Visual ethnographic research on belonging

Aboutmigration, depopulation, Europe, belonging
Methodsaudio-visual, ethnographic and collaborative research methods
As part ofMSc Visual Ethnography, Leiden University
Supervised byDr. Mark Westmoreland

When explorers of the past would be unable to map an area of the world, they would describe it as terra incognita – land unknown. Nowadays, no map would admit to there being any terra incognita. And yet… Across Europe refugees are placed in remote villages to resolve issues around depopulation and a shortage of urban accommodation. This research takes the case of Valle di Comino, where I worked with refugees to understand how they experience and create a sense of home in an area that other people choose to leave. Under the supervision of the Visual Anthropology department at Leiden University I  used collaborative and artistic research methods.

The research result is a triptych: academic text, documentary film and a visual guide for Italian residents to bridge the gap between Italian residents and their new refugee neighbours. Through the text, film and guide I have tried to recreate the world that the new residents of Valle di Comino inhabit. The text has set out and substantiated the overall argument. The guide offers a glimpse into the everyday life in the Valley. The film shows a world of confusion, where few things make sense, and one can only expect the unexpected – an impossible task. Together they create terra incognita. I hope the peek into terra incognita will lead to the respect and curiosity that makes human living so extraordinary.