Anthropology of film
This course explores the multiple relationships between anthropology and film over the course of the 20th century. It covers the historical progression of documentary film as it was developed in the early part of the 20th century and then appropriated by anthropologists into the genre of ethnographic film during the latter half of the century. Analytically the course poses questions about the role of film within the internal dynamics of anthropology as an academic discipline and its relation to a wider field of documentary filmmaking. We will look how anthropologists have used and debated film as a tool of ethnographic representation and as a productive mode of anthropological knowledge. We also look at developments beyond anthropology to examine how the changing technologies and media of film have helped to shape anthropology and debates on ethnographic representation. Overall we will mutually interrogate ethnographic film in relation to the wider histories of anthropological practice, written ethnography, photography, film criticism, audiences, documentary and popular fiction film practice and indigenous forms of self-representation.
The main aims of this course are threefold: 1. to introduce the history of documentary and ethnographic film by covering the some of the
important films and major filmmakers who have defined the field. 2. to examine the main documentary styles and conventions that have been used in the
construction of ethnographic films. 3. to consider the main issues and themes that have been used to critically evaluate and theorize
documentary film as a mode of social inquiry.
Our emphasis is upon the study of films in relation to anthropology. While it is, of course, important to consider the technical aspects of how ethnographic films are made in terms of research, funding, the processes of production, the use of film and sound technology, subtitling and other technical information, this course does not involve the practical exercise of filmmaking. However, for those who might want to move on to film production or criticism this course aims to provide the critical tools that are necessary to both make and study documentary and ethnographic films.
The course is for the most part organized around a series of key films and important filmmakers. We will put a great deal of emphasis on learning how to watch and evaluate documentary and ethnographic films. In addition to studying the films themselves, we will place an equal emphasis on learning to understand and critically evaluate film related scholarship in the form of published articles and books. It is important to note at the outset that even though a great deal of attention will be given to watching and discussing films, students will be assessed on their ability to write a coursework essay that evaluates films in relationship to written academic scholarship.
Up to this point this course has focused primarily on how anthropologists have represented others using film and photography. Yet, this presumed anthropological monopoly has increasing been questioned/repositioned by indigenous forms of self-representation. Focusing on a few prominent examples of indigenous filmmaking, this week considers how new forms of self-representation have challenged the project of ethnographic filmmaking.
How have indigenous filmmaking projects intervened in the politics of ethnographic representation?
To what extent are ethnographic and indigenous films compatible or contradictory?
Victor Masayeva, Imagining Indians, 1992, 60 min. Michael Beckham, The Kayapo: Out of the Forest, Disappearing World Series, 1989, 57 min. Vincent Carelli, Video in the Villages: The Spirit of TV, 1990, 18 min. Zacharias Kunuk, Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner, 2001, 172 min. Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu, Before Tomorrow, 2008, 92 min. Katerina Cizek and Peter Wintonick, Seeing is Believing: Handycams, Human Rights and the News, 2002, 58 min.
Jay Ruby, “Speaking for, Speaking about, Speaking with or Speaking Alongside” in Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film & Anthropology. University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 195-219.
Jay Ruby, “In the Belly of the Beast: Eric Michaels and Indigenous Media” in Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film & Anthropology. University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 221-238.
Harald Prins, “Visual Media and the Primitivist Perplex: Colonial Fantasies, Indigenous Imagination and Advocacy in North America” in F. Ginsburg, L. Abu-Lughod and B. Larkin, editors, Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, University of California Press, 2002, pp. 58-74.
MA Anthropology and Film, term 2, 2013-14 page 25
Faye Ginsburg, “Native Intelligence: A Short History of Debates on Indigenous Media and Ethnographic Film”. In Banks, Marcus and Ruby, Jay, (eds.), Made to be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology. University of Chicago Press, 2011, pp. 234-255.
Sol Worth and John Adair, “Navajo Film-Makers” in American Anthropologist, vol. 72, pp. 9-34. Sol Worth, “Toward and Anthropological Politics of Symbolic Forms” in Dell Hymes, ed., Reinventing
Anthropology. Random House, 1972, pp. 335-364.
Faye Ginsberg, “Mediating Culture: Indigenous Media, Ethnographic Film, and Production of Identity” in Cultural Anthropology, vol. 6, no. 1, February 1992. Also in L. Devereaux and R. Hillman eds., Fields of Vision: Essays in Film Studies, Visual Anthropology and Photography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995 pp. 256- 291. Also reprinted in Kelly Askew and Richard Wilk, editors, The Anthropology of Media: A Reader. Blackwell Publishers, 2002, pp. 210-235.
Faye Ginsburg, “Aboriginal Media and the Australian Imaginary”, Public Culture, vol. 5, no. 3, 1993.
Faye Ginsburg, “Screen Memories: Resignifying the Traditional in Indigenous Media” in F. Ginsburg, L. Abu-Lughod and B. Larkin, editors, Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, University of California Press, 2002, pp. 39-57.
Terrance Turner, “Representation, Politics and Cultural Imagination in Indigenous Video: General Points and Kayapo Examples” in F. Ginsburg, L. Abu-Lughod and B. Larkin, editors, Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, University of California Press, 2002, pp. 75-89.
T. Turner, “Visual media, cultural politics and anthropological practice. Some implications of recent uses of film and video among the Kayapo of Brazil,” Visual Anthropology Review, Spring 1990, pp. 8-13.
Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart, eds. Global Indigenous Media: Cultures, Poetics and Politics. Duke University Press, 2008.
Richard Chalfen, “Picturing culture through indigenous imagery: a telling story” in P. Crawford and D. Turton eds., Film as Ethnography. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992, pp. 222-241
Shari Huhndorf, “Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner: Culture, History, and Politics in Inuit Media,” in American Anthropologist, vol. 105, no. 4, December 2003, pp. 822-826.
Faye Ginsburg, “Atanarjuat Off-Screen: From ‘Media Reservations’ to the World Stage,” in American Anthropologist, vol. 105, no. 4, December 2003, pp. 827-831
Michael Robert Evans, The Fast Runner: Filming the Legend of Atanarjuat. University of Nebraska Press, 2010. Sol Worth web page at: https://astro.temple.edu/~ruby/wava/worth/worth.html Atanarjuat website at: https://www.atanarjuat.com/ Seeing is Believing website at: https://www.seeingisbelieving.ca/
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