Call for Papers – Multimedia Anthropology Lab


How are ethnographic encounters with alterity mediated and transformed by multimedia technologies? Drawing on the insights and questions raised by both material culture studies and the ontological turn, we aim to facilitate a global conversation on the concepts, forms and mediums through which knowledge is produced and shared. This conference is hosted by UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab, an interdisciplinary research network aimed at developing innovative methods for anthropological practice.


Anthropological encounters with others have led us to question ideas previously taken as given. Concepts of family, society, culture, nature, and what it means to be human have all been subject to revision. When these critiques are directed towards knowledge itself, the different ideas people have about what knowledge is and how it is shared have led us to question the theories and practices through which we seek to know. Proponents of the ontological turn (Holbraad & Pedersen 2017) have developed these ideas to call for an anthropological project that is radically experimental, drawing on ethnographic encounters with alterity to critically interrogate the analytical concepts that inform our research.

At the same time, material culture studies has pointed towards the important role of materials in the articulation of human knowledge. The materials through which ethnographic encounters are translated into knowledge – as text, image, sound, performance, simulated sensory immersion, etc – shape the ways in which these encounters are experienced by others, and the conceptual affordances they present. We examine how ethnographic encounters with alterity can disrupt not only the conceptual frameworks of anthropology, but also the material practices through which knowledge is produced and communicated, and explore how anthropological knowledge can be both thought and made otherwise.

These questions are especially pertinent in the context of a global pandemic, which has changed the ways we encounter and communicate with others, disrupting diverse forms of knowing and doing. In parallel to this conference, UCL MAL has initiated a partnership with the Kuñangue Aty Guasu, an annual meeting of Guarani & Kaiowá indigenous women in Brazil, which this year will take place online. The translation of this event into an online format allows us to reflect on the parallels between the knowledge practices of indigenous communities and those of anthropologists, and invites us to consider each as a variant (Maniglier 2016) of the other. If we consider the indigenous meeting as an Other kind of conference, and the conference as an Other kind of indigenous meeting, what can we learn about conferences, indigenous meetings, and knowledge itself?

This conference seeks to explore how knowledge can be cast otherwise, in concept, method, and form. We consider how different concepts of knowledge entail different forms of practice, and how different materials and techniques enable different conceptual encounters. What are the conceptual affordances of multimedia encounters with alterity? What is the relation between sensory experience and conceptual movement? Can encounters with alterity be simulated in VR? Can we do theory through film or sound? How can AI traverse multiple ontologies, and what does that mean for concepts? How can websites, social media, and other digital platforms disseminate research findings? Can research be presented as performance? How can an exhibition be posed as an experiment? What is the concept of the concept?

If we are to seriously question the concepts and methods through which we produce knowledge, then our commitment to being radically experimental must go beyond a critique of analytical tools and extend to a thorough interrogation of the methods and mediums through which research is produced and presented.   


UCL MAL invites contributions from academics and practitioners across disciplines who engage with these questions, and experiment with innovative approaches to conducting and presenting research. We welcome submissions in any format (accompanied by a written abstract) and encourage contributors to interpret our theme as broadly as possible. We are particularly interested in contributions which explore the following topics/methods:


Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words, and any multimedia materials that are relevant to your work, by 23:59 GMT on Wednesday the 2nd of December 2020. Please use the following submission link:  

The conference will take place online on the 12th, 13th & 14th of January 2021, and will be accompanied by an online exhibition of multimedia works. Each day will begin with keynote contributions from academics and practitioners whose theory and practice invite us to think otherwise, followed by thematic panels where experimental research approaches and their implications for theory will be debated in more depth. The following keynote speakers have been confirmed so far:

Ludovic Coupaye | Lecturer in Anthropology | UCL
Haidy Geismar | Professor of Anthropology | UCL
Jaqueline Aranduhá | Guarani & Kaiowá Indigenous Leader

The conference is free to attend, but please register for tickets on Eventbrite:  

UCL MALis an interdisciplinary research network that explores innovative methods for conducting and presenting ethnographic research. We have organised several seminar series and exhibitions at UCL and have presented work and ideas at Somerset House, Modern Art Oxford, and the Tate Modern. Founded in 2017 by doctoral research students at UCL Anthropology, today MAL is composed of over 50 members around the world, with representatives from anthropology, art, computer science, sound studies, film, and human rights. MAL has been generously supported by UCL Anthropology, the Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL Grand Challenges, and the British Museum.

If you would like to learn more about MAL or our activities please visit our website at or contact us directly at   

 The image above depicts an anthropologist and research assistant sanitising Covid supplies before delivering them to Guarani & Kaiowá indigenous communities in Brazil. The scene, made possible by the presence of a 360 camera, illustrates the hyper-awareness of anthropological encounters in a Covid context and invites us to reflect on the ways in which encounters are mediated – whether by recording technologies, digital tools for remote communication or by PPE.