Elisa Russian

Autoethnography Visualized: The Case of Kym Ragusa

In her writing and filmmaking, Kym Ragusa (1966) engages with methodologies from anthropology, ethnography, and oral history in order to investigate her mixed-race roots. The daughter of an African-American mother and an Italian-American father, Ragusa casts herself as both the author and object of her field research, whose aim is to critique the discriminatory practices exercised within and beyond her home. In works such as Fuori/Outside (1997) and The Skin between Us (2006), Ragusa calls into question the usefulness of ethnic categories and normative approaches to identity, and illustrates how the relationality of social contexts shapes the formation of individuals. Focusing in particular on representations of visibility and belonging, my project analyzes the thematic and formal relationships that resonate across Ragusa’s experimental documentaries and autoethnographic narratives. I explore how Ragusa’s accounts of the racial and economic inequalities she was confronted with in her youth serve not to narrate a sense of individual “exemplarity,” but to unravel the ideological mechanisms at play in social reproduction.