Dividing the Light

Personal reflections on anthropological becomings


  • Susan Wardell




Autoethnography, art, memory, photography, representation


Images can be powerful – and the choices that go into their making, both revealing and obscuring. In 2019 I undertook to make a stained-glass window, based on a photo I had taken ten years prior at a missionary base in South Sudan. I use reflections on this art project to highlight the idea of memory as practice, with a focus on the slippery and sometimes problematic ethics of ethnographic representation as a positioned, porous, and ‘becoming’ subject. Through explaining the context in which the photo was taken, alongside the process of the window’s construction, I reflect critically on discomfort, desire, risk, and imagination, considering the work of the (white) gaze and my own internalised structures of colonial feeling. I evoke ghosts, haunting, and the phantasmal to consider affective connections between (personal and historical) pasts and present, as well as self and other – with acknowledgement that sometimes a past self can also become an other that we must learn to recognise, and dwell with, as part of grappling with the ‘splinters’ of anthropological practice and being.


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