A reflexive report on filmmaking within a linguistic ethnography with deaf and hearing people in Mumbai

by Annelies Kusters, Sujit Sahasrabudhe and Amaresh Gopalakrishnan

Working Papers WP 16-04
September 2016
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

This working paper documents the process of using video within a research project that documents communicative strategies used during customer interactions and informal conversations between deaf and hearing interlocutors in Mumbai. Since these interactions involve the use of spontaneous and conventional gestures, a visual form of communicating, the use of video was central to the project, including the production of a 80-minute ethnographic ethnographic film called ‘Ishaare: Gestures and Signs in Mumbai’. The aim of producing Ishaare was two-fold: firstly, the film was part of the methodology since it was used as a discussion tool, and secondly, the film is key to the project’s dissemination strategy. In addition to the ethnographic film film, three more videos were produced within the framework of this project to document the process of creating Ishaare.

In this working paper, the main investigator and the two research assistants discuss the research process and the process of producing the ethnographic film, including reflection on project aims; positionality of the researchers; selection of research participants; training of cameramen; cooperation of the team; conduction of interviews; transcribing, translating, and analysing data; and structuring, editing, and subtitling Ishaare. In the last section, the paper discusses the way Ishaare was received by different discussion groups in Mumbai.

Keywords: Filmmaking, positionality, video analysis, linguistic ethnography, mixed methods, team research, translation, subtitling, interviewing, audience reception  

Annelies Kusters works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen. She has Master’s degrees in Anthropology (University of Leuven) and Deaf Studies (University of Bristol), and a PhD in Deaf Studies (University of Bristol). She has research experience in Ghana, India and Surinam (2004-present). She is particularly interested in deaf space and deaf geographies, deaf ontologies and epistemologies, mobilities, transnationalism, language practices and language ideologies.
Contact information: annelieskusters(at)gmail.com

Sujit Sahasrabudhe worked as an Indian Sign Language teacher, training sign language interpreters and teaching metalinguistic awareness and didactics to deaf prospective sign language teachers in the Ali Yavar Jung Institute for the Hearing Handicapped in Mumbai (between 2004 and 2013). In 2014 and 2015, he worked as a researcher in the project described in this working paper and in one other research project (on deaf mobilities in Mumbai) with Annelies Kusters. He is currently involved in producing a number of sign language resource materials for education and advocacy purposes, as partner of the company SignEX India LLP.
Contact information: sujitsahasrabudhe(at)gmail.com

Amaresh Gopalakrishnan is a sign language researcher and Indian Sign Language interpreter with more than eighteen years of experience. He has a Bachelor in Business Administration, a Bachelor in special education (HI), a Diploma in Indian Sign Language Interpreting, and a Masters in Linguistics. He has authored and co-authored sign language dictionaries in India and Maldives and is involved in the Indian Sign Language corpus development project with the Central Institute of Indian Languages (Mysore, India). He worked as researcher and interpreter in the project described in this working paper. He is currently involved in producing a number of sign language resource materials for education and advocacy purposes, as partner of the company SignEX India LLP.
Contact information: amaregop(at)gmail.com