NETO, Pedro Figueiredo

I am an anthropologist and filmmaker. I was once an architect. Currently, I am a researcher at the Social Sciences Institute, Universidade de Lisboa, and lecturer at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidade Nova de Lisboa. My research and creative practice inquire mobility, violence, borders, forced displacement and refuge, namely in the African context. Common fieldwork sites include Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and more recently Senegal.

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FIELDWORK Q&A – September 2020

How is fieldwork part of your practice?
Fieldwork is a moment of freedom in every meaning of the word. As a social scientist and filmmaker – but perhaps first and foremost as a human being – fieldwork is the moment in which different peoples, different places, and different times can be experienced and sensed without distraction. When I depart to the field I automatically enter into a parallel inner universe, which always transforms my mindset and reasoning in a lasting manner. The freedom to be someone else and the same, elsewhere, I mean, the freedom of being detached or decentered from myself at a given point in space and time, is what ultimately allows me to achieve some clarity, to have some mental space, and to eventually create something potentially meaningful. It is precisely that freedom afforded by fieldwork that opens up the possibility of geographic and artistic practice. Fieldwork is a way of being anchored in this world and taste the closest to an imaginary freedom – and one without many qualifiers.

How would you describe your fieldwork activity?
As an anthropologist fieldwork is central to my work. The field is where I find and come across the ‘raw material/s’ that enable any revelation and any potential creation arising thereof. This raw material can take the shape of a cultural event or a specific social situation, which cannot be isolated from certain objects or goods, a given site, a landmark, a footprint, a landscape. These and other elements configure the more or less explicit memory and traces of human existence. At the same time, the topics and contexts I happen to study involve a high degree of movement. My work focus on forced displacement, mobility, borders, and it is precisely the movement to, around, and within the field – which involves travelling by plane, bus or 4×4, riding a bicycle, walking or forcibly immobile – that enacts, actually mobilizes, a set of ideas that do often go beyond the setting I am researching.

How are you currently sharing your fieldwork?
When I am on fieldwork, I often spend many weeks or months away, alone in complex and violent settings. These are settings that require full awareness and readiness of response. It also requires the trust and a deep involvement with many interlocutors. In this sense, my fieldwork poses constant ethical challenges on how to get a certain information or have access to a certain site and reality, and how to depict and/or write about the contexts and situations I am observing. These circumstances have tremendous implications on how I collect information, images, sounds, ideas, on whether and how I eventually assemble them into something, and whether that something (a text or a film) renders certain ideas inteligible to a broader audience.

FIELDWORK
*to follow*