Thomas John


Freie Universität Berlin

Lateinamerika Institut




Adresse Habelschwerdter Allee 45
Raum JK 24/113
14195 Berlin
Telefon 49 (0)30 838-57279

Scientific training and background

  • since October 2015 Research Associate (PreDoc) at the DFG-funded International Research Training Group 'Between Spaces. Movements, Actors and Representations of Globalisation’, (FU Berlin)
  • 2013-2015 Instructor of audio-visual anthropology at the Institute of Ethnology (WWU Münster) for the MA Social Anthropology and the BA Cultural and Social Anthropology.

  • 2012-2015 Several periods of fieldwork in southern Mexico.
  • 2012-2015 Freelance work for Freie Universität Berlin, Universität Halle (Saale), film festivals, amongst others.
  • Fall 2012 – summer 2014 Research Associate at the Institute of Ethnology (WWU Münster).
  • 2013 co-curator of RE: A critical dialogue on photography, film and the documentary arts:
  • 2006-2010 University Studies: BA Cultural and Social Anthropology and BA Comparative Religious Science, (WWU Münster)
  • 2008-2009 Student assistant at the WWU Münster for the Exzellenz-Cluster Religion & Politik (WWU Münster)

Scholarships and Awards

  • 2014 DAAD Promotionsstipendium (for 12 months field-research abroad)
  • 2009 Erasmus scholarship (for one semester at the department of Ethnology in Ljubljana).

2015 Winter Term 2015/16: Course instructor, 'Audio-Visual Mediation of Human Experience' at filmArche Berlin:

Winter Term 2015/16: Course instructor, 'Theories and Debates of Audio-Visual Anthropology' for the MA in Social Anthropology, Institute of Ethnology, WWU Münster

Summer Term 2015: Course instructor, 'Anthropological informed Film: Theory and Filmmaking Practice' for the BA Cultural and Social Anthropology, Institute of Ethnology, WWU

May 2015: Director and organizer, student excursion to the Freiburger Film Forum with students of the Institute of Ethnology, WWU Münster.

Winter Term 2014/15: Course instructor, 'Audio-Visual Anthropology Practice' for the MA in Social Anthropology, Institute of Ethnology, WWU Münster.

Summer School 2014: Course instructor, Summer School Visual Anthropology of the AG Visuelle Anthropologie, Halle (Saale), direction and teaching (14 days)

June 2014: Director and organizer, student excursion to the Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival with students of the Institute of Ethnology, WWU Münster

May 2014: Co-instructor,theETHNOCINECA Projektwerkstatt "Unsichtbares-Sichtbar machen"

April 2014: Guest teacher the department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Ljubljana, (funded by the Erasmus Staff Mobility Program)

Summer Term 2014: Course instructor, 'Visual Anthropology: Documentary Filmmaking Practice' for the BA in Cultural and Social Anthropology, Institute of Ethnology, WWU

Winter Term 2013/14: Course instructor, 'Visual Anthropology: Documentary Filmmaking Practice' for the MA in Social Anthropology, Institute of Ethnology, WWU Münster

Summer Term 2013: Course instructor, 'Visual Anthropology (Theory and Methodology)' for the MA in Social Anthropology, Institute of Ethnology, WWU Münster

Sonderforschungsbereich 1171: "Affective Societies: Dynamiken des Zusammenlebens in bewegten Welten"

Teilprojekt A05: Die affektive Produktion von ‚Heimat‘: Patronatsfestvideos im transnationalen Kontext Mexiko/USA

Das TP untersucht aus visuell-anthropologischer Perspektive, wie Akteur_innen in Mexiko und in den USA transnationale Zugehörigkeit über das Medium des Patronatsfestvideos affektiv verhandeln. Die affektive Relationalität im Rahmen von medialen Praktiken und filmischen Repräsentationen sowie die daraus entstehenden Emotionsrepertoires werden ethnographisch erforscht. Das TP wird mit seinem Fokus auf Praktiken der ‚Heimat‘-Bildung einen innovativen theoretischen und methodischen Beitrag zur affektiven und emotionalen Dimension von Migration und transnationaler Gemeinschaftsbildung leisten.

Research Interests:

Visual anthropology // media anthropology // anthropology of art // indigenous media // indigeneity // intersectionality // migration // transnationalism // media appropriation // mediatization // performativity // collaborative methods // artistic research // qualitative ethnographic methods // modes and issues of representation.

Dissertation Project:

Establishing own Modernities: Indigenous Media and Art Practices in Chiapas, Mexico

This project examines indigenous media and art practices from Chiapas and Oaxaca (Mexico). Specifically, it investigates how producers in marginalized circumstances apply their practices to create discursive media spaces. Of particular interest is whether and how these media spaces are being used by the social actors to negotiate issues of belonging and to articulate or debate their ‘own’ or ‘alternative’ forms of ‘being modern’. A key question is to what extent media and art are used as political tools to articulate, disseminate, and establish such forms of own culturally specific ‘alternative modernities’. These ‘own modernities’ will be systematically examined, and their qualitative or imagined conditions described, to not only affirm that people are using media spaces in negotiations of their 'own modernity' but also trace how that is done in the local context and in relation to local ideas. In what ways are global influences, technologies and ideas appropriated locally and in a way that is culture-specific? How are issues of globalization, ‘modernity’, and ethnic citizenship negotiated in the processes of production, circulation and reception of media? Finally, the local micro perspective will be discussed in the context of critical modernity and decolonization debates.

My qualitative fieldwork focuses mainly on a network of interacting artists/filmmakers in San Cristóbal and communities surrounding the regional metropolis. To gain a thorough understanding of the culture-specific context of media appropriation, I investigate the production, encoded semiotics, dissemination and media reception of indigenous media productions. Focusing on the social actors, a qualitative media-ethnographic approach is employed. Local media are considered in relation to national and transnational ‘mediascapes’, as well as in relation to the historical and political contexts that influence or motivate their production. A vantage-point of inquiry is the assumption that ‘global flows’ such as media technologies tend to be appropriated and expressed in distinctive location- and culture-specific ways. Hence, new discursive media spaces arise between the dichotomous poles of ‘modernity’ and ‘tradition’.

Thomas John (2013). 'Religiosity in a Virtual World: Reasons and Motivations', in: Undine Frömming (ed.) Virtual Environments and Cultures. A Collection of Social Anthropological Research in Virtual Cultures and Landscapes. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang, pp. 165-176.

"Darkmoon" 2013 (Thomas John dir.)

Excerpts of "Darkmoon"

Excerpts of Thomas John's film "Darkmoon", which was produced in close collaboration with the Tzotzil-Maya filmmaker 'Ronyk'. The film deals with indigenous art in Chiapas (Mexico). It's an attempt to develop a poetic and artistic audio-visual language, to portray the poetic practices & the personhood of the main protagonist, Angelina.