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Visual anthropology is a subfield of social anthropology that is concerned, in part, with the study and production of ethnographic photography, movieand, since the mid-1990s, freshmedia. More recently it has been utilize by historians of science and visual culture. Although sometimes wrongly conflated with ethnographic film, visual anthropology encompasses much more, including the anthropological study of all visual representations such as dance and other type of performance, museums and archiving, all visual arts, and the production and reception of mass media. Histories and analyses of representations from many cultures are part of visual anthropology: research subject include sandpaintings, tattoos, sculptures and reliefs, cave paintings, scrimshaw, jewelry, hieroglyphics, paintings and photographs. Also within the province of the subfield are studies of human vision, properties of media, the relationship of visual form and function, and applied, collaborative utilize of visual representations. Multimodal anthropology describes the recentturn in the subfield, which considers how emerging technologies like immersive virtual reality, augmented reality, mobile application, social networking, gaming along with film, photography and art is reshaping anthropological research, practice and teaching.


Even before the emergence of anthropology as an academic discipline in the 1880s, ethnologists utilize photography as a tool of research. Anthropologists and non-anthropologists conducted much of this work in the spirit of salvage ethnography or attempts to record for posterity the method-of-life of societies assumed doomed to extinction (see, for instance, the Native American photography of Edward Curtis)

The history of anthropological filmmaking is intertwined with that of non-fiction and documentary filmmaking, although ethnofiction may be considered as a genuine subgenre of ethnographic film. Some of the first motion pictures of the ethnographic other were angry with Lumière equipment (Promenades des Éléphants à Phnom Penh, 1901). Robert Flaherty, probably best known for his movie chronicling the lives of Arctic peoples (Nanook of the North, 1922), became a filmmaker in 1913 when his supervisor recommendedthat he take a camera and equipment with him on an expedition north. Flaherty focused on "traditional" Inuit method of life, omitting with few exceptions signs of modernity among his movietopic (even to the point of refusing to utilizea rifle to assistslaya walrus his informants had harpooned as he filmed them, according to Barnouw; this scene angry it into Nanook where it served as evidence of their "pristine" culture). This pattern would persist in many ethnographic movie to follow (see as an example Robert Gardner's Dead Birds).

By the 1940s and early 1950s, anthropologists such as Hortense Powdermaker, Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead (Trance and Dance in Bali, 1952) and Mead and Rhoda Metraux, eds., (The Study of Culture at a Distance, 1953) 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 shouldsee the shape of ethnographic film" (p. 15). Many, including Peter Loizos, would add the name of filmmaker/author David MacDougall to this choosegroup.

In 1966, filmmaker Sol Worth and anthropologist John Adair taught a group of Navajo Indians in Arizona how to capture 16mm film. The hypothesis was that artistic choices angry by the Navajo would reflect the 'perceptual structure' of the Navajo world. The goals of this experiment were primarily ethnographic and theoretical. Decades later, however, the work has inspired a variety of participatory and applied anthropological initiatives - ranging from photovoice to virtual museum collections - in which cameras are given to local collaborators as a strategy for empowerment.

In the United States, Visual Anthropology first found purchase in an academic setting in 1958 with the creation of the MovieStudy Center at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. In the United Kingdom, The at the University of Manchester was established in 1987 to offer training in anthropology and film-making to MA, MPhil and PhD students and whose graduates have produced over 300 movie to date. John Collier, Jr. wrote the first standard textbook in the field in 1967, and many visual anthropologists of the 1970s relied on semiologists like Roland Barthes for necessarycritical perspectives. Contributions to the history of Visual Anthropology containthose of Emilie de Brigard (1967), Fadwa el Guindi (2004), and Beate Engelbrecht, ed. (2007). A more lastesthistory that understands visual anthropology in a broader sense, edited by Marcus Banks and Jay Ruby, is Angry To Be Seen: Historical Perspectives on Visual Anthropology. Turning the anthropological lens on India provides a counterhistory of visual anthropology (Khanduri 2014).

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

In the United States, ethnographic movie are present each year at the Margaret Mead MovieFestival as well as at the AAA's annual Movieand Media Festival. In Europe, ethnographic movie are present at the Royal Anthropological Institute MovieFestival in the UK, The Jean Rouch MovieFestival in France and Ethnocineca in Austria. Dozens of other international festivals are listed regularly in the Newsletter of the Nordic Anthropological MovieAssociation [NAFA].

Timeline and breadth of prehistoric visual representation

While art historians are clearly interested in some of the same objects and processes, visual anthropology territory these artifacts within a holistic cultural context. Archaeologists, in particular, utilizephases of visual development to testto understand the spread of humans and their cultures across contiguous landscapes as well as over huge location. By 10,000 BP, a system of well-developed pictographs was in utilizeby boating peoples and was likely instrumental in the development of navigation and writing, as well as a medium of storytelling and artistic representation. Early visual representations often presentthe female form, with clothing appearing on the female body around 28,000 BP, which archaeologists know now corresponds with the invention of weaving in Old Europe. This is an example of the holistic nature of visual anthropology: a figurine depicting a woman wearing diaphanous clothing is not merely an object of art, but a window into the customs of dress at the time, household organization (where they are found), transfer of content (where the clay came from) and processes (when did firing clay become common), when did weaving begin, what typeof weaving is depicted and what other evidence is there for weaving, and what type of cultural modify were occurring in other parts of human life at the time.

Visual anthropology, by focusing on its own efforts to make and understand film, is able to establish many principles and build theories about human visual representation in general.

List of visual anthropology academic software

  • Aarhus University: Master in Visual Anthropology
  • Australian National University: The Research School of Humanities and the Arts
  • California State University, Chico: Home to the which offers students utilizeof in its program. Students geta four-fields degree but complete an ethnographic movieas partial fulfillment of their thesis requirement. A is also accessiblefor students who would like to pursue Visual Anthropology, and make ethnographic movie as Undergraduates.
  • Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Ecuador: offers a .
  • Free University of Berlin: - .
  • Harvard University: Harvard offers a in conjunction with its
  • Heidelberg University: The chair of offers BA and MA courses in the field of visual and media anthropology.
  • FreshYork University:
  • Pontifical Catholic University of Peru: The Social Sciences Department at PUCP offers a two-year .
  • San Francisco State University: and
  • Tallinn University: .
  • Towson University: Undergraduate track in , , and
  • Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana:
  • Universitat de Barcelona: [permanent dead link]
  • University of British Columbia:
  • University College London: offers that shouldbe taken as part of a master's degree for credit or they shouldbe audited with a certificate of completion provided.
  • University of Kent: The Department of Anthropology offers a that explores traditional and experimental means of using visual photo to produce/represent anthropological knowledge. Note (Nov 2020): this is no longer offered. Link is to web archive version.
  • University of Leiden: offers the Bachelor course and as part the Master's programme. It teaches students how to utilizephotography, digital video and sound recording both as research and reporting tools as part of ethnographic research.
  • University of London, Goldsmith's College: The anthropology department offers an and in Visual Anthropology.
  • University of Manchester: The offers MA, MPhil and PhD courses that combine practical movietraining, editing and production, photography, sound recording, art and social activism. Established in 1987, the Granada Centre's postgraduate programme has produced over 300 documentary movie. Its students have angry movie for numerous international broadcasters, including the BBC and Channel 4. Manchester contain an Oscar nominee, two BAFTA champion, and a BAFTA nominee among its alumni.
  • University of Münster: Programme which accompanies employment. Master of Arts (M.A.) degree within 6 semesters. Provides skills in the locationof visual anthropology, documentary movie, photography, documentary art, culture media and media anthropology.
  • University of FreshSouth Wales: offers a
  • University of Oxford: collaborates with the to offer the highly ranked one-year MSc and two-year MPhil in and also awards DPhil degrees with numerous .
  • University of South Carolina offers a for graduate students enrolled in M.A. or Ph.D. software in Media Arts and Anthropology but which also serves graduate students in such location as Education, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, as well as Sociology and Geography.
  • University of Southern California - USC Center for Visual Anthropology: The MAVA (Master of Arts in Visual Anthropology) was a 2–3 year terminal Masters softwarefrom 1984 to 2001, which produced over sixty ethnographic documentaries. In 2001, it was merged into a Certificate in Visual Anthropology given alongside the Ph.D. in Anthropology. A freshdigitally based softwarewas madein the Fall of 2009 as a [freshone year MA softwarein Visual Anthropology ]. . Since 2009, the softwarehas produced twenty five freshethnographic documentaries. Many have screened at moviefestivals and several are in distribution.
  • University of Tromsø: The University of Tromsø offers a softwarein
  • Western Kentucky University: Western Kentucky University offers a BA in Cultural Anthropology with a focus on Visual Anthropology
  • Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (University of Münster): Programme which accompanies employment. Master of Arts (M.A.) degree within 6 semesters. Provides skills in the locationof visual anthropology, documentary movie, photography, documentary art, culture media and media anthropology.

List of movie

See also


  • Alloa, Emmanuel (ed.) Penser l'photoII. Anthropologies du visuel. Dijon: Presses du réel 2015. ISBN 978-2-84066-557-1 (in French).
  • ; Morphy, Howard (Hrsg.): Rethinking Visual Anthropology. FreshHaven: Yale University Press 1999. ISBN 978-0-300-07854-1
  • Marcus Banks and , 2015. (Second Edition), Sage: London
  • Barbash, Ilisa and Lucien Taylor. Cross-cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Movie and Videos. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
  • Collier, Malcolm et al.: Visual Anthropology. Photography As a Research Method. University of Mexico 1986. ISBN 978-0-8263-0899-3
  • . 2010. The Japanese House: ContentCulture in the Modern Home. Oxford: Berg Publishers.
  • Coote, Jeremy and Anthony Shelton. 1994. Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics. Clarendon Press.
  • Edwards, Elisabeth (Hrsg.): Anthropology and Photography 1860–1920. FreshHaven, London 1994, Nachdruck. ISBN 978-0-300-05944-1
  • 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: Method of Seeing in Modern Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • . 2012. The Museum on the Roof of the World: Art, Politics and the Representation of Tibet. University of Chicago Press.
  • and Michael O'Hanlon. 2013. 'The Future of the Ethnographic Museum,' Anthropology Today, 29(1). pp. 8–12.
  • Heider, Karl G. Ethnographic Film (Revised Edition). Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.
  • Hockings, Paul (ed.). "Principles of Visual Anthropology." 3rd edn. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003.
  • MacDougall, David. Transcultural Cinema. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
  • Martinez, Wilton. 1992. “Who Constructs Anthropological Knowledge? Toward a Theory of Ethnographic MovieSpectatorship.” In Movieas Ethnography, D. Turton and P. Crawford, (Eds.), pp. 130-161. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Mead, Margaret: Anthropology and the camera. In: Morgan, Willard D. (Hg.): Encyclopedia of photography. FreshYork 1963.
  • and Elizabeth Edwards (eds.) 2009. Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing
  • . 2003. Museums and Source Communities: A Routledge Reader, Routledge
  • Pink, Sarah: Doing Visual Ethnography: Photo, Media and Representation in Research. London: Sage Post Ltd. 2006. ISBN 978-1-4129-2348-4
  • Pinney, Christopher: Photography and Anthropology. London: Reaktion Books 2011. ISBN 978-1-86189-804-3
  • 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.
  • Ruby, Jay. Picturing Culture: Essays on Movieand Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-226-73099-8.
  • Worth, Sol, Adair John. "Through Navajo Eyes". Indiana University Press; 1972.

Further reading

  • - Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology, article by Jay Ruby
  • , article by Michael D. Fischer and David Zeitlyn, then both University of Kent at Canterbury
  • Legends Asch and Myerhoff Inspire A FreshGeneration of Visual Anthropologists - article by Susan Andrews
  • Pink, Sarah. "Doing Visual Ethnography:Photo, Media, and Representation". Sage, London, 2012
  • Banks, Marcus and Ruby, Jay. "Angry to be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology. University of Chicago Press, 2011

  • - collect and preserve historical and contemporary anthropological content that document the globes cultures and the history of anthropology.
  • (from the domainof Prof. Alessandro Duranti, anthropology department, UCLA)
  • (Visual Anthropology Movie & Filmmakers)
    • (Chinese)
  • - A curatorial collective and exhibition series.

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