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 … read more

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 film. The entire cosmos of this part of the world can be found in the trou­bles, sto­ries, hopes, and expec­ta­tions of people from all walks of life moving amidst heavy lug­gage, small chil­dren, strict rail­way con­duc­tors and chick­ens flying around. Out­side is the vast, expan­sive for­eign coun­try. (Vien­nale)

Sni­adec­ki offers a for­mal­ly con­trolled look at the range of class­es, the implied changes wrought by China’s eco­nom­ic boom, and the inter­ac­tions par­tic­u­lar to train travel. Refresh­ing­ly, Sni­adec­ki allows the film — or rather, some pas­sen­gers — to engage in pol­i­tics, from the rights of minori­ties to eco­nom­ic pres­sures. While cere­bral in intent and plan­ning, the pic doesn’t feel overly strait­jack­et­ed by theory and offers unex­pect­ed moments of amuse­ment.” (Jay Weiss­berg, Variety)

The train’s roar is a con­stant, inter­rupt­ed by some amaz­ing mono­logues and con­ver­sa­tions: a young woman, work weary, musing about how nice it would be to do noth­ing than eat and sleep all day; a con­ver­sa­tion about the par­tic­u­lars of Muslim life in the outer provinces, and a young boy’s daz­zling­ly nihilis­tic parody of a train conductor’s set­ting-off speech.” (filmmakermagazine.com)