonzalez’s great-grandparents) met. Anonymising family storytellers as calaveras and luchadores (skulls and Mexican wrestlers), this graphic narrative brings together audio from the first attempted ‘talking heads’ film that when viewed by the older generation of the family was disputed and said to be ‘untrue’ (see Sherwood González 2022).

Collaborative Experience in Graphic Ethnography: Emulating Political Cartooning

Dimitrios Theodossopoulos

School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

In Theodossopoulos' work discussed with Laura here he realised that drawing to storyboard the theatre play of a Greek playwright was not merely a gateway to participatory fieldwork, but also an opportunity to register the sociological insights of his respondents. In this collaborative manner, the narratives of the ethnographer and the playwright came closer together to articulate a critique of austerity from the grassroots. Through its immediacy, the graphic medium can draw forth the analytical perspectives of people who are participants in the research process, unsettling the politics of authorship in ethnographic representation.


This special theme of TRAJECTORIA is published in ‘a special moment’ for Graphic Ethnography: a point in time when multimodal approaches to ethnographic practice have become not only popular, but also more widely recognised within Anthropology and other ethnography-friendly disciplines (Sociology, Human Geography).

The special theme has captured this creative moment by making available a collection of short articles, graphic-ethnographic commentary, graphic-animations, sound-image installations, and video discussions—all of which provide thoughtful reflection upon graphic-ethnographic practice and showcase its collaborative potential.

A special issue like this one speaks to the possibilities of graphic anthropology and unearths its multimodal gifts. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, share it!

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