Marcel Reyes - Cortez is a Visual Anthropologist living and working in London.
As a visual anthropologist and artist, Marcel’s current research explores the fusion between photographic practice and academic research in an attempt to promote and enrich the collaboration and exchange between them.
Photography in social research and writing - warsztaty
Workshop and master-class, organised by the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw and Stowarzyszenie “Pracownia Etnograficzna”, June 2015.
We invite applications for participation to a day workshop and master-class on the practice of Photography and use of photographs in Social Research and writing. This is aimed at both Anthropologist, visual practitioners and beyond. Organised by the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw and Stowarzyszenie “Pracownia Etnograficzna”.
A day workshop aims to encourage the use of visual practice such as photography in social research and the dissemination of data. It aims to encourage practical and analytical skills in order to create photographic narratives and how to write an ethnography using photography.
The workshop is organised as a one day master-class on the 17th June 2015 guided by Weronika Plinska, University of Warsaw and Dr Marcel Reyes-Cortez a Visual Anthropologist and photographer based at Goldsmiths, London.
“Cemeteries could be regarded as non-social spaces due to a believed negligible amount of daily social activity between the living, the dead and the space. At the same time, the spaces of the dead are regarded as spiritually charged, dangerous and even polluted. My paper suggests that the spaces of the dead, such as the cemeteries of Mexico City, are clear examples of dynamically active memory-making spaces in which the dead are daily revered, socialised and memorialised through a combination of secular and religious contemporary funerary practices, the daily interaction between the living, the dead, the ánima and material culture. The paper analyses the phenomenon, socio-cultural and political conditions of the objectification of the dead in the internal and external spaces of the cemetery. The paper includes the investigation of life histories of its workers, mourners and daily visitors in order to explore why various communities in Mexico City have embraced and revered the materialisation and objectification of the dead such as the following of the Santa Muerte. This paper then digs deeper into the array of meanings interwoven into the fabrics of social life and spiritual stability of the living, in which the widespread embrace of material culture plays a dynamic role in the contemporary social rituals dedicated to the dead in the cemeteries of a megalopolis.” p.107
Reyes-Cortez, M. 2012: Material culture, magic and the Santa Muerte in the cemeteries of a megalopolis. Visible Religions, in Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol.13, No.1, (March, Routledge), pp. 107-131.
Jornada de Antropología – Representación visual del daño y del sufrimiento social
8 May 2014, Madrid
Departamento de Antropología Social y Cultural de la UNED, en la Escuela Pías
Recordando los Muertos en los cementerios de Álvaro Obregón, Ciudad de México.
En este artículo voy a considerar cómo la cultura material especialmente la fotografía, apoya la continuidad de las relaciones entre los vivos y los muertos. La investigación reveló cómo personas y actividades giraban en torno a los esfuerzos sostenidos por los dolientes, visitantes y trabajadores del cementerio para activamente mantener a los muertos como participantes en la vida de los vivos. En este artículo muestro cómo la cultura material puede proporcionar el vehículo a través del cual se pueden expresar las relaciones sociales con los muertos, y al mismo tiempo hablando con y expresar las características particulares de la persona muerta. Los mismos conjuntos de objetos y fotografías crean las condiciones para nuevas experiencias que están inevitablemente ligados al proceso de recordar a los muertos
Association of Social Anthropologist of the UK and Commonwealth
Anthropology and Enlightenment, 19-22 June, Edinburgh 2014
Author: Dr Marcel Reyes-Cortez
This paper will look at how practitioners of magic and followers of the Santa Muerte form different types of social meanings and will explore further how objects and photographs facilitate the communion between the living, the dead and the ánima.
This paper explores why the cemetery is a magnet for social, cultural and religious interaction by investigating the practices and activities of the materialisation and objectification of the dead inside and outside its boundaries. This includes the life histories of its workers, mourners and daily visitors. My assertion is that the spaces of the dead, such as the cemeteries of Mexico City, are clear examples of dynamically active memory-making sites. In these the dead are revered daily, socialised and memorialised through a combination of secular and religious contemporary funerary practices, material culture such as objects, photographs, and the daily interaction between the living and the ánima. One such example is the regular use and practice of magic in the cemetery and regular visits made by non-mourners who are perceived to be witches and followers of the Santa Muerte. It also investigates how the diverse uses of material objects have been embraced to carry out such activities in Panteón San Rafael.
Supported by the evidence presented in this paper, I suggest that the embracing of material culture in the cemeteries provides and creates a space for multiple layers of memory facilitating and bridging the communion between the living, the dead and the ánima. I will also explore further how mourners’ religious and secular experiences, practices and activities, including the widespread embracing of material and visual culture, play an active and dynamic role in contemporary funerary rituals and social memory dedicated to the dead in the cemeteries of a megalopolis.
Abstract: ‘My grandmother is not a ‘corpse’: The forgotten dead of a Megalopolis’
The cemetery space could be argued or understood to be a social, political, socio-culturally dynamic and sociomythic space, yet when the dead die alone, without identity, then a cemetery takes on a darker and sinister twist. My paper explores how a cemetery in a megalopolis such as Mexico City turns into a waste dump for the carcass of the human body. In this context if a person in Mexico City is unknown and its body unclaimed by its family or friends, the dead ends striped of its role as a social person, dehumanised and treated as waste, a corpse or a pile of bones, striped of its human dignity. There are instances more common than not were the dignity and humanity of the dead has been excluded from the overall complexity of current Mexican funerary practices. This paper will look particularly at the forgotten dead that find their final resting place in common unmarked graves, such as the ones located in Panteón Civil de Dolores, Mexico D.F.
This paper addresses why people persist in maintaining a relationship with their dead, exploring the social and cultural tools that are used to extend the dead’s biographical narratives such as secular and religious commemorative objects and the photographic portrait. ‘Not letting go’ is of fundamental value for my research participants as striping the dead from their humanity could place us in danger of excluding ourselves from becoming dynamic members of the human community when we die.
Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
My practice based visual research project explores how through daily and yearly cycles, mourners and workers develop and maintain intricate rituals involving the dead buried in the cemeteries of Mexico City. The conjoined landscapes of the living and the dead are spaces of personal and collective grief, charged with emotions, loaded with ethical and moral obstacles and obligations. In my project I set out to document meticulously through photographs as well as text the numerous ways in which the living and the dead remain connected over generations. Additionally, I explore the range of activities, labor and kills developed and performed by its gravediggers serving these intense, long-term relationships.
2-3 Sept 2011: ‘The Art of Anthropology Conference’
School of Art & Design, University of Ulster, Belfast
Reyes-Cortez on Portraits of Remembrance
“. . . Her eyes look straight ahead, as if looking at Don Francisco talking to her, the eyes of the image reciprocates the viewer’s gaze. I suggest that at this moment the materiality of the photograph is transformed and the photograph transcends the object, it protects the dead from the ephemeral human body, overcoming the absence of the person. I suggest that the photograph preserves traces of memory and personhood, shifted from the decomposing flesh in the coffin or a cremated body in a cinerary urn to the social body of the photograph. Portraits of remembrance protect the invincibility of the dead as a social person, making the dead visible through the relationships and the value entrusted to the material/spiritual image by its mourners and visitors . . .” p.48-49.
Reyes-Cortez, M. 2010: Communicating with the Dead: Social Visibility in the Cemeteries of Mexico City, in Die Realität des Todes: Zum gegenwärtigen Wandel von Totenbildern und Erinnerungskulturen (Visibility of Death) by Dominik Groß, Christoph Schweikardt (edts), pp.33-62, Campus Verlag, Germany.
Upstairs @ the RAI, Friday 31 October, 2014, 5pm
Research Seminar followed by some tasters with Dr Marcel Reyes-Cortez, Goldsmiths, University of London
In Mexico City, the dead are very present in popular culture and are manifested in the spaces of the living, for example in art, photography, cinema, literature, music, gastronomy and political rhetoric. Claudio Lomnitz argues that death and the dead in Mexico have been turned into a national ‘totem’. This social phenomenon has developed some unique social and cultural practices. This seminar will show how people symbolically represent the dead in order to include them in their social and living spaces and create memory and immortality through material culture and photographic portraits.
Through daily and yearly cycles, people develop and maintain intricate rituals involving the dead buried in the cemeteries of Alvaro Obregon, Mexico City. The conjoined landscapes of the living and the dead are spaces of personal and collective grief, charged with emotions, loaded with ethical and moral obstacles and obligations. Based on his PhD field research, Marcel Reyes-Cortez documents the numerous ways in which the living and the dead remain connected over generations. This involves long-term relationships and a range of activities (cemetery workers, flower-growers, coffin makers, etc.).
Please book your free place: http://rai-day-of-the-dead.eventbrite.com
Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
London, W1T 5BT, United Kingdom
Abstract: ‘Visual research in the cemeteries of Mexico City: Photography, a social research method’
My visual research project explores how through daily and yearly cycles, the bereaved, mourners and workers develop and maintain intricate funerary rituals involving the dead buried in the cemeteries of Mexico City. Commemorative visual and material culture both religious and secular already plays an important role in mourners’ everyday life and activities. A more extensive use of the photograph and the practice of photography became a valuable social research tool, especially when looking at the exchanges and interactions between the dead, memory and the visual material worlds that assist the living, the dead and the ánima (spirit/soul) to stay connected in the spaces in which they interact.
I have chosen to explore the above social and cultural processes in part through a visual methodology, documenting meticulously through photographs as well as text the numerous ways in which the living and the dead remain connected over generations. The practice of photography eased and speeded the entry into the cemetery and mourners private and public spaces, it also opened access to the possibilities of collaboratory encounters within the field and with those people with whom I was working. Thus, I examined and extensively recorded through photography the cyclical memorialising and mourning practices, ritualised routines, and daily habits associated with the dead and the cemetery space in the borough of Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City. A visual methodology in combination with traditional ethnographic methods such as participant observation, formal and informal interviews, investigation of life histories of the bereaved, mourners, visitors and workers with an overview of contemporary Mexican funerary practices in Mexico City offered the project a productive instrument, providing a more nuanced understanding of the bereaved and mourner’s ideas about their relationships with the dead.
11-14 April 2012: ‘European Social Science History Conference’
Programme: University of Glasgow
11-13 December 2014, Moscow, Russia
National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Faculty of Philosophy
Программа международной конференции
“О чем мы говорим, когда мы говорим о фотографии”
11-13 декабря 2014, Москва, ГУ-ВШЭ
ул. Мясницкая, 20
Abstract: Photography as a Social Research Method
In current academic research photography and the use of photographs have opened the possibility for a richer and detailed level of engagement with spaces and people researchers encounter. My paper will discuss the practice and use of photography as a research method and critically look at photography as a source of evidence and memory. My paper will show how researchers can engaged with anthropology a critical forum to discus their experiences. Looking at the practice of photography as an art form in collaboration with the social sciences. Opening the possibility for ethnographers who use or wish to utilise photography to engage with the ways that theory and practice can collaborate in order for photography to engage with the phenomena of the social world, voicing the opinions and emotions of people and researchers alike. Giving greater sensitivity and richness to an ethnography and also for dissemination and analyses.
Through this paper I aim to explore how the ubiquitous photograph becomes a knowledge making practice. Photography with its sensorial and performative qualities opens interaction, creates and cultivates relationships with people. Photography has been found to stimulate and incite the emotions that bind people together. My paper will also look at how the practice and use of photographs and its limitations can open spaces and encounters of collaboration, speed the entry into the field assisting the research and participants a richer multi faceted field experience. This paper will expand the possibilities of the photographic practice and analises beyond the observational or as an illustrative source.
The Higher School of Economics