Current & Future Projects
Inscribed in both textual and visual practices, Emiko's engagement with Islamic and area studies is anchored in both Middle Eastern studies and Southeast Asian studies. This facilitates a decentering that exposes and places into question the location of globalization in Western hypermodernity. Her projects are informed by both critical theory and local contexts which brings 'fieldwork' close to home. She has lived and conducted research in Cambodia from 2000, and in Iran from 2014. Putting into practice an anthropological method which does not separate the writing from the sensory, the visual from other senses, her work militates for the power of images to do theory, and for written descriptions to make sense beyond facts.
Touching Image(s) of History:
Cambodian Cham Sayyids Putting Time into Place in Iran
Located between historical and visual anthropology, this dissertation project takes history as an affective process bringing a long gone past and a remote distance to a close. It draws diasporic entanglements of genealogical inspiration into an image of history to be sensed on the margins of the visual archive. In doing so, it offers to rethink history as a touching image containing both past and future, the remote and the nearby. The manuscript project will trace this enduring commitment to historiography among Chams Sayyids, Cambodian Muslims descendants of the Prophet's family. Recently, some have switched from Sunnism to Shi’ism. They are doing so through studies in Iranian seminaries. The movement is often perceived by external observers as marginal and intriguing, something coming with a flair of novelty, if not exoticism. Yet, those trajectories of religious inspiration and trans-local connections do not appear new or afar to those enacting them. The dissertation / book contends that our lack of understanding of this phenomenon lies in our approach to temporality and space as delimited by distance. This approach fails to take into account the haunting force that history bear for both its actors and narrators. It misses to actually ask what it means to get a sense for history. By focusing on how some Chams sense time and place as something viscerally intimate, the monograph shows how the utterances we label as "Iran" and "Shi'ism" are actually moments of dwelling, coming with a strength and power often left unattended by the social scientist. The touching image of history that Chams Sayyids are after when they go into Shi'ism and into Iran, furthers a historiography that has to be silenced so to be, that has to be sensed so to be known.
Currently in development, Sensing History is an ethnographic experimental feature film which furthers the ghostly texture of history explored in Touching Image(s) of History. The film conveys an alternative sense of temporality through images shot at 15 frames-per-second, between still and moving. The soundscape goes from silence over absent screens to cacophonic images of visually overloaded weddings. Combining a visualization that doesn’t give anything to see despite its overwhelming excess of visuality, and a soundtrack that gives us a sense of history despite never coming full circle, the film is a dwelling in history itself as it comes to be viscerally experienced on and off screen. Entirely shot on 35mm, the texture of the negative unfolds a historiography of erasure, as the film burns out at each screening a little further. In the end, the film is gone, so is history, each viewer sensing her own version of history gained through a partial viewing experience.
Moving On: A Cosmopolitan Sense of One’s Own
This second manuscript project furthers interrogations of cosmopolitanism away from the centralization of “globalization” in the West, and of modernity away from notions attached to secular assumptions of “progress”. An ethnography with Iran, it asks how does one come to fulfill oneself away from estranging homes. While located in very different contexts, all those ethnographies have at heart common questions of diasporic flows of translocality that disturb the categories of regional borders and area studies.