Since 2012, we have carried out twelve months of urban anthropological research in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city and its economic and cultural center. Until February 2016, however, we had not once visited the country’s capital, Naypyitaw, a planned city of immense size. It had not been a priority for our work, but we also had not been really keen on visiting: when the former military government began to relocate the capital in November 2005, away from cosmopolitan, multireligious, multiethnic Yangon, located at the mouth of the Andaman Sea, to a previously more or less vacant inland area, most commentators had been dismissive, bemused, or outraged.
The planning of fieldwork in anthropology is always shaped by a combination of expectation, uncertainty, and adventure. Before I began my own fieldwork in Barcelona in 2013, I imagined it as a kind of organic process in which my relationship with the participants would flow through the application of particular methods. This idea made me think initially that the filming of a collaborative documentary would be the perfect means through which to explore the relationship between graffiti and the use of public space in Barcelona. Then this idea was transformed throughout my research into a changeable process shaped by my everyday life in the city. In this setting, I applied visual methods within different contexts such as collaborations with artists and collectives, walking routes, exhibitions, and alternative TV channels. This allowed me to get involved in multiple ways of making graffiti and to produce videos about them. I edited together this visual material together using the Korsakow software, and it was presented as the visual practice project for my PhD thesis in Social Anthropology with Visual Media at the University of Manchester. The result is an interactive film called “Walking in Barcelona,” which allows the viewer an exploration of the mutable and diverse nature of the city looking at the relations between surfaces, places, and people. Here I want to reflect on these experiences and on the application of audiovisual methods within them.
The literature on sustainable livelihoods in the field of development studies emphasizes the importance of fostering diverse sources of income for economic entities like individuals, families, and communities (Chambers and Conway 1992). Especially in rural areas, economic actors often cope with shocks and stresses by spreading their bets, using different forms of capital (such as human, economic, and physical) to produce specific livelihood strategies (Scoones 1998: 6–8). Some (see O’Brien Bernini 2015) have recognized the relevance of this approach to music making. Continue reading