This visualization conveys ethnographic insight on a variety of levels. Using a photo of a woman’s one-stop archival shop allows the contributor to scale the conversation from these masses of printed paper to larger conversations around archival and data practices in not only environmental justice circles, but also academic spaces. Archival practices and vulnerabilities are in the forefront of this visualization, however, ethnographically, this photo conveys the affect of bureaucratic systems, compartmentalized expertise, and maybe even the repetitive nature of toxicity in its various forms.
I love how this image sinks us into the materiality of archiving a complex environmental problem. It communicates a "david vs. goliath" situation and forces us to imagine the enormity of information and knowledge that must be processed to politically contend with the chemical industry.
The image is powerful, but it is the caption which helps to extend its ethnographic insight, relating to toxic histories of colonialism as well as issues of environmental activism and justice. The image helps to convey "the grappling with toxicity that is not molecular," materializing Pm2.5 in its connection with the body.
This visualization works very well for presenting the ethnographic case. It shows the contradictions of Austin's "environmentally-conscious" reputation combined with policies of gentrification and exclusion, particularly against Latinos and blacks residents.
This is a nicely composed shot that juxtaposes a sillhouette of a male surfer in the foreground with appears to be a string of industrial facilities in the background across some sort of bay. The caption helpfully ties the various elements of the picture together in a manner that seems organic to the image even as it establishes the ethnographers' main themes. The position of the surfer in the shot reinforces that masculinity is the main subject here, but a kind of masculinity that must be constructed and sustained within a world largely beyond the control of any individual man. Here a masculine pursuit, often figured as an immersion of man in the strongest forces of the natural world, is being undertaken in the shadow of human forces that threaten to undermine it.
This image reflects the ethnographer's gaze, from above and behind, upon what is presumably a quotidian activity (one assumes that algae is being raked out of the river). It is interesting that the shadow of the ethnographer is literally present here, in the upper left corner of the image. Pollution in the form of discarded trash is visible in the frame, the most obvious reminder of the toxicity of the place. Equally indicative, however--as the caption makes clear--is the algae itself, which is thriving on untreated wastewater flowing into the river. The image raises questions about the various ways in which toxicity is made visible, and the instrumental role of the ethnographer herself in the process.
The caption builds nicely on the thoughts of the fisherman -- imagining how the place changed with the presence of a toxic facility. His statement gets at the heart of what we are trying to do in our own project, asking how a place becomes toxic, through which kind of dynamics. The image of the men at work contrasts slightly with the longer caption that describes how fishermen sit and reflect on their surroundings, providing the ethnographer with commentary. The daydreaming of a toxic-free place creates a nostalgic sentiment.
The answer that comes to my mind is ‘scale’, this image and caption introduce nicely the idea that the local ethnography is part of a global problem. One then wonders what is the scale of the environmental damage behind each of those petrochemical plants.
These visualizations are powerful in that they demonstrate how toxicity is not solely about chemicals, pollution, etcetera, but is a condition produced by social mechanisms of marking space (both literal and conceptual) in an oppressive fashion.
The interplay between visualisations' style, content and origin show the uncomfortable mixing of the political, the environmental, and the social. Like toxic air, the story of Delhi's air pollution slips easily across different conceptual boundaries. The story is one about atmospheres - undoubtedly there, and yet, impossible to grasp. Instead, the ethnographer gestures towards it with image and language. These are fictions showing the way towards a fact, and, simultaneously, obscuring it.
This set of visualisations advances understandings of what ethnography does. Its power to gesture, and its powerlessness to reveal a single 'truth' is manifested in this visual essay.
The sentiment is lodged between a feeling of impotence to know and to do something ('Miracle cures') and of potential revelation. I do not know where this polluted air comes from, and what it really is ('the elemental ambiguity of PM2.5') but the feeling is, if we keep looking, keep reading, there might be a thread to grasp hold of, which will lead us to the answer. Maybe ethnography is a bit like a postmodern novel, where the 'truth' remains forever beyond reach and we are left rumaging through the detritus, delightful and intriguing in itself.