Alissa Jordan, PhD
2018-2021 Postdoctoral Fellow
Center for Experimental Ethnography
University of Pennsylvania

I am a multimodal cultural anthropologist focused on questions of bodily being, security/insecurity, and creative expression with field-sites in Haiti, Ghana, and virtual spaces. I explore these interests through traditional and collaborative scholarship as well as experimental writing, filmmaking, photography, digital arts (VR, 360-degree video, binaural sound, interactive network analysis) and exhibition. I am enthusiastic about pioneering new publication, dissemination, and review options that meet the challenges of new media. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida in Dec. 2016, and I am a 2018-2021 Postdoc in Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania.

Woman embraces baby as ray of light shines through
In Carrefour, Haiti a devout Evangelical kisses her infant niece, whose mother (and her twin sister) has been asked to leave the church due to the birth.

Research

Learning from the ways others perceive the world—especially those stories, experiences, and adventures of people who explore the boundaries of human experience: my projects include working with Haitian women who fight to understand and heal their bodies, working with Vodou healers who grapple with infant death, collaboratively archiving the work of artists in Haiti and Ghana who use art to manage and critique social abjection, actively mobilizing with community leaders in North Haiti to fight against human rights abuses by NGO-operated hospitals.

Methods

Critical. Collaborative. Experimental. I create and collaborate on ethnographies with interlocutors using words, photos, sound, digital media, and other media as it becomes available. I think film, photography, art, sound, and ethnographic writing are most productive when they are infused with participation from beginning to end. I have painted murals, made collaborative diagrams in community forums, created interactive virtual reality experiences with binaural soundscapes and full-body tracking, and use my expertise in these areas to infuse my work as an educator and scholar-activist.

Storytelling

Experimental Glimpses: Jè Kle: (In a Vision)

In Sou Lapwen, on the outskirts of Arcahaie, Haiti, the term “travay” [work] is applied to diverse magical as well as mundane acts. This multimodal project uses film and photographic essay to explore travay as a nexus of social practices for transforming the political relations among humans, other beings, and landscapes in Haitian Vodou. The film layers together coinciding instances of travay, drawing from documentary film clips of everyday labors, songs for the lwa [invisible ancestral beings] of Haitian Vodou, ambient noise, rhythmic motions, and recreated dream imagery that illustrate how travay shapes lived bodies in relation to one another and a vibrating and energetic world. In lieu of generating meaning through explanatory narration, the co-directors (an anthropologist and a moto-taxi driver) bring together a variety of lived moments of travay in order to illustrate a concept that is at once sensual, interpretive, lived, and abstract.

Art + Sacred Philadelphia

Working with UPENN Graduate Students and curator-artist-choreographer Reggie Wilson to audio-visually document a series of performances that explored religion, movement, race and the body, with a focus on the African American religious experience and the specific context of Philadelphia’s historic sacred spaces. Curated by Reggie Wilson, “Grounds that Shout: and others merely shaking…” included performances by Philadelphia-based artists at religious sites along the Lombard Street corridor—host to a unique density of historic churches—highlighting both the broad narrative history of these spaces and their present-day status in a rapidly changing city. The project extends Wilson’s recent work with New York’s Danspace Project interrogating the history of St. Mark’s Church. Danspace’s Judy Hussie-Taylor served as a curatorial advisor to Wilson as he brought these concepts to Philadelphia. The series concluded with a week-long residency by Wilson and his Fist and Heel Performance Group at the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, supported by the PEW Center for the Arts, Partners for Sacred Places, Center for Experimental Ethnography, and others.

Atlas of Nanm
Ghana Art Collaborations
Virtual Cerro Maya