Emilie Le Febvre is an anthropologist of history and visual culture. Initially trained as an archaeologist, her research explores how Bedouin history and society have shaped and been shaped by photography, digital storytelling, and conflict.
As a Research Affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, she is working on a monograph Photography and Making Bedouin History in the Middle East, 1906-2010. Based on 18 months of ethnographic and archival research, the book documents how Bedouin in the Negev Desert use photographs to respond to, and represent, their own history amid escalating tensions in Israel. She charts this process through a series of case studies describing the lives and afterlives of eight photographs valued by Bedouin as historically significant and their circulations between homes, archives, and the Internet. These different contexts are conceptualized as the Negev’s ‘nested’ visual economies – a scaled but networked representational landscape where images acquire historical value and influence as they travel between the different people and places exemplifying this society. The biographies illustrate how Bedouin organise this landscape by cultural notions of insiders and outsiders and change their presentations of the past accordingly. In order to substantiate these varied histories, Le Febvre found that Bedouin dislocate images from their original contexts and re-display them in different visual economies to modify their readings for the diverse audiences in which they interact. In doing so, members are transforming photographs into ‘objects of historical persuasion’ that evidence their longstanding presence in the region. Bridging the fields of anthropology and visual history, the book offers both new insights in Bedouin Studies and a novel approach to the study of photography in the Middle East.
Le Febvre has received several awards for her research including the Palestinian American Research Fellowship (2011-2012) and the Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fellowship (2012-2013). The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies also awarded her the Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize (2017) for the best PhD dissertation on a Middle Eastern topic in the Social Sciences or Humanities in the UK. She completed her DPhil in Anthropology (2016) and MSc in Visual Anthropology (2010) at the University of Oxford. She also holds a MA in Middle Eastern Studies (2008) from Ben Gurion University of the Negev. In addition to her academic efforts, Le Febvre works as a grant writer and research consultant.
Anthropology of the Middle East; Bedouin history and society; visual/digital/material culture; photography; museums and image collections; digital storytelling; archival activism; visual economies; and tribalism
‘Reciprocating Place: The Presence of The Matson Photo Collection (1898-1950) and Bedouin in the Middle East’ (working title), in G. Johnson and D. Schultz (eds.), Photo Archives and the Place of Photography, London: Bloomsbury (forthcoming).
‘A Shaykh’s Portrait: Images and Tribal History amongst Bedouin in the Negev’, vol. 2., The Royal Anthropology Institute – Anthropology and Photography Special Series, (Spring 2016).
‘Contentious Realities: Politics of Creating an Image Archive with the Negev Bedouin in Southern Israel’, History and Anthropology – Special Series: Archives and Anthropologies: From Histories to Futures, vol. 26, issue 4, pp. 480-503 (Winter 2015).
Palestinian Activism in Israel: A Bedouin Woman Leader in a Changing Middle East, co-authored with H. Dahan-Kalev and A. al-Sana-al-Hjooj, New York: Palgrave-Macmillan (2012).