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naraya36

naraya36

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August 17, 2015

FieldworkNarratives – Summer Updates

August 17, 2015 | By | No Comments

During the Fall (2014) and Spring (2015) semesters as a CHI Fellow, I worked on developing my on-going project FieldworkNarratives –  a pictorial journal of my fieldwork experiences with the Chenchu community of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, India. Using Story Maps, an online tool that facilitates storytelling, I designed a simple narrative of several aspects of my fieldwork experiences keeping in mind young groups of people (13-20 years of age) as my target audience.

During the summer I reworked some bits of the project look to make it a little more academic. I have included a brief write-up on issues with essentializing indigenous communities, with a focus on the Indian context. I also added a more academic-looking “About Me” section. With making little changes through the project, I have tried to give this project a journal-publication look, albeit with more images than text.

This is the link to check out the final project: http://fieldworknarratives.matrix.msu.edu/

 

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May 22, 2015

Summer Project

May 22, 2015 | By | No Comments

For the past year I have been working as a CHI Fellow learning about different online tools to build various kinds of digital cultural interfaces. Through my work over the past nine months I developed my project Fieldwork Narratives, a pictorial journal of my fieldwork experiences with the Chenchu community of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, India. Using Story Maps, an online tool that facilitates storytelling, I have designed a simple narrative of several aspects of my fieldwork experiences keeping in mind young groups of people (13-20 years of age) as my target audience.

While this is an on-going project that I will continue building on as my work with the Chenchu progresses, I want to redo the look and structure of the current project to make it more scholarly. While my attempt to reach out to younger groups of people stays, I also want to give it a more academic touch to serve a number of purposes. One, being an academic, I think I will not be doing justice without incorporating this dimension into the project. Two, even though this is not the same as a publication, this is a sort of academic dissemination that warrants a more formal structuring that allows me to share my project with a more scholarly audience. Three, linked to the first two goals, this then adds more weight on my resume in terms of a scholarly endeavor.

My objective this summer is to make the current project look more like a journal publication, albeit with more pictures and less text.

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May 8, 2015

FieldworkNarratives

May 8, 2015 | By | No Comments

The Chenchu are one among several tribal communities who live in India. They are traditionally defined as a hunter-gatherer community, living primarily in the Nallamalai forests of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, India. However, such a definition provides a very limited understanding of who the Chenchu really are. There are various ways in which communities and groups of people are understood. Tribal and indigenous communities suffer from a very limited and narrow way of being represented and understood. While there are obvious historical and political factors that have contributed to such an understanding, it is my objective as an anthropologist, and someone who has an on-going relationship with the Chenchu to do my bit in dispelling these essentialized representations of the community. FieldworkNarratives is a project that is based primarily on this philosophy.

FieldworkNarratives is a pictorial journal of my fieldwork experiences with minimal text to provide basic information about the pictures. I have used StoryMaps, which is an online tool that facilitates storytelling to design my project. The project design is intentionally kept simple and straight-forward keeping in mind that my target audience is young groups of people between the age-groups 13-20 years. Moreover, I did not want to put too much emphasis on my own narrative, allowing instead for people to form their own ideas.

FieldworkNarratives in an on-going project that I will continue working on as my work with the Chenchu progresses. While this is a small step toward a larger goal which can only be fulfilled in collaboration with more people, I am excited about the launch of this project. The goal is to continue building on this through incorporating people’s suggestions as well broadening the scope of the project itself. For now, I am taking a moment to celebrate (i) my increased knowledge on cultural informatics and online applications, (ii) the first project of a digital format that I have ever created, and (iii) small victories toward long-term goals in my commitment of working with the Chenchu.

 

 

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October 27, 2014

More Stories, Better Representation?

October 27, 2014 | By | No Comments

I decided to use the blog space this time to talk about the idea of representing people in academic or non-academic contexts. A contested term in itself, “tribal communities” are among the most under-represented and misrepresented groups of people in India. Till I was sixteen years myself, I had never heard of tribal communities in India; an American friend  who knows my work is with tribal communities reported to me how he met a person from India who argued with him about the non-existence of such communities in contemporary India; my cousin, who is fourteen, and curious about who I work with failed to really comprehend, “who are these people?” I am working with; and I failed miserably in explaining in a way that seemed fair who I work with. If underrepresentation is one matter at hand, misrepresentation is another major issue to deal with. Websites, wikipedia, museums, movies – and any form of popular media available seem to depict tribal communities in the most static, essentialized, and detached ways.

All these reasons, and more, have made me want to make more people aware of who the tribal communities are, and educate better that there is no single way of understanding this broad group of people. However, this is no easy task! The challenge stems from several factors:

Who are the tribals? Is forest-dependence the only way to understand these communities? Does dependence on forests make communities “backward?” Does not living in forests make the people not tribal? Why do tribal communities have such “weird” customs and ways of life? Why don’t tribal communities want to “develop?”

These are a few among several strands of challenging questions that would need to be examined and explained – and all at the constant risk of misrepresenting the tribal communities myself.

This brings me to the final (forseeable) challenge I see for myself: How do I, as a scholar, and as a person actively engaged and working with tribal communities make sure to not misrepresent tribal communities myself? How does one go about ensuring this? This will be the biggest challenge in the project I envision for CHI. However, while there is no simple way of going about this, my means will be through incorporating as many stories, and as many perspectives about tribal communities as possible. Tribal communities, like every other group of people can be understood in a variety of ways. Focussing on one particular aspect is not only reductionist, but will perpetuate the essentialized and static ways in which communities tend to be understood. It is therefore my goal to present as diverse, and as “real” a picture of tribal communities as I can. I intend to do this mainly through stories collected from field work, and news paper articles. As I think this through some more, I will surely find more avenues to better represent the triabl communities of India.

In the meanwhile, here is something to watch: http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en