Selves and Others

A conversation and film screening about the violence and trauma of war and dispossession


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Memory
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Leeway Foundation, Twelve Gates


Wazhmah Osman, Aaron Levy


Department of English, University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce Selves and Others, a conversation and film screening about the violence and trauma of war and dispossession, on Thursday, April 21, 2016 from 6:30-8:30pm. Presented in partnership with Leeway Foundation and Twelve Gates, the program will begin with an excerpt from Postcards from Tora Bora and the short films My Life As A Poster and Norman Schwarzkopf Made Me Gay. The screenings will be followed by a public conversation with filmmakers Wazhmah Osman, Shashwati Talukdar, and Sara Zia Ebrahimi, as well as Faye Ginsburg, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Graduate Program in Culture and Media at NYU, who will also moderate the program.

According to filmmaker and scholar Trin T. Minh-Ha, an "ideal insider" is a subject whose otherness conforms to what is expected and who minds his or her own business, thus satisfying the dominant culture's relationship to difference. Averse to conflict, always problem-solving, and respectful of power relations, the ideal insider faithfully represents the Master culture's image of otherness.

In Writing Against Culture, Lila Abu-Lughod proposes the term "halfie" to refer to "people whose national or cultural identity is mixed by virtue of migration, overseas education, or parentage" and who reject the conformism of the ideal insider. Subjected to global forces that have rendered them dispossessed and homeless at a young age, halfies occupy an ambiguous terrain where opposing identities collide internally and externally. They are particularly aware of disparities in power relations, and are marked by a shifting sense of identity and a tendency towards humor, irony, and satire.

The conversation at Slought will engage the work and thought of three filmmakers who refuse to act as "ideal insiders," and instead identify as "halfies" and with the complexities of simultaneously belonging and not belonging. Through unconventional tellings, these filmmakers use animation, found footage, family archives, and newsreel to construct counter-narratives and recreate places that have been erased. In so doing, they help us to reconsider the concept of home not just as a physical but also as an emotional space. Here, filmmaking positions itself against dominant culture and functions as a mechanism for psychologically negotiating the violence and trauma of war and dispossession.

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Sara Zia Ebrahimi is a curator of film, visual art and new media and for over a decade has produced film screenings and exhibits in the Philadelphia area. Currently, she works as a Social Media Specialist at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Her short films have screened internationally.

Faye Ginsburg is an American anthropologist, and David B. Kriser Professor of Anthropology at New York University. She founded the Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU. Her research focuses on movements for social transformation, social anthropology, ethnographic film, ethnography of media, and indigenous media.

Wazhmah Osman is a filmmaker and Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies and Production at Temple University. Her research focuses on the politics of representation and visual culture. Her documentary Postcards from Tora Bora has screened in film festivals internationally.

Shashwati Talukdar is an India-born, academic-filmmaker based in New York City. Her work ranges from the documentary to the narrative and experimental, and has screened at the Busan International Film Festival, Margaret Mead Film Festival, Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and the Whitney Biennial.

"Feminists and halfies, by the way their anthropological practice unsettles the boundary between self and other, enable us to reflect on the conventional nature and political effects of this distinction and ultimately to reconsider the value of the concept of culture on which it depends. I will argue that 'culture' operates in anthropological discourse to enforce separations that inevitably carry a sense of hierarchy.

Therefore, anthropologists should now pursue, without exaggerated hopes for the power of their texts to change the world, a variety of strategies for writing against culture. For those interested in textual strategies, I explore the advantages of what I call 'ethnographies of the particular' as instruments of a tactical humanism."

-- Lila Abu-Lughod, "Writing against Culture" (1991)