Call Me Back: Ethno Science Fiction as an Ethnographic Film Method

December 17, 2020



Dr. Johannes Sjöberg


Dr. Carlo Cubero

In this special event, Dr. Johannes Sjöberg will be premiering his new ethno science fiction film ‘Call Me Back’ (2020), followed by a talk on exploring uncertain environmental futures through creative and collaborative practice. We will explore how projective improvisation in ethnographic film could contribute to the way we relate to scientific predictions of the future.

Talk Description:

Swedish reports show an increase of so-called ‘climate change anxiety’ (Lagerblad 2010), which affects the  mental health of people and often centres on the responsibility they feel in relation to their own children and future generations. In his related chapter entitled ‘Ethno Science Fiction: Projective Improvisations of Future Scenarios and Environmental Threat in the Everyday Life of British Youth’ (in Anthropologies and Futures: Researching Emerging and Uncertain Worlds, ed. Salazar, Pink, Irving & Sjöberg), Johannes asks English youth living in regions affected by drastic environmental change to improvise their own science fictions, especially with regard to climate change, in order to research and represent young people’s perceptions and understandings of the future. 

Our upcoming talk will feature the premiere of Dr. Sjöberg’s ethno science fiction film ‘Call Me Back’ (2020). In 2014, Johannes asked James Hudson-Wright to start a dialogue with himself in a phone booth outside his house in Shipley. During 2014-2018, Johannes recorded James discussing his life and the impact of climate change with his present persona and imagined future selves from the years 2036 and 2056. These scenes were intercut with his gradually changing environment including the flooding of his home on Boxing Day 2015. The talk will be followed by a discussion led by Dr. Carlo Cubero, where EFC members will explore how projective improvisation in ethnographic film could contribute to the way we relate to scientific predictions of the future. We will contextualize Sjöberg’s work within new directions in the field of visual anthropology, where scholars are carefully balancing different ethical frameworks and interventionist methodologies from applied theatre, anthropology, and beyond. 


Johannes Sjöberg was appointed Lecturer in Screen Studies in Drama at the University of Manchester in 2008. He specialises in screen practice as research, and his interests revolve around the boundaries between artistic and academic approaches to research and representation. His approach is based on the practice and critical study of qualitative research methods, such as extended fieldwork and participant observation, using participatory and improvisational art forms to mediate complex cultural understanding to the popular audience within a reflexive context. This approach has developed as a research interest through film and theatre education, freelance work as an actor and director in Sweden, Guatemala and Brazil, during his work as a documentary filmmaker in the UK and as a guest lecturer at various universities. After BA and MA studies in Social and Visual Anthropology at Stockholm and Manchester University, he was awarded a PhD in Drama for his practice-based research on the ethnofictions of Jean Rouch and projective improvisation in ethnographic film-making, applied on identity, performance and discrimination among transgendered Brazilians. He is currently convening the PhD programme in Anthropology, Media and Performance at the University of Manchester. He has recently conducted research on ethno science fiction as an ethnographic film method asking how British youth relate to scientific predictions of the future through their imagination, especially in relation to climate change. This research has been conducted under the umbrella of the Forward Play research project resulting in films and publications on anthropological study of futures, and play as epistemology and method in ethnographic research and filmmaking.

Carlo Cubero is Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Tallinn University. One strand of his research focuses on developing audiovisual methods for anthropological research. He recently published a chapter entitled “Ethnographic Film Festivals” (2020) in The Routledge International Handbook of Ethnographic Film and Video. He has produced and directed various documentaries and sound-works. He has also curated ethnographic film programmes and ethnographic sound programmes at academic conferences and public events in Europe and the Caribbean. Another strand of Carlo’s research is concerned with the complexities of Caribbean island life. His film ‘Mangrove Music’ (2006) and his book "Caribbean Island Movements: Culebra's Trans-insularities" (Rowman and Littlefield 2017) introduces the concept of "transinsularism" as a means to engage productively with the contradictions of Caribbean island identities. The monograph is based on a long term relationship with the island of Culebra, located in the north-eastern Caribbean.

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