Conference Grants: Juliana Friend on Senegalese Ethics and Pornography

20 Jan, 2020

Conference Grants: Juliana Friend on Senegalese Ethics and Pornography

Juliana Friend received a Fall 2019 BCNM Conference Grant to help cover her costs attending The American Anthropological Association conference in Vancouver, BC. Friend presented "Porn, Pop-Ups, National Purity: Everyday Ethics and Digital Pornography." Read more about her experience in her own words below.

In November 2019, I attended the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Vancouver, BC. I presented a paper entitled "Porn, Pop-Ups, National Purity: Everyday Ethics and Digital Pornography" at the panel, "Techno-Optimism and its Social Overflows."

My paper drew on fieldwork on digital porngoraphy in Senegal. I explored how sex workers pondering the economic and ethical implications of performing in porn negotiate and reformulate the Wolof ethic of sutura (discretion or modesty). In historically contingent ways, sutura has predicated honor, legible gender identity, and claims to national belonging on the proper management of the public/private boundary. My interlocutors confront the possibility that their public circulation of intimate images may violate sutura, and in turn, jeopardize their claims to honorable femininity and national belonging . I interwove the ethical reflections of sex worker interlocutors with the puzzling rhetoric of the founder of Senegal's first porn website. This porn entrepreneur claims to "purify" the nation through pornography, invoking the very value of modesty that porn is commonly understood to transgress. As the discussant noted, this porn entrepreneur embodied a peculiar kind of techno-optimism. These different ethical paradigms of porn and sutura collided in surprising ways when my interlocutors accessed digital porn content through an unfamiliar material device: the laptop. The other panelists engaged the theme of techno-optimism through a wide diversity of ethnographic contexts. This diversity produced conceptually productive comparative discussion.

While at the conference, I also attended planning meetings for the Society for Cultural Anthropology's Visual and New Media Review, at which I am a Contributing Editor. I attended two panels on linguistic anthropology of the image. These panels proved conceptually useful for my dissertation work, which brings together media anthropology and linguistic anthropology. Finally, I participated in a student-faculty mentorship workshop on Op-Ed writing, which has the potential to expand the kinds of work I produce during and beyond graduate school.