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Multimodality: Reshaping Anthropology

In the article Multimodality: Reshaping Anthropology, Mark Westmoreland describes how multimodality provides anthropologists with a new perspective on how we conduct research, produce scholarship, teach students, and interact with diverse audiences.

Mark R. Westmoreland
01 October 2022
Read the full article on Annual Reviews


Multimodality offers anthropologists an inflection on the way we do research, produce scholarship, teach students, and relate to diverse publics. Advancing an expanding array of tools, practices, and concepts, multimodality signals a change in the way we pay attention and attend to the diverse possibilities for understanding the human experience. Multimodality recognizes the way smartphones, social media, and digital software transform research dynamics in unprecedented ways, while also drawing upon long-standing practices of recording and presenting research through images, sounds, objects, and text. Rather than flatten out ethnographic participant observation into logocentric practices of people-writing, multimodal ethnographies diversify their modes of inquiry to produce more-than-textual mediations of sensorial research experiences. By emphasizing kaleidoscopic qualities that give shape to an emergent, multidimensional, and diversifying anthropology, multimodality proposes alternatives to enduring and delimiting dichotomies, particularly text/image. These new configurations invite unrealized disciplinary constellations and research collaborations to emerge, but also require overhauling the infrastructures that support training, dissemination, and assessment.

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