Kaitlin Banfill is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Emory College. Her research focuses on social change, education, migration, and kinship in Nuosu Yi communities in Southwest China. She is specifically interested in the ways in which ethnic minority youth in China revitalize ethnic practices through creative self-representation. She utilizes both traditional ethnographic methods and visual ethnography in her research. 

This project uses visual methods to tell stories and re-create life worlds based on her ethnographic research.

This graphic ethnography introduces Nuosu Yi experiences with migration and education in the past two decades, focusing specifically on the birth of modern Yi literature in the mid 1980s.

The first story introduces the Liangshan region and the Nuosu people, while the second section follows the individual story of Aku Vytvy, a pioneer of Nuosu language poetry and advocate of indigenous language literacy. Aku’s poetry went on to inspire a generation of young Nuosu writers. Although based on the memories of specific informants, these stories reflect larger processes of rural-urban migration and indigenous language revitalization worldwide.

I use a variety of sources to create my drawings: text from interviews, my own photos, and photographs collected from informants. The sources and styles that I use reflect both my own training as an illustrator and anthropologist, but are also in conversation with the people and places encountered in the field.

This process inevitably brings me closer to individuals and their stories. I must step into their “image world” by thinking beyond traditional text-based approaches and inserting myself into their story, envision how things looked and felt, and fill in details that were left unsaid. Drawing as an ethnographic method adds a level of familiarity with the person or place drawn through close interaction with their stories.