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Chapter 2. “People Get Tired”: African Australian Cross-Cultural Dialogue and Ethnocinema

Anne Harris and Nyadol Nyuon

Anne Harris is an American Australian writer and academic (BFA, MFA: New York University [Dramatic Writing]; PhD Victoria University, Melbourne) with research interests in arts methodologies, qualitative inquiry, and transnationalism. She is the author of both academic and popular publications, including her forthcoming (2011) book Ethnocinema in Arts Education: Intercultural Collaboration in Film (thesis title: Cross-Marked: Sudanese Australian Young Women Talk Education) (book and films), in Shirley Steinberg and Kenneth Tobin (series editors), “Explorations of Educational Purpose,” published by Springer SBM.

Nyadol Nyuon is a Nuer Sudanese young woman who completed her BA at Victoria University (Melbourne) and is a longtime community activist within the Sudanese Australian community. She co-created the film Still Waiting with Anne Harris in 2009, and appears frequently in the media. She has advocated in numerous contexts on behalf of both young people and women’s issues. She has written on race, youth, and community development, and is commencing her law degree at Melbourne University (2011), her longtime dream since arriving from Kenya in 2005.

People Get Tired is a part of an ongoing intercultural dialogue between a young Sudanese Australian activist and an American Australian writer/academic that looks at racism in Australia and intercultural collaboration in community arts and academic research. This dialogue is characteristic of the emerging practice of ethnocinema (Harris, 2009; 2010), which draws from its ethnographic documentary origins and yet goes beyond it. Combining ethnographic documentary methods (Rouch, 2003) with the principles of critical education (hooks, 2003; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 2001), ethnocinema uses the popular cultural forms of video and social media to address racial, gender, sexuality, and religious inequities and oppressions.

From mid-2007 to the present, what started as a high school film project grew into doctoral research and additional ethnocinematic video collaborations between participants from different cultures in Melbourne, Australia. In the case of this project, the cultures can be reduced to binarisms such as Sudanese/American, black/white, young/middle-aged, teacher/student, gay/straight, middle class/working class, refugee/immigrant, but these would have been incomplete categorizations and so we resisted them. Thus, the research project known as Cross-Marked: Sudanese Australian Young Women Talk Education did indeed explore collaboratively through film the educational experiences of 15 Sudanese Australian young women, but it also explored the ways in which the researcher, a 40-something white immigrant from the USA, and the young women, 18- to 25-year-olds from South Sudan, were all building new lives in Australia, particularly in relation to the education system. 

The project drew upon Giroux’s notion of public and critical pedagogies (2004; 2005), Denzin’s performative ethnography (2003), and arts-based research methods (Barone & Eisner, 1997; Bresler 2007) to try to address the inequities between the co-participants and to recognize a need to honestly and collaboratively consult with Freire’s  (1970) so-called oppressed, even when the oppressed is in part ourselves. A history of ethnographic documentary (particularly Rouch’s ethno-fictions) suggested a new development in the direction of ethnocinema, a more collaborative and mutually self-reflexive process, which extended the fractured and multiple definitions offered throughout the past 20 years by various practitioners, including Rouch (in Niger, 2003), Prins (in the US, 2004) and Gocic (in Europe, 2001).

Further Resources:

Film: Still Waiting
Film: Slowly By Slowly
Film: NEIR CHI PUJ (Educated Girls)
Film: Singing into Language
Film: EthnocineMe

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