Conference Grant Reports: Juliana Friend on Wearing Illicit Images

10 Dec, 2021

Conference Grant Reports: Juliana Friend on Wearing Illicit Images

We're so pleased to be able to support our graduate students sharing their cutting edge research at the premiere conferences in their field. Juliana Friend received a Fall 2021 grant to present at the American Anthropological Association on pornography, image-making, and moral aspiration. Read more from Juliana in her own words below:

With the support of a conference grant from BCNM, I attended the 2021 meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Conference. I co-organized a panel entitled "The Illicit Image: Pornography, Image-Making, and Moral Aspiration" with linguistic anthropologist Esra Padgett. In addition to co-chairing the panel, I presented a paper entitled, “Wearing Illicit Images: Fabrics of Pornography and Citizenship in Senegal." Based on fieldwork in Dakar, Senegal, the paper explores Senegalese women's use of draps porno, bedsheets and lingerie printed with screenshots from porn films. Novel forms of digital embodiment emerge when Senegalese women wrap photographs of sex acts around their own bodies, or smooth them onto their beds. Women incorporate these textiles into the longstanding Senegalese art of seduction, or mokk pooj. Mokk pooj links feminine seduction to piety. As an amplification of mokk pooj, porn photographs become tools for cultivating the textile wearer's ethical self. With a particular interest in how the purported foreign nationality of porn performers increases the exoticism - and seductive power -- of these textiles, the paper shows how artisans and users of draps porno create alignment between two apparent opposites: pornography and piety.

This panel provided a unique opportunity for anthropologists studying pornography to share insights on research frameworks, methods, and ethics. One key conceptual take away was the importance of complementing porn research's usual focus on objectification with an emphasis on the subjectivities of porn makers and consumers, and the semiotic practices through which they cultivate such subjectivities. Professor Rusty Barrett's presentation on white supremacist tattoos among gay porn performers was particularly thought provoking. The other panelists and I hope to work together again on other conferences or publications in order to bring more visibility to this still under researched topic in anthropology.