Aina Azevedo

Universidade Federal da Paraíba
IMéRA Aix-Marseille
Social Anthropology
10 months

Research interests: Anthropology, Art, Visual Anthropology

Research Project

Digital museum of ethnographic drawing

Aina Azevedo’s research project at Iméra, the Institute for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University, presents an exciting and innovative exploration of the links between art and anthropology. By unearthing the historical roots of drawing in anthropology and showcasing contemporary innovations, the digital museum of ethnographic drawing aims to broaden interdisciplinary dialogue and foster a better understanding of the relationships between art, science, and culture.

Discovering the Historical and Contemporary Relationship

Drawing in anthropology has a rich history dating back to the 19th century, with ethnographers using drawing as a research method. However, this aspect of the discipline’s past remains relatively obscure and inaccessible to both the academic community and the general public. Aina Azevedo’s project aims to address this gap by creating a digital museum of ethnographic drawing (MuDE) – a comprehensive compilation that traces the historical and contemporary connections between drawing and anthropology. The museum will present diverse collections of drawings by ethnographers and anthropologistsfrom the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Miklouho-Maclay, Haddon, Spencer, Baldwin, Boas, Deacon, Evans-Pritchard, and Lévi-Strauss, highlighting their contributions and methods.

The Path Towards a Digital Museum of Ethnographic Drawing

The justification for this ambitious endeavor lies in the absence of a centralized platform presenting the history of drawing in anthropology. While scattered efforts have been made to recover drawings in anthropology since the 2010s, there remains an urgent need for a consolidated repository. By bringing together these works, Aina Azevedo’s digital museum will enable a historical review of anthropological methods and techniques, highlighting drawing’s significant contributions to the field in the past and present.

Moreover, the exhibition of these drawings will not only engage the academic community but also bridge the gap between the academic and non-academic audience. Through MuDE, a broader audience will have the opportunity to explore the fascinating fieldwork notebooks of anthropologists that often serve as visual narratives of their research. The act of drawing, as a form of representation and expression, has undergone a renaissance in anthropology since the early 21st century – a phenomenon termed the “graphic turn.” This revival has prompted discussions and explorations of drawing’s historical context, methodologies, and epistemological implications.

The second axis of Aina’s project, aptly titled “Graphic Turn,” will focus on contemporary authors who played pivotal roles in revitalizing drawing in anthropology. Aina intends to conduct online interviews with prominent figures to summarize their contributions and uncover their individual approaches to drawing as a language for anthropology.

The digital museum’s third axis, “Exhibitions,” will spotlight contemporary artists whose works creatively intertwine drawing and anthropology, exemplifying innovative approaches that transcend disciplinary boundaries. Finally, the project also envisions the development of workshops, providing a platform for diverse communities, including students, educators, ethnic groups, health professionals, and the general public, to explore drawing as a tool for reflection and expression of social realities.


Aina Azevedo is a passionate researcher and academic whose work has made a significant contribution to the intersection of art and anthropology. She is affiliated with the Universidade Federal da Paraíba (UFPB) in Brazil, where she has distinguished herself with innovative research on ethnographic drawing.

With a strong academic background, Aina Azevedo earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from the Universidade de Brasília (UnB) before embarking on a dedicated research career. Her research interests quickly converged towards studying the use of drawing as a means to produce scientific knowledge in anthropology, opening new perspectives for the discipline.

In 2015, she joined the University of Aberdeen as a postdoctoral researcher, participating in the “Knowing From the Inside” (KFI) project under the guidance of the renowned anthropologist Tim Ingold. This experience was pivotal in her journey, deepening her understanding of the interaction between drawing and anthropology.

Since returning to Brazil, Aina Azevedo has continued to devote herself to the study of ethnographic drawing as a method of description, illustration, and communication of anthropological knowledge. In 2021, she founded the “Drawing & Anthropology Lab” (Labareda), bringing together researchers from institutions in Brazil and abroad interested in the relationship between drawing and anthropology.

Beyond her research endeavors, Aina Azevedo is also involved in training young anthropologists, emphasizing the importance of drawing as a pedagogical and artistic tool. Her work aims to demystify drawing as a means of accessing the complexity of the social world, while encouraging interdisciplinary dialogue between the arts and humanities. Aina Azevedo is recognized for her dedication to expanding the boundaries of anthropology and art, thereby opening new avenues for the study of culture and society. Through her innovative and inspiring work, she continues to generate growing interest in ethnographic drawing and nourishes reflection on the significance of artistic expression in understanding the human condition.