Contact info

Mailing address:
Krompach 26, 47157
Czech Republic

E-mails: (editorial team) (subscriptions and orders)

To contact us use the above address, and not the address of the publisher shown below.

Bank information:
account number: 0222027399/0800
bank name & address: Ceska sporitelna (Strossmayerovo nam. 1, 170 21  Praha 7, CZ)
IBAN: CZ65 0800 0000 0002 2202 7399

Editorial notices


journal for qualitative research

ISSN 1211-5770
Registration code MK ČR: E 8364
Published by the civil association Casopis Biograf
Krompach 26, 47157
ICO: 27003213
Two issues per year.
Editor-in-chief: Barbora Spalová (

Text detail

Biograf 2018/67

Learn to live in uncertainty: SEL documentaries and the ethics of staring

Tereza Bernátková

Learn to live in uncertainty: SEL documentaries and the ethics of staring

In last decade, the Experimental Laboratory at Harvard University, Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL), became a phenomenon in both anthropology as well as in cinema. Their work resonate among international social science community, their films were awarded at prestigious film festivals and they are taken as an influential tendency of contemporary cinema. In this paper, SEL methods and films are approached as an intersection of social sciences and arts, anthropology and film. The text argues that SEL changes our usual patterns of perception and actualizes our experience with the world. Therefore, special attention is paid to the phenomena of presence and aspects of performativity of documentary practice instead of just observation and recording. Finally, SEL documentaries are approached as artworks that transform trivial encounters into a method and that shift the attention from singularities (artifacts, personas, sounds, practices) to a situation in its irreducible and dynamic complexity. The importance is founded in the way uncertainty is accepted as a human condition.


Sensory Ethnography Lab; participatory cinema; embedded knowledge; encounter; the visual turn; the sensory turn; the postmodern turn; performativity; uncertainty.

Biograf themes:

Methodology of qualitative research; Everyday life and the ordinary; Anthropology and ethnography; Ethical and legal aspects of research; Visuality, visual media and research


BERNÁTKOVÁ, T. (2018): Naučit se pohybovat v neurčitosti: Filmy Sensory Ethnography Lab a etika zírání[Learn to live in uncertainty: SEL documentaries and the ethics of staring]. Biograf, 67-68: 3-28. Available at [last access22. 01. 2021]


Tato studie vznikla na Akademii múzických umění v Praze v rámci projektu „Etika zírání, o pohledu v etnografickém filmu“, podpořeného z prostředků účelové podpory na specifický vysokoškolský výzkum, kterou poskytlo MŠMT v roce 2017. Za vedení práce děkuji Janu Gogolovi ml.

[discussion in Czech or Slovak] [full text in Czech or Slovak - only for subscribers