Visual anthropology: a temple anniversary in Singapore

by Fabian Graham

Working Papers WP 17-08
June 2017
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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Based on the hypothesis that the inclusion of visual media provides insights into non-verbal communication not provided by the written word alone, this paper represents an experimental approach to test the usefulness of reproducing fieldwork photography in directing reader’s attentions to probe the emic understandings of deific efficacy, and the researcher’s selective bias which the images implicitly or explicitly portray. This paper therefore explores the use of the visual image to illustrate that a reader’s own analysis of proxemics and kinesics allows for a deeper understanding of emic perspectives by drawing insights from the manipulation of material objects and from non-verbal communication – insights that the written word may struggle to accurately portray. Framed around a photo-rich ethnographic account of trance possession cults in Singapore, the intent of the paper is to contribute towards the broader discourse of the future of the visual image in anthropology in the digital age.

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