Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab

Foreign Parts

J.P. Sniadecki, Véréna Paravel
France, USA | OmeU

A hidden enclave in the shadow of the New York Mets’ new sta­di­um, the neigh­bor­hood of Wil­lets Point is an indus­tri­al zone fated for demo­li­tion. Filled with scrap­yards and auto sal­vage shops, lack­ing side­walks or sewage lines, the area seems ripe for urban devel­op­ment. But For­eign Parts dis­cov­ers a strange com­mu­ni­ty where wrecks, refuse and recy­cling form a thriv­ing com­merce. Cars are stripped, sorted and cat­a­logued by brand and part, then resold to an end­less parade of drive-thru cus­tomers. Joe, the last orig­i­nal res­i­dent, rages and ral­lies through the street like a lost King Lear, trying to con­test his immi­nent evic­tion. Two lovers, Sara and Luis, strug­gle for food and safety through the winter while living in an aban­doned van. Julia, the home­less queen of the junk­yard, exalts in her beatif­ic visions of daily life among the for­got­ten. The film observes and cap­tures the strug­gle of a con­test­ed “emi­nent domain” neigh­bor­hood before its dis­ap­pear­ance under the cap­i­tal­iza­tion of New York’s urban ecol­o­gy. (www.foreignpartsfilm.com)

Kale and Kale

Stephanie Spray
USA 2007 | 51 Min. | OmeU
The film explores the subtle every­day inter­ac­tions and rela­tion­ships among an uncle and nephew, both nick­named “Kale,” or “black one,” and their fam­i­lies in rural Nepal. The roles they play … read more
Creative Ethnography of Beings and Things The films by Judith and David Mac­Dougall have had a deci­sive impact on the work of the Sen­so­ry Ethnog­ra­phy Lab. Lucien Cas­taing-Taylor, the founder … read more


USA 2009 | 115 Min. | OmU
Sheep – as far as the eye can see. The anthro­pol­o­gists and film­mak­ers Lucien Cas­taing-Taylor and Ilisa Bar­bash spent three sum­mers doc­u­ment­ing sheep farm­ing at one of the last family-owned … read more

The iron ministry

Hamid Jafari, J.P. Sniadecki
USA 2014 | 82 Min. | OmeU
P. Sni­adec­ki, who lived in China for a long time and trav­elled all over the coun­try by train, con­densed the results of these ethno­graph­ic excur­sions into a mul­ti­far­i­ous and col­or­ful … read more