Ethnography is not a word known to most. In the popular mind, it conjures up one of two images. Either it appears to present the strange and exotic as if it were ordinary, or it presents the every day and the banal as fascinating and worthy of deep analysis. 

We’re going back to a fun project from 2008. The International Ethnographic Film Festival held by The Department of Sociology, University of Delhi. The event was an opportunity for a debate on the parallels and departures between the methods of classical sociological and anthropological field research and that of visual ethnography.

Our observations on the word ethnography led us to juxtapose the familiar and the unfamiliar, and take advantage of the opportunities for humour it presents. We used an educational ‘chart’, sold in stationery shops as educational aids for primary school children to illustrate, say, categories of transportation or what makes an ‘ideal boy’. An invented script is overlaid on the charts, which has everyday objects. The choice of the school charts as a concept is itself draws its appeal from class, as it would be an object of gentle derision by an upper-middle-class audience. These blurs the distinction between cultures, identities and meanings.