Nepal Graphic Ethnography Field Trip 2017

With special funding from University of Toronto’s Dean’s International Initiative Fund, in May and June of 2017 two undergraduate students, Helen Loghrin and Sarah Ray, travelled to Nepal with geography doctoral candidate Elsie Lewison to work on the development of a “graphic ethnography” on the politics of roads.

The trip took place under the supervision of Professor Katharine Rankin in conjunction with her larger SSHRC-funded research project entitled Infrastructures of Democracy (IOD) (project website: infrastructuresofdemocracy.wordpress.com). The graphic ethnography, targeted particularly to undergraduate audiences, will be one output component of the project and is led by Professor Stacy Pigg, of Simon Fraser University. Professor Pigg is a collaborator on the IOD project and serves on the advisory committee for a new University of Toronto Press book series ethnoGRAPHIC: Ethnography in Graphic Form. Graphic novels and other experimental visual and media formats have become increasingly popular in sharing insights from academic research with a wider audience (for examples see: http://www.utpteachingculture.com/tag/graphic-adventures-in-anthropology/; https://blumcenter.berkeley.edu/globalpov/; http://ethnographicterminalia.org/)

In Nepal, the students networked with Kathmandu-based arts organizations and collective to identify Nepali artists currently working in the graphic novel medium. They also worked with the core Nepal-based research team to identify key themes and narratives emergent in the project data that would speak to an undergraduate development studies audience. The students also travelled with Nepal-based research associate Shyam Kunwar to one of the project district sites in Nepal to learn first-hand about the politics of infrastructure and to gather visual documentation to be used for storyboarding and design. In addition to developing archives for visual documentation and select narratives and a list of artist contacts, Helen (who has since entered the U of T Master of Planning program) and Sarah (who has also since graduated and is pursuing her interests in mountaineering) also developed an interactive map sharing some of the narratives that they documented over the course of the trip.