My final blog looks at a pre-recorded presentation shown at the AAAs on November 9th, 2011, in Montréal. Australian anthropologist Katherine Gibson’s presentation titled Capitalism, Feminism, and the Politics of the Possible, discusses the affects of community-based economies in Southeast Asia. The following is a short outline about her presentation style, much of which we have already touched upon in class. Tone, content, and visual representation are just some of the attributes well presented here.
The first thing I immediately noticed was her style and tone. Although she did not physically attend the conference her poise and gaze were direct and fixed on the camera. I did however suspect that her ‘on-stage’ behaviour might be different had she been talking in a large room of people, so to test this I viewed one of her recorded lectures. Her style stayed the same. And not only was it similar, she seemed more excited to discuss her research with the audience. Gibson’s tone during her pre-recorded interview somewhat lacked this bit of excitement. Behaviour like this is telling and lends a small element of truth to the idea that performers draw on the energy from their crowds. Maybe more than a small element, no doubt, yet her excited engagement with her lecture audience was too noticeable to overlook. In the end though, her performance was relaxed and conversational, only speaking to the written text in her hands a few times.
The second thing that caught my eye was her visual presentation. Here Gibson provided the viewer with more pictorial representations of her research, drawing little on data arranged in complicated and clustered charts (although she did have one slide showing a sequence of pie charts). Instead Gibson chose pictures depicting the community researchers involved in her project. She depicted their involvement with the local communities in question, ranging from remote areas of the Philippines to the Solomon Islands. Apart from the economic foundation of her presentation, her research also involved gendered perspectives on labour. One of her slides, and a move that I thought was rather crafty, showed the number of male versus female members in their labour force using sticky notes. Although simple, her display showed that not only were the researchers involved in collecting information, but also the community participants of the study.
Gibson’s research is important. It is important because she framed her research towards the future betterment of these Pacific communities. She did this by discussing the big questions regarding the future direction of her research, stating: “How do we create ethical communities that help us survive all together, to build on social commons and surplus.” Her vision is far-reaching, helping to establish community-based organic food programs using recycled materials along with equal equity distribution for those communities involved. Her economic stance thus took an ecological one, suggesting that these de-centralized economic entities would use materials in a sustainable manner by re-using discarded items and saving seed for crop production. This aspect, for me, highly influenced how I viewed her research. Gibson’s holistic integration of economic sustainability with environmental change in this region will surely be unpopular with neoliberal naysayers. Nonetheless, her charged activism with grass-roots organizations are sure to re-claim local markets first destroyed by the liberal policies initiated by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the early 1970s. Furthermore, she has published a book, entitled Take Back the Economy: Any Time, Any Place, which was translated into Spanish and subsequently distributed to educational institutions throughout Latin America.
My general opinion with respect to her presentation style and content is good. I do think she could have expanded a little bit more when she mentioned the dreaded word ‘globalization’, though. It is a loaded term that requires a lot of unpacking. Had she also introduced the viewer to the widespread implications that ‘free trade’ has on local developing economies, implications that are increasingly detrimental today, she might have been in a better position to justify her research aim. By doing this Gibson’s take on the ‘why’ question may have been more forceful: that globalization implies monetary control at an international level, most of which lying outside the control of the average citizen, ultimately in the hands of corrupt dictators that we, ‘the West’, have no problems supporting. Perhaps this would have added more impetus towards her prospective goals. Still, Gibson does a fantastic job in the end.