Domestic ethnography, diaspora and memory in 'Baba 1989'

Massoumi, N (2017) 'Domestic ethnography, diaspora and memory in 'Baba 1989'.' In: Harper, B and Price, H, eds. Domestic imaginaries: navigating the home in global literary and visual cultures. Springer, Cham, pp. 169-190. ISBN 9783319664897

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Domestic ethnography is a unique mode of documentary filmmaking practice where the film's main subject is the filmmaker’s family member/s. This chapter considers the function of domestic ethnography in a diasporic context through reflections on the production of Baba 1989 (2016), a short documentary film I made about my father’s memories of arrival in Britain in 1989 (from Iran and Germany) after four years of separation from the rest of our family. The discussion offers some insights into the underlying issues involved in recording family memories of displacement, through home video and oral testimony, and the implications of these practices for questions of identity and belonging, inside and outside the home.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section

This chapter offers some insights into the practice and function/s of diasporic domestic ethnography in documentary film based around the short documentary Baba 1989 (2014), produced as part of my practice-as-research project. Domestic ethnography is a term introduced by Michael Renov (2004) to describe the complex intersubjective interaction that takes place in documentary films that engage the participation and involvement of the filmmaker’s family members. My research is interested in what happens to this relationship in the context of diasporic displacement. The subjects of my short documentary films are my parents and family members, their memories of displacement from Iran and their/our experience as Iranians living in Britain. Consequently, the research is situated within the specificity of the Iranian diaspora, that is the communities of Iranians that have settled in cities across the globe following their displacement and dispersal predominantly in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.

Baba 1989 documents my father’s personal memories of arriving in Britain in 1989, following four years of separation from the rest of the family. His personal testimony is juxtaposed with a family home video playing and repeating on a TV monitor, occasionally faltering and dropping out. The film provides a useful case study for examining some of the interactions that take place between family archive, domestic ethnography and diasporic subjectivity. In what follows, I introduce domestic ethnography as conceived by Renov then discuss its role within a diasporic setting drawing on the experience of making Baba 1989, reflecting on the role of the home video in the film, as well as the function of the film itself within and beyond the family.

Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2015 09:41
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2022 18:41
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