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Evoking Silver River Project

Submerged beneath the water’s edge, the camera follows a gator who has slipped surreptitiously under the boat and passes a garfish with its long sharp-toothed snout and who turns to come straight towards the underwater camera as the viewer becomes immersed in an underwater world with its own soundscape and flowing eel grasses.  The reader/viewer can click on the icon of an alligator and move into the deep history of alligators in Florida (from the early Pliocene to late Pleistocene) or on the eel grass where the eye and body of the viewer is allowed to immerse without words for moments to appreciate their own physiological and psychological reaction to the sunlit, waving grasses and the school of mullet who pass by and just as the eye is guided to focus less on the fluid movement of the grasses and more on the thick algal forms growing on them, a voice begins to tell us about her experience as a boat captain, and the narrative highlights Capt. Virgina, the first woman captain of the glass bottom boats and jungle cruise ride. For Black History Month, she offers a talk about her experience as captain of these boats for the last 40 years—including memories of when she used to have food on her boat for visitors to be able to feed the monkeys and the fish until it became discouraged and then illegal. She also reminisces about Paradise Park, the “Blacks Only” beach on the Silver River during Segregation.

In the 1930s, boat captain Colonel Tooey introduced Asian rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) to Florida’s Silver River hoping to secure improved tourism for the Silver Springs attraction.  Though they have ranged freely since their introduction, the site of encounter between humans and nonhuman primates has been contentious and has exhibited a constant flux of contested negotiations that implicate and directly reflect shifting ideas of nature, community and belonging in “natural Florida.”

Documentary

humanNature  Entanglements

Publications

Senses of HumaNature on Florida’s Silver River: Evocative Ethnography to Craft Place

The spaces where humans, plants, and animals intermingle are rich junctures of mobility, sensuality, and impressions that together evoke a sense of place. Visual anthropology can help interpret these humaNature events—where dichotomies and divisions are blurred, and lived experiences of multispecies mingling are brought to the fore through emerging practices that apply experiential and experimental devices. Attending to emotional textures of intimacy, soundscapes of multiple species, and embodied, sensuous ways of knowing that do not privilege solely the agency of human actors, nor rely primarily on a linear narrative and didactic logic, the academic-artistic endeavor that I discuss in this article—and demonstrate in its accompanying short video, Senses of Silver River—is aimed at bringing feminist, decolonial ways of knowing the world to the forefront (cf. Collins; Harrison; Trinh). Toward this effort, I propose a methodological intervention that I call evocative ethnography, which favors a sensorial realm to explore, interpret, and share a sense of place.

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