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Into Unknown Parts

A film program and conversation about indigenous life under colonialism and the politics of care

Fields of Knowledge
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Health Ecologies Lab

Organizers

Sheila Shankar, Aaron Levy

Opens to public

04/11/2018

Time

6-8pm

Address

Slought
4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Tags
  • Care
  • Health
  • Listening

Slought and the Health Ecologies Lab are pleased to announce Into Unknown Parts, a film program and conversation about indigenous life under colonialism and the politics of care, on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 from 6-8pm. The program will begin with a screening of the film, followed by a discussion with director and scholar Lisa Stevenson and others. This program is presented with Tuttle Residencies at the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities (Haverford College), the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Into Unknown Parts examines the Inuit experience of being forced to leave their home communities and live for an undetermined period of time in a southern tuberculosis sanatorium. Rather than a straightforward expository narrative, the film hopes to capture one of the most striking aspects of the dislocation this produced: the way the possibility of communication, verbal and non-verbal, was put into question.

Stevenson's recent book Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic (2014) is a haunting ethnographic journey through the tuberculosis epidemic from 1940s to the early 1960s, as well as other historical moments when life for the Canadian Inuit community has hung in the balance. In particular, she addresses the suicide epidemic from the 1980s to the present, where the biopolitical state's determination of what makes a life worth living has had devastating effects for the community as well as for embodied experience, communication, and kinship. Along the way, Stevenson troubles our commonsense understanding of what life is and what it means to care for the life of another.

Through close attention to the images in which we think and dream and through which we understand the world, Stevenson describes a world in which life is beside itself: the name-soul of a teenager who dies in a crash lives again in his friend's newborn baby, a young girl shares a last smoke with a dead friend in a dream, and the possessed hands of a clock spin uncontrollably over its face. In these contexts, humanitarian policies make little sense because they attempt to save lives by merely keeping a body alive. For the Inuit, and perhaps for all of us, life is "somewhere else," and the task is to articulate forms of care for others that are adequate to that truth.

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Lisa Stevenson is Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. Her book Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic (University of California Press, 2014) won the 2015 Victor Turner Book Prize.

Her current ethnographic film project, Into Unknown Parts, was recently screened at the Margaret Mead Film Festival (2017). For the 2017-2018 academic year Stevenson is a Mellon New Directions Fellow, studying filmmaking in order to better use the power of film to capture the lived experience of violence.

Film

Lisa Stevenson and Eduardo Kohn
Into Unknown Parts
2015, 27 min

"We often feel a kind of dread rewatching Into Unknown Parts. The violence of friendliness is so raw. As one of the colonial agents says in a self-congratulatory way, 'I like to think... I did have a lot of friends in communities that I'd visit ... once a year.' The assumed transparency of communication is put into question in the film, as when young Inuit children wave silently at foreign doctors traveling north to stem a tuberculosis epidemic or a husband sends messages over thousands of miles to his wife in hospital.

Entering the nightmare space of colonialism, where 'friends' separate mothers from children to attempt a cure, by mobilizing the formal dream-like properties of montage, we hope to activate a feeling for the psychic life that colonialism takes. If this film can tap those associations of sounds and images that constitute the colonial nightmare, then we think it has succeeded."

— Lisa Stevenson and Eduardo Kohn


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