The Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) Visual Anthropology Student Association will host a showcase of its work on Saturday, May 19, beginning at 4 p.m. at the Liberty Art Gallery and Performance Space at 435 Alamitos Ave. in Long Beach. Admission is free.
Organized by the CSULB Department of Anthropology and supervised by faculty members Steven Rousso-Schindler and Scott Wilson, the program will present an evening of films and new media projects on topics as different as vinyl records and the body image of Mexican-American women.
“This showcase of student work represents a variety of media available in the classes,” Rousso-Schindler noted. “Last year’s showcase drew hundreds to downtown Long Beach, and I expect hundreds more to attend this year for our program of eight films and five new media projects.”
Rousso-Schindler explained that visual anthropology is a subfield of cultural anthropology concerned with the study and production of ethnographic photography, film and new media. “Technology has had a significant impact on visual anthropology,” he said. “Up to now, visual anthropology has depended on film and TV. New media changes that. Access to technology has allowed more people to become visual anthropologists.”
As a visual anthropologist, Rousso-Schindler hasn’t seen as much work as he expected about Mexican-Americans from an enrollment as diverse as CSULB’s. He said that changes a bit this year with two projects about Mexican-American culture.
He points to an undergraduate film by CSULB’s Joanna Diaz, Vanessa Diaz and Andrea Carcovich titled “Dia de las Muertas: Advocacy through Altars and Art,” which connects the celebrations of Mexico’s Dia De Los Muertos and the death of women in Juarez. The same three students will also present “Yadi,” which portrays a Mexican-American woman with bulimia who overcomes conflicting messages about ideal female body types.
“These filmmakers focused on the women living in a lawless, violent border town and asked what nuances gender can bring into the equation,” Rousso-Schindler said of the first film. Of the second, he said, “Body image is differently constructed in the two cultures. Mainstream America prizes bone-skinny models and Mexican culture does not. These filmmakers have one foot in American culture and one in Mexican-American culture. It caused them to struggle with their own body images. The film is put together very cleverly.”
“The Yogalution,” set in Long Beach, is from student filmmakers Stacie Shewmake, Julia Wignall and Lauren Brounley. Subtitled “Empowering Bodies and Minds: in Long Beach, California,” it details a new yoga movement that provides free instruction for community members.
Other film titles that will be shown at the festival include:
The department’s insistence on visual anthropologists working in the Long Beach community expands student world views, Rousso-Schindler believes. “Long Beach is an incredibly diverse place. That is one of the strengths of this university and one I appreciate the more I visit other CSUs,” he said. “CSULB students are great at finding amazing stories. They show the city’s diversity. It is one thing to study diversity and another to be confronted by different cultures. It’s a very educational experience and a fun challenge.”