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2017 Conf. Producing Ishaare: Filmmaking in a Ling. Ethnography w/ Deaf and Hearing People in Mumbai
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This presentation documents and analyses the process of filmmaking within a research project that documented linguistic strategies used during customer interactions and informal conversations between deaf and hearing interlocutors in Mumbai. Since these interactions involve the use of spontaneous and conventional gestures, a visual form of communicating, the use of video was central to the project, including the production of a 80-minute ethnographic film called ‘Ishaare: Gestures and Signs in Mumbai’. The aim of producing Ishaare was two-fold: firstly, the film was an important part of the methodology as a discussion tool, and secondly, it is key to the project’s dissemination strategy. The presentation reflects on the training and cooperation of the Belgian-Indian team; the positionality of the researchers; and recording, structuring, editing, and subtitling Ishaare. Furthermore, we illustrate how and why filmmaking needs to be situated within a wider linguistic ethnographic methodology, including participant observation and informal interactions without the presence of a camera; and exploratory discussions and after-film discussions to precede and complement the filmmaking, and to help identify the contours of the recorded data. The project was experienced as transformative: there are several ways in which the research has benefitted the Mumbai deaf community: such benefits included the training of five deaf cameramen. Finally, the presentation describes and analyses the way Ishaare was received by different groups in Mumbai, including the tension experienced by audiences who interpreted the film not only as descriptive but also as a critique; and how the film was used to elicit further data, with mixed results. In short, the presentation illustrates how filmmaking within a linguistic ethnography, in this case by a transnational team, can have an integral and fruitful role in a research project, and be experienced as transformative by both the research team and the audiences.
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