Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Humanistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Exchange
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
What happened last night? This panel proposes to look at nighttime activities—i.e. those that would traditionally be the the realm of mystery novels, horror movies and erotic tales—through an ethnographic lens. Inspired by, but not limited to, nighttime dream work, this panel brings into focus the hours of the day that have long been considered inaccessible--their outlines too hazy--to the ethnographic eye.
From Ecuador to Iran, we will travel through the night with our panelists. We will begin with an ethnographic and personal reflection on the night of the 2017 earthquake in Tehran, Iran, and then move on to a discussion of the secret, nighttime WhatsApp conversations that take place on mobile phones in a working-class neighborhood of Delhi, India. From there, we will travel to a beer tent in Yorkshire, England, where the members of a historical reenactment society gather at the end of the day to joke and jest about local history. Moving into the daylight hours, we will hear about the attempts of shamans in the Ecuadorian Amazon to drink special tea in the mornings to combat the effects of oil contamination on their dreams. We will conclude, in the Brazilian Amazon, with a group of male workers who are joking, over sweet morning coffee, about who crawled into whose hammock the night before.
How can we take seriously, ethnographically, the ephemeral events of the night? Though anthropologists have long considered the kinds of liminal spaces that are created through festivals and rituals to be a central object of study, this panel contends that the night creates an altogether different kind of liminality. Instead of a complete upturning of taboos, the night has a softer touch, temporarily relaxing daytime restrictions. Darkness and sleepiness soften the outlines of the self and Other. Unlike border-crossings and revolutions, these transgressions are far from permanent: they are ephemeral and often whimsical in nature. Taking this year's AAA theme to heart, this panel seeks to investigate nighttime "adaptations" of daily life. From joking relations to shamanism, from kinship to the anthropology of emotions, this panel uses the idea of “the night” to jostle traditional anthropological categories. In addition, the panelists will reflect on what kinds of methodology anthropologists might employ to study the night. Experimenting with a range of creative formats, the panelists will employ creative writing, photography, and film to capture nighttime in a more impressionistic way. With these considerations in mind, the panel proposes to bring into focus the various political and social re-imaginings that take place in these hours of half-slumber.