Nora Wuttke is an architectural designer and social anthropologist currently researching the daily life of Yangon General Hospital in Myanmar for her PhD thesis at SOAS in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. This year she has been teaching a seminar at Yangon University on drawing as ethnographic method, in which she has explored with the students the possibilities of drawing as a tool to “see”, to map, to document, to remember, as a mode of analysis and an archive.
“In my research I use drawing both as a research tool to document and think through my hands, as well as a method to reverse common power structures between researcher and
interlocutor. As an architectural designer, drawing is second nature to me. As a social anthropologist I am drawing my article outlines, my thoughts, and my field notes.
The beauty in drawing fieldnotes lies beyond the surface of documentation or “showing” how something looked like. Every line is ripe with possibility – the possibility of seeing. The drawing itself and the information a drawing contains is less important than the seeing, the stillness that pre-empts a drawing and the embodiment of the seen with every line.
In my research I use the making of a drawing for my internal process in addition to as an external process, inverting common power relations. Sitting in a space, drawing renders me approachable. Writing distances, while drawing proofs to be an invitation.
In my current field site, a hospital in Yangon, Myanmar, my interlocutors come and talk to me, rather than the other way around – they hold the power of initiating a conversation in a an extremely hierarchical space (a hospital) in which they would not normally approach someone like me. They react to my drawings and through this to my research. Conversations surface that go beyond the drawn lines but are born out of the drawing.”