Postcards carry one world into another, just like ethnography (Pandian and McLean 2017). Their layered materiality—the chocolate stains and pen smudges, curled corners, fluorescent barcodes, spots faded from sun exposure, and, of course, the stamps—carry traces not only of trips through postboxes, sorting machines, and airplanes but also of other, imagined worlds….
So begins an open access article we had published recently in American Anthropologist. Titled “Thumbnail Sketches: Learning the Worlds of Others through Collaborative Imaginative Ethnography“, the piece was part of a larger special issue with amazingly creative contributions by other anthropologists. The special issue was foreworded with the essay “Special Section on Multimodal Postcards” by Sophie Schor and Mascha Gugganig, the collection accompanying their umbrella article in the journal “Multimodal Ethnography in/of/as Postcards“. One of the loveliest aspects of this collaboration is that all the authors of the special issue have written postcards to each other, after the publication. Anna just received one the other day, a joyful sensory message in a day of emails.
If you have read other posts here in the logbook, you will know that during our fieldwork we wrote postcards to each other. The postcards documented observations, ideas, dilemmas, puzzles, and everyday happenings. They could only ever be thumbnail sketches—a moment or thought caught, a question that arose or a short greeting. But as we have learned in our project, from studying how doctors learn physical examination skills, there is a world of information in a thumbnail.
Please do read more on the American Anthropologist website. Below you can find 5 things our research team loves about postcards as one way (of many) to keep in touch:
1. the extras – the chocolate stains and pen smudges, stamps and barcodes
2. pictures on the front also tell their own stories
3. the sensuous nature of handwriting and paper
4. the slowness, delay and expectation
5. the brevity and economy of space