Visual anthropology

Visual anthropology

Visual anthropology is a subfield of cultural anthropology that developed out of the study and production of ethnographic photography, film and since the mid-1990s, new media. While the term is sometimes used interchangeably with "ethnographic film", visual anthropology also encompasses the anthropological study of representation, including areas such as performance, museums, art, and the production and reception of mass media.


Even before the emergence of anthropology as an academic discipline in the 1880s, ethnologists were using photography as a tool of research. [Jay Ruby. " [ Visual Anthropology] ." In "Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology", David Levinson and Melvin Ember, editors. New York: Henry Holt and Company, vol. 4:1345-1351, 1996 [] .] Anthropologists and non-anthropologists conducted much of this work in the spirit of salvage ethnography or attempts to record for posterity the ways-of-life of societies assumed doomed to extinction (see, for instance, the Native American [ photography] of Edward Curtis) [ Harald E.L. Prins, "Visual Anthropology." Pp.506-525, In T.Biolsi. ed. "A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians." Oxford: Blackwell Publishing] .]

The history of anthropological filmmaking is intertwined with that of non-fiction and documentary filmmaking. Some of the first motion pictures of the ethnographic other were made with Lumière equipment ("Promenades des Éléphants à Phnom Penh", 1901). [Erik Barnouw. "Documentary: A history of the Non-Fiction Film". New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.] Robert Flaherty, probably best known for his films chronicling the lives of Arctic peoples ("Nanook of the North", 1922), became a filmmaker in 1913 when his supervisor suggested that he take a camera and equipment with him on an expedition north. Flaherty focused on “traditional” Eskimo ways of life, omitting to that end any signs of modernity among his film subjects (even to the point of refusing to use a rifle to help kill a walrus his informants had harpooned as he filmed them, according to Barnouw; this scene made it into "Nanook" where it served as evidence of their "pristine" culture). This pattern would persist in many ethnographic films to follow (see as an example Robert Gardner's "Dead Birds").

By the 1940s, anthropologists such as Hortense Powdermaker [Hortense Powdermaker. "Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Studies the Movie Makers." Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950.] , Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead ("Trance and Dance in Bali", 1952) were bringing anthropological perspectives to bear on mass media and visual representation. Karl G. Heider notes in his revised edition of "Ethnographic Film" (2006) that after Bateson and Mead, the history of visual anthropology is defined by "the seminal works of four men who were active for most of the second half of the twentieth century: Jean Rouch, John Marshall, Robert Gardner, and Tim Asch. By focusing on these four, we can see the shape of ethnographic film" (15).

Visual anthropology first found purchase in an academic setting in 1958 with the creation of the Film Study Center at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. [Jay Ruby. " [ The Professionalization of Visual Anthropology in the United States - The 1960s and 1970s] ." To be published in the selected proceedings of "Origins of Visual Anthropology: Putting the Past Together Conference", June, 20 - 25 in Göttingen, Germany, 2001.]

At present, the [ Society for Visual Anthropology] (SVA) represents the subfield in the United States as a section of the American Anthropological Association.

Ethnographic films are shown each year at the Margaret Mead Film Festival.

Ethnographic and anthropological films

A few well known anthropologically-minded films and filmmakers include:

*Alfred C. Haddon
**"Torres Strait Expedition", 1898

*Robert J. Flaherty
**"Nanook of the North", 1922
**"Moana", 1926
**"Man of Aran", 1934

*Jean Rouch
**"Jaguar", 1954-1967
**"Les maîtres fous" ("The Mad Masters"), 1954
**"Chronique d'un été" ("Chronicle of a Summer"), 1961

*Lionel Rogosin
**'On the Bowery", 1957
**"Come Back, Africa", 1957

*John Marshall
**"A Kalahari Family", 1951-2000
**"The Hunters", 1958

*Robert Gardner
**" Dead Birds", 1963
**"The Nuer", 1970
**"Rivers of Sand", 1975
**"Forest of Bliss", 1986

*Tim Asch
**"The Feast", 1969
**"", 1971
**"Magical Death", 1974
**"The Ax Fight", 1975
**"" 1975
**"A Balinese Trance Seance", 1979

*Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson
**"First Contact", 1983
**"Joe Leahy's Neighbors", 1988
**"Black Harvest", 1991

*Dennis O'Rourke
**"Cannibal Tours", 1988
**"The Good Woman of Bangkok", 1991
**"Cunnamulla", 2000
**"Landmines—A Love Story", 2004
* [ Anne Zeller]
**"Five Species" (1997)
**"Images From the Field: Baboons" (1997)
**"Lemurs of Madagascar" (1997)
**"Primate-Human Interaction" (1997)
**"Primate Patterns II" (1997)
**"Sifakas of Madagascar" (1997)
**"What Do Primatologists Do?" (1997)
**"Chimpanzees Today" (2001)
**"Hominid Evolution 1: The Early Stages" (2001)
**"Hominid Evolution 2: The Genus Homo" (2001)
**"New World Monkeys" (2003)
* [ John Bishop]
**"YoYo Man" (1978)
**"New England Fiddles" (1983)
**"Last Window" (1987)
**"Himalayan Herders" (1997)
**"Hosay Trinidad" (1999)
**" [ Oh What A Blow That Phantom Gave Me] " (2003, with Harald E.L. Prins)
* [ Sarah Elder] (films co-directed by Leonard Kamerling)
**"Tununeremiut" (1972)
**"At the Time of Whaling" (1974)
**"On the Spring Ice" (1975)
**"From the First People" (1977)
**"The Drums of Winter" (1988)
**"In Iirgus Time" (1988)
**"Joe Sun" (1988)
**"Reindeer Thief" (1988)
* [ Jayasinhji Jhala]
**"Forgotten Headhunters and Apatani Sacrifice" (1978)
**"Tragada Bhavai: A Rural Theater Troupe of Gujarat" (1981)
**"Journey with Ganapati" (1982)
**"Bharvad Predicament" (1987)
**"Morning With Asch" (1995)
**"Whose Paintings?" (1995)
**"Conversation with a Collector: Dialogue with a Docent" (1997)
**"Letter to My Nieces" (2000)
**"Close Encounters of No Kind" (2002)
**"A Zenana: Scenes and Recollections" (2005)
**"ShaktiMa no Veh" (2006)
* [ Chris Horner]
**"" (2004)
* [ Randy Olson]
**"Flock of Dodos" (2006)
* [,102 Harald E.L. Prins]
**"Our Lives in Our Hands" (1985)
**" [ Oh, What a Blow that Phantom Gave Me!] " (2003, with John Bishop)

Popular culture

Visual anthropology (and ethnographic films made by anthropologists) have also influenced films in popular culture such as:

* The Gods Must Be Crazy I and II

Visual anthropology programs

* Australian National University: The anthropology department's [ ethnographic film unit]
* San Francisco State University: [ Anthropology Department] and [ Peter Biella]
* Temple University: Temple has had a program in [ visual anthropology ] in some form since the late 1960s. At present, it offers a graduate course of studies leading to a doctorate in anthropology and an undergraduate track in the anthropology of visual communication.
* University of British Columbia: The Ethnographic Film Unit at UBC in the Department of Anthropology [ The Ethnographic Film Unit at UBC]
*University of Kent: The Department of Anthropology offers a [ Masters in Visual Anthropology] that explores traditional and experimental means of using visual images to produce/represent anthropological knowledge.
* University of London, Goldsmith's College: The [ anthropology department] offers an [ MA] and [ MPhil and PhD] in Visual Anthropology
*University of Manchester: [ The Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology]
*New York University: The Center for Media and Culture
* University of Southern California: Up until 2001, USC offered a masters program (M.A.V.A.) in visual anthropology through the "USC Center for Visual Anthropology" or CVA. Currently, doctoral students affiliated with the CVA may receive a [ certificate in visual anthropology] .
*University of Tromsø: The University of Tromsø offers a program in [ Visual Culture Studies]
*Harvard University: [ The Media Anthropology Lab]

ee also

*Anthropology of media
*Cultural anthropology
*Film school
*Visual culture
*Visual sociology
*Edmund Snow Carpenter
*Barbara Myerhoff
*Jay Ruby


Further reading

* Barbash, Ilisa and Lucien Taylor. "Cross-cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Films and Videos." Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
* Engelbrecht, Beate (ed.). "Memories of the Origins of Ethnographic Film." Frankfurt am Main et al.: Peter Lang Verlag, 2007.
*Grimshaw, Anna. "The Ethnographer's Eye: Ways of Seeing in Modern Anthropology." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
*Heider, Karl G. "Ethnographic Film (Revised Edition)." Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.
*Ruby, Jay. "Picturing Culture: Essays on Film and Anthropology." Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
*MacDougall, David. "Transcultural Cinema." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
*Prins, Harald E.L.. "Visual Anthropology." Pp.506-525. In "A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians." Ed. T. Biolsi. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
*Prins, Harald E.L., and Ruby, Jay eds. "The Origins of Visual Anthropology." "Visual Anthropology Review". Vol. 17 (2), 2001-2002.

External links

* [ SVA Society for Visual Anthropology]
* []
* [ Visual Anthropology Review]
* [ European Association of Social Anthropologists Visual Anthropology Network]
* [ Royal Anthropological Institute, Ethnographic Film]
* [ (VACC)]
* [ National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives] - collect and preserve historical and contemporary anthropological materials that document the world's cultures and the history of anthropology.
* [ Audio-Visual Resources] (from the website of Prof. Alessandro Duranti, anthropology department, UCLA)
* [ Films of anthropological and other "ancestors"]
* [ A kiosk of films and sounds in Ethnomusicology - Robert Garfias]
* [ Documentary Educational Resources] (Visual Anthropology Films & Filmmakers)

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