On the fields of tobacco: Changing perspectives and expanding methodologies through visual ethnography

The Muslim Pomak community in southeastern Bulgaria is producing tobacco for sale. Less and less people still endeavor in this hard-working process due to low and unstable purchase price of the dry tobacco leaves. Despite the primary interest in the working process, the usage of camera in the research allowed me to change my perspective, to see and look at this process in different way. It helped me to understand the materiality and the sensual aspect of this hard work that starts in the middle of the night and how it’s routine affects my protagonists. Every research topic makes us expand upon our methodologies in various ways in order to explore what and how we need to look at a certain topic. The tobacco picking process as well as visual media can therefore be explored through (and not parallel to) each other, revealing connections, sensorial dimensions and world views isn’t that, perhaps, otherwise would not be seen. Through reflexive analysis of my visual ethnography I will consider the anthropological engagement with the subjectivity of the research encounter as a way of producing knowledge or ways of knowing about other worlds.

Filak, Manca. (2019). ‘On the fields of tobacco: changing perspectives and expanding methodologies through visual ethnography’, entanglements, 2(2): 101-110.
Emine picking up the tobacco early in the night. Manca Filak, Debren (Bulgaria), June 2017.

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