Ethnographic Listening: Talk with Ernst Karel & Andrew Littlejohn | 23 April 2024 | 19:15 | EYE Film Museum (Amsterdam)

Tickets and further details

ReCNTR x Eye

During their Paravel & Castaing-Taylor: Cosmic Realism exhibition (20 January – 20 May 2024), Eye Filmmuseum is collaborating with ReCNTR on a number of talks and screenings that are taking place as part of the exhibition’s accompanying programme.

Eye Filmmuseum is the Dutch national museum for film. Their exhibition showcases the works of Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, pioneering filmmakers who are reinventing the relationship between anthropology and cinema with their formally innovative nonfiction filmmaking. Paravel and Castaing-Taylor are closely associated with Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, which was founded by Castaing-Taylor in 2006.

Over the coming months, ReCNTR, in various capacities, will be involved in the accompanying programme of this landmark exhibition.

Event Description

Anthropological documentary experts Andrew Littlejohn and Ernst Karel discuss the significance of ethnographic listening and the role of sound in ethnographic film. The conversation will be interspersed with various examples.

Later in the evening, there’s a chance to see Karel’s Expedition Content (2020, with Veronika Kusumaryati), which critically engages the audio archives of the Harvard Peabody Expedition to Netherlands New Guinea in 1961 through acts of deep listening. Expedition Content explores the dynamics between anthropologists and their subjects, as well as the relationship between sound and imagination. The screen remains almost entirely dark; we hear a montage of audio recordings made by Michael Rockefeller, a member of the expedition to study the Dani people in 1961 who later disappeared without trace.

This expedition is also the context where Robert Gardner, head of Harvard University’s Film Study Center, filmed his classic ethnographic film Dead Birds (1963), about the Dani people of Papua. Dead Birds screens before the conversation with Karel and Littlejohn.

Separate tickets are required for Expedition Content and Dead Birds.

This event is presented in collaboration with the EYE Film Museum.


Ernst Karel is a musician, anthropologist, phonographer and former manager of SEL, the Sensory Ethnography Lab (Harvard University) set up by Lucien Castaing-Taylor. The latter now features, together with Véréna Paravel, in the exhibition in Eye.

Andrew Littlejohn (Leiden University and SEL alumnus) will talk to Karel via live stream about the phenomenon of ‘sonic ethnography’: the study of peoples by means of audio recordings. Littlejohn is an associate professor affiliated to Leiden University’s Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology.

Ticket prices: Standard (€12.50), Student (€10), Cineville (free)
Tickets and further details

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