The paradoxes of applying ethnography at a distance: Dürer’s Rhinoceros

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Miralles Terán De Wilkin, M. 2021. The paradoxes of applying ethnography at a distance: Dürer’s Rhinoceros.
AuthorsMiralles Terán De Wilkin, M.
TypeSpeech
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In 1515, Albrecht Dürer received news of an animal encased in armour: it was an Indian rhinoceros which was being transported towards Rome as a present for Pope Leo X. The description and a sketch of the animal, arrived in Dürer’s hands, he made a woodcut that Europeans came to adopt as the true depiction of the rhinoceros. Dürer would never see an actual rhinoceros in his life. Nevertheless, this legendary woodcut creature shaped the public perception of a rhinoceros for the next two centuries. Is it art’s idealisation of the natural world the answer to overcoming distance? Or are metaphors just another type of truth?

Prevented by the Covid-19 circumstances from going out to the field, Dürer’s Rhinoceros has become more than a metaphor for my project. My research included the production of a documentary in-situ, which soon changed for the production of a documentary at a distance. The different narratives created by the socio-cultural context and the documentary filmmaker’s commitment to truth hang over her like a sword of Damocles. I attempted to find solutions and other ways to reproduce the same proximity at a distance resourcing to online/research. In a moment of enthusiasm, and encouraged by early investigations, I wrote: ‘To recreate the proximity that this research needs, it is necessary to devise a new methodology, incorporating a strong network of collaborators, between researchers in the field, leaders of organisations and individuals prepared to communicate at a distance in a collective and polyphonic way’. This paper will analyse the different methods of conducting an online research in times of pandemic and crisis, to determine how narratives are created. As with Dürer’s woodcut, Rhinoceros, reality is very different.

KeywordsCreativity; Culture; Online/virtual place; Ethnography; Indigenous communal organisations; Feminism
Year2021
ConferencePostgraduate (PGA) Roundtable. ‘Communities, Women and Agency’
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Deposited11 Nov 2021
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/8z8x0/the-paradoxes-of-applying-ethnography-at-a-distance-d-rer-s-rhinoceros

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