Photograph of a pile of printed zines.

zines, chapbooks, and pamphlets

The Bureau for Experimental Ethnography launches a two-year (2023-2025) focus on pamphlets, zines, and chapbooks. From fieldnotes and photographs to audio, film and video recordings, ethnography (broadly construed) has been concerned with different modes of registering the world(s) we encounter, that fascinate us, and that form the object of our investigations and analyses. What has received relatively little attention in anthropology (and generally across the humanities) is the use of chapbooks, pamphlets, and zines as a mode of inquiry, generative experimentation, and publication. For anthropologists (and many other scholars) monographs and journal articles persist as the dominant mode of production. Meanwhile visual anthropology has created networks of film festivals and distributors in a kind of special carve-out of academic labor. Some journals have created special sections for poetry, creative writing, and speculative fiction. At a time when digital publication has increasingly come to dominate academic outputs, allowing for the emergence of ‘multimodal’ expressions, we turn to self-publication to ask about the affordances of print and paper. Experimentation with book making, self publishing, and short formats foregrounds the relationship between form and content, inviting considerations of how writing might shift depending on the form it takes or what forms are adequate for a given subject. Along with making chapbooks, zines and pamphlets, we will also explore the ways in which self-published works can circulate, the networks that already exist (zine fairs, postal exchanges, and swaps) and relations that are fostered by DIY methods.

Our goal in creating a two-year focus is to collectively develop questions and goals, to foster conversations, and to follow the trajectories of our mutual fascinations. Over two years we will hold workshops, host guest lecturers, organize field trips, and work collaboratively to explore this thematic focus on zines, chapbooks, and pamphlets. As always, and in the tradition of the bureau, we foreground inquiry by making.

Beginning in Autumn 2023 we will collectively orient activity towards the forms of self-publishing. This focus will link in to graduate and undergraduate classes, workshops, exchanges, etc. We will operate a small lending library out of the Intermedia Workshop