The Center for Ethnographic Media Arts (CEMA) is a media arts research center for the development of innovative audiovisual work by practice-led researchers working across disciplines at USC. By orchestrating fellowship programs, workshops, and events featuring guest artists, CEMA contributes to a tapestry of interdisciplinary approaches, ranging from ethnographic to experimental, to further arts-based research at USC.

Rooted in a rich history of visual anthropology and ethnographic media arts at USC, CEMA is committed to supporting innovative moving image and sonic artworks by USC affiliates. These projects aim to expand our understanding of the complexity of ‘ethno-‘ (humankind and culture) in ‘ethnography,’ while extending its meaning to encompass realms beyond the human, transcending traditional boundaries and with the aim of fostering inclusivity and transcultural understanding. This paradigm shift underscores CEMA’s commitment to the discovery and cultivation of new forms of media at the intersection of research and poetics to explore the fabric of existence.

At the heart of the Center of Ethnographic Media Art’s philosophy is a commitment to illuminate the value of media arts practices for original thought and transdisciplinary research at USC. Our primary objective is to facilitate the creation of new works derived from long-term fieldwork in which media-making is a foundational research methodology. This is realized through our fellowship program, which provides support for fellows across USC with small grants, equipment and technical support as well as intensive critique workshops of works-in-progress. CEMA also collaborates with local partners and USC units for public programming to enhance CEMA fellows’ experiences and engage the broader USC community. These programs foster dialogue with distinguished and emergent visiting artists, showcasing their non-fiction audiovisual works and supporting research creation at CEMA.

CEMA is also engaged with Anthropology colleagues in the preservation and continued research into the Center for Visual Anthropology Archive, which consists of original ethnographic materials produced at or in concert with the Center for Visual Anthropology over the course of many decades at the University of Southern California. More information about this archive is forthcoming.  

At the forefront our mission lies a commitment to usher in a new era of media-makers, bridging disciplines and supporting researchers to explore uncharted realms of creative and scholarly expression.