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Friday, February 23, 2018

Eldorado, a film by Markus Imhoof and My Apprenticship, book by Karla Poewe: The Refugee Question Now and Then

Markus Imhoof, with Giovanna, the Italian refugee girl his family looked after during the second world war, whose story provides Eldorado’s jumping-off point.
Markus Imhoof as Child with Giovanna
 During WWII, as a Swiss child, Markus Imhoof was taken to a freight depot by his parents to pick up a refugee. He wanted a big brother but got an Italian refugee girl Giovanna. She became his big sister, but he lost her again when she was forced to return to Italy after the war. They became pen pals.

This traumatic childhood experience formed the personal core of his being and is the motivating force for his powerful documentary film, Eldorado (2018). Bradshaw The Guardian reviewer calls it “a deeply felt documentary essay on Europe’s refugee question.” It was played at the 2018 Berlinale, Berlin’s annual film festival. This is a shortened URL to The Guardian’s review

I am fascinated by this documentary art form. My childhood as a refugee during and immediately after WWII also triggered my field research in Zambia and now My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey (2018). Since the latter is merely a book, memories of loss and confusion found themselves into my dreams then and surprised, occasionally even confused me, during traumatic happenings in the field. I recorded them in my Diary.

The comparison is significant, because just as Eldorado is a factually documented portrayal in visual form by a film maker recording and experiencing the reality of refugee happenings now, so too My Apprenticeship is a documented portrayal in written form by an ethnographer of field experiences in Zambia. In both cases, WWII childhood experiences triggered these “deeply felt documentary essays”, and in both cases aspects of the authors’ childhood trauma occur in the film and the book.

Should social sciences resist documentary essays because intellectual skill as well as deep feeling is centered, in the first instance, on the creator of the work? I think not. The creating person, be it of film or field research, is crucial to the work and, usually, because their childhood experiences were humbling.

For me and for the film maker Imhoof, personal stories play naturally into our work. This is a shortened URL to my book

  My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey

Monday, February 12, 2018

My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey Available on Amazon Thursday February 15, 2018

Flyer for My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey

About the Book

The book sits on ego-documents, like letters, diary entries, and notes of casual conversations in which the curiosity, temperament, and thought of the people harmonize or clash freely with that of the researcher. Rather than cutting us off from understanding what is strange and past, this bias is a window that initially opens it up to us.

The last chapter returns the reader to the ancient notion that rhetoric imitates life and nature, because nature has assigned to every emotion a look, tone of voice, and bearing of its own. It thereby invites readers to free themselves from the ideological lock-in of postmodern discursivity and, like the ethnographer, heed happenings while doing research.

Cover of the Book

My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey

I have a personal reason to appreciate Karla Poewe’s wonderful book: parallel experiences. We both remember what it was like to be shoved about as German Kriegskinder (war-time children). We were both attracted to, and then distanced ourselves from, Sartre’s existentialism. We explored our identities in North America and in very different cultures – Karla as an ethnographer in Zambia, I as a journalist in Vietnam. It requires literary and scholarly skills to do this well. Karla has done it very well indeed.

Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto
Emeritus Director, Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life
Author of Triumph of the Absurd: A Reporter’s Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam

Poewe does not “study” humor, pain, poverty of environment, or relationships between the sexes. She experiences them, lives them, and finds herself changed into new forms of “becoming.”

Martha Ward
Professor of Research of Anthropology, The University of New Orleans
Author of Nest in the Wind


Available Thursday February 15, 2018

eBook  U.S. $9.99

Paperback  U.S. $ 16.00

I have noticed that the eBook version looks very different on every device. This is the first time that I have tried this. It is a learning experience. So my friends and colleagues, I hope that you will enjoy the book.

With Best Wishes,
Karla Poewe