What does this text suggest we ask about visualization in ethnography?


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Isabelle Soifer's picture
January 20, 2020

Gordon calls on social scientists to consider a different way of seeing that is less mechanical and that negotiates the unsettled relationship between what we see and what we know. As she asserts, "The blind field and its fundamental imbrication in the visible field is what we are aiming to comrpehend. The blind field is what the ghost's arrival signals" (107). It calls on us to see both what is hypervisible and what is missing in visualizations, whether photographs or other materials that emphasize the visual sense. How might get at a knowledge that also acknowledges? That is what the text is asking that we get at. Such is particularly important in places with heavy power dynamics and histories of dispossession. It calls on us to recognize the manners in which those in power utilize the visual to make oppression less visible. And for us to work on avoiding the deployment of such power for our own gains, in our own projects. Introducing the examples of Valenzuela and Morrison's works, Gordon suggests that they have a way of seeing that "does not just disclose the evidence of things not seen, neglected and banished: it illuminates profanely" (203). What do visualizations obscure even as they attempt to show? How might we alter our ways of seeing to visualize the haunted?