“Why Are You Taking My Picture?”: Navigating the Cultural Contexts of Visual Procurement

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This paper explores how methods used to procure ethnographic visuals transition between different cultural histories and varying visual vocabularies. We use an instance during which we were detained (and the police summoned) after taking photos of an apartment building in Cairo to illustrate how these transitions can lead to unexpected and serious consequences with which ethnographers must grapple. We argue that considering factors such as geo-political context, notions of giving and receiving, boundaries between private and public, as well as a culture’s historical relationship with photographic and documentary processes, are all essential to developing a critical position on visual procurement in the field.

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