Ethno science fiction: Projective improvisations of future scenarios and environmental threat in the everyday life of British youth

It’s me, James, from the future. The year is 2036. All the houses have gone. They’ve built some shops over the top of where the houses were. The only thing that is recognizable around here is the pub. The pub has stayed, which is incredibly impressive. They’ve built more and more units over the whole of Otley Road. It’s like one big [commercial] park and it has taken over the whole side by the river. […] Shipley is almost completely cut off now due to the frequent flooding. Everyone has to take the long road around Bingley to come to Baildon now. They’ve just ruined it: just ruined it. There are just so many things wrong with it, everybody is fighting for place with everybody. […] It’s horrible […] It’s nothing like it ever was and it’ll never be the same again.

This dystopic vision of the future was recorded as part of my ongoing research project Forward Play, which commenced in 2014. The objective of the research is to apply and critically examine the use of ‘ethno science fiction’ as an ethnographic and anthropological film method. In the first of a series of ethno science fictions, I ask English youth living in regions affected by drastic environmental change to improvise their own science fictions, especially with regard to climate change, in order to research and represent young people’s perceptions and understandings of the future.


An Epistemology of Play: Provocation, Pleasure, Participation and Performance in Ethnographic Fieldwork and Filmmaking

Drawing on previous and ongoing research on ethnofiction films, this article suggests new perspectives on ethnographic fieldwork and filmmaking, where play stands at the centre of the epistemology. Projective improvisation in ethnofiction shares common denominators with play and especially role play, in which provocation, pleasure and flow motivate the performance. The article presents co-creative role play as a valid ethnographic method, based on the assumption that mimicry gives access to the implicit information of the play world, making it explicit through a reflexive approach.


Transfiction (2010)

Ethno science fiction is a co-creative genre of ethnographic film in which the informants express their imagined future through improvisation and other forms of applied theatre and artistic practice. As part of my practice-based research on the ethnofictions of Jean Rouch, I conducted 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in São Paulo in 2005 and 2006 […]