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Cultural Anthropology
Handbook of Methods in

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Handbook of Methods in
Cultural Anthropology
Second Edition

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Edited by
H. Russell Bernard and Clarence C. Gravlee
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Lanham • Boulder • New York • London
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Published by Rowman & Littlefield
A wholly owned subsidiary of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
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4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706

16 Carlisle Street, London W1D 3 BT, United Kingdom

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Copyright © 2015 by Rowman & Littlefield

First edition copyright © 1998 by AltaMira Press
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic
or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written
permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology / edited by H. Russell Bernard and Clarence


C. Gravlee. — Second edition.

pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-7591-2070-9 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-7591-2071-6 (pbk. : alk. paper)
— ISBN 978-0-7591-2072-3 (electronic) 1. Ethnology—Methodology. I. Bernard, H. Russell
(Harvey Russell), 1940–
GN345.H37 2015
™ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American
National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library
Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.

Printed in the United States of America


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Preface vii

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Introduction: On Method and Methods in Anthropology 1

    H. Russell Bernard and Clarence C. Gravlee

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 1  Epistemology: The Nature and Validation of Knowledge 21
    Michael Schnegg
 2  In Search of Meaningful Methods 55
    James W. Fernandez and Michael Herzfeld
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 3  Research Design and Research Strategies 97

    Jeffrey C. Johnson and Daniel J. Hruschka
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 4  Ethics 131

    Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban
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 5  Feminist Methods 151

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    Christine Ward Gailey

 6  Participatory Methods and Community-Based Collaborations 185

   Stephen L. Schensul, Jean J. Schensul, Merrill Singer, Margaret Weeks,

  and Marie Brault


 7  Sampling and Selecting Participants in Field Research 215

    Greg Guest
 8  Participant Observation 251
    Kathleen Musante (DeWalt)
 9  Behavioral Observation 293
    Raymond Hames and Michael Paolisso
10  Person-Centered Interviewing and Observation 313
    Robert I. Levy and Douglas W. Hollan

vi     Contents

11  Structured Interviewing and Questionnaire Construction 343

    Susan C. Weller
12  Discourse-Centered Methods 391
    Brenda Farnell and Laura R. Graham
13  Visual Anthropology 439
    Fadwa El Guindi
14  Ethnography of Online Cultures 465
    Jeffrey G. Snodgrass

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15  Social Survey Methods 497
    William W. Dressler and Kathryn S. Oths

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16  Reasoning with Numbers 519

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    W. Penn Handwerker and Stephen P. Borgatti
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17  Text Analysis 533
    Amber Wutich, Gery Ryan, and H. Russell Bernard
18  Cross-Cultural Research 561
    Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember, and Peter N. Peregrine
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19  Geospatial Analysis 601

    Eduardo S. Brondizio and Tracy Van Holt
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20  Social Network Analysis 631

    Christopher McCarty and José Luis Molina
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21  Theories and Methods in Applied Anthropology 661

    Robert T. Trotter, II, Jean J. Schensul, and Kristin M. Kostick

22  Presenting Anthropology to Diverse Audiences 695


    Conrad Phillip Kottak

23  Public Anthropology 719
    Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Author Index 735

Subject Index 763

Visual Anthropology
Fadwa El Guindi

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The first Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology (Naroll and
Cohen 1970) contained a brief overview of developments in visual anthropology. By
1998, visual anthropology had become a much more important part of the field and

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warranted a full chapter (El Guindi 1998). This chapter updates that earlier chapter
and has been reorganized and reconceptualized. Visual anthropology is conceptualized

within the anthropology tradition influencing the quality of data by adding new ways

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of data gathering and creative means of analysis. A genealogy of conceptual/method-
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ological developments is represented in Figure 13.1. I have also added an analysis of
part of a conversation between Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead (Brand 1976,
N.d.) in which they talk about the nature of the visual project and its value for anthro-
pology. This is presented in a section called For God’s Sake, Margaret.
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It is common to assume that the advent of cinematic technology was first adopted for
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cinema (art and commercial recreation), but actually it was first used for scientific
purposes. Early ethnographers, for example, exploited the new technology of moving
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Figure 13.1.  Geneology of visual anthropology (modified from El Guindi, 2004).

440    Fadwa El Guindi

pictures to expand their capacity for data gathering and, indeed, the technology con-
tributed to discovery. Those early adopters gave anthropology much to appreciate, but
the use of visual tools is still resisted.
Photography was and is the focus of the Colliers’ life project. John Collier, Jr.’s
(1967) classic book, Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method, put
photography at center stage in anthropology. The book was modified and coedited by
John Collier, Jr. and Malcolm Collier (Collier and Collier 1986), and remains a primary
source on photography in anthropology. The Colliers’ photography lifts people’s lives
and lands them on an anthropological ground against a landscape of artistic beauty.
The other medium, film (or moving pictures), has grown in importance and has

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gained the most attention. Emilie de Brigard (1995) wrote an account on the develop-
ment of film for anthropology (but also photography) that became the guiding his-
torical essay in the field. It is still cited widely. In her account, and pervasively among

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anthropologists, the visual medium was perceived from the perspective of filmic and

cinematographic developments. De Brigard traced visual developments back to the

advent of modern photographic and sound technology, an approach that gives primacy

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to the technical development of cinematographic tools.
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This pioneering account was published in the first major—and still classic—col-
lection of works on visual anthropology, Principles in Visual Anthropology (Hockings
1975). That volume foreshadowed the emergent visual field within anthropology. New
editions of this sourcebook were published in 1995 and 2003.
In a review of the 1995 edition, Schneider concurs that Hockings’s 1975 Principles
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“constituted the first attempt to bring together in a single volume the writings of ma-
jor practitioners and theoreticians of ethnographic film and photography . . . [which]
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aimed to establish visual anthropology as a recognized subdiscipline of anthropology”

(Schneider 1997, 704–5; emphasis added). Indeed, recognition is essential to move the
field forward, although this is still a work in progress.
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An ideological divide grew in visual anthropology mirroring the one that devel-
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oped in cultural anthropology at large, with a distinction between cultural studies and
cultural anthropology. The former came to encompass narrative approaches and was
promoted as being more humanistic, while the latter promotes field research and par-

ticipant observation ethnography as the basis of data collection and analysis.


Anderson (2003) raises several issues regarding the categorization of the genre of
ethnographic film that emerge out of the orientation leaning toward film as art as con-
trasted with systematic ethnographic work in anthropology. According to this trend,
ethnographic film was to be grouped with cinema, to be studied according to premises
from a cultural studies perspective that draws inspiration from literary theory.
As a practitioner of “observational cinema,” MacDougall (1995) favored filming
topics about culture by running an unengaged camera. This was criticized by recog-
nized ethnographic filmmakers (see, e.g., Heider 1976; Loizos 1993; Rollwagen 1988b;
Rouch 1995a; Ruby 1975) who supported ethnographic film, in contrast with obser-
vational cinema, because it is engaged with the subject, was grounded in ethnography,
and was informed by anthropological knowledge. Most ethnographic filmmakers were
anthropologists or worked closely with anthropologists, so that mastery of culture and
language were essential aspects of their projects.
13: Visual Anthropology   441

Loizos (1993) was unambiguous. He called on anthropologists to “unlearn the idea

that formal conceptual analysis rules the academy-and rules alone” (1993, 64). Mac-
Dougall (1978, 405) and Loizos (1993) separately called for the visual project to be
considered a humanistic endeavor in cinema to show people as more “rounded” than
cultural systematics (manifested in exchange patterns and kinship systems) shows
them to be. Loizos wrote that in the 1980s, more anthropologists came to see their
informants “as more rounded than they had been as producers of kinship systems,
economic data, myths and cosmologies” (p. 80).
Why are people more rounded when they recite a poem than when they exchange
necklaces? My recent research in Qatar on kinship (El Guindi 2011a, 2012a, 2012b,

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2012c) reveals the significance of studying kinship as kinship. Qatari students immedi-
ately perk up in class when the topic shifts to kinship (ranging from genealogy charting
to discussion of descent structures). They behave at their most well rounded when talking

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about or engaged in “kinshipping.” Poetry, painting, novels, and songs have always been

included, along with sex, food, child-rearing practices, and so on in the cultural repertoire

of traditional ethnographies. In his analysis of Indonesian cinema, Heider (1991) showed

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how cinema, too, can be studied as a window on national culture, as a cultural element for
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analysis, not as an approach to visual anthropology as some trends suggest. Portraying
kinship is a challenge for visual anthropologists but, in my view, one that needs to be met.
Jay Ruby and Marcus Banks stressed the visible subject in visual anthropology
(Banks and Ruby 2011; and see El Guindi [2001a, 2001b] for a perspective beyond the
visible). El Guindi stressed going beyond the visual as merely the visible and the ori-
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entation of the visual medium as art (El Guindi 2001b). Peter Crawford (himself not a
filmmaker) collaborated on books about both sides of the issue: one with David Turton
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called Film as Ethnography (Crawford and Turton 1992) and another with Simonis on
narrative and aesthetics (Crawford and Simonsen 1992).
Decades earlier, David MacDougall (1978, 405) dismissed ethnographic film totally,
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saying that it “cannot be said to constitute a genre, nor is ethnographic film-making

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a discipline with unified origins and an established methodology.” These are two
separate points: first, whether to consider ethnographic film to be a genre; and second,
whether ethnographic film has unified origins and established methodology. These

points constitute much of what has been raised in debate and discussion.

There are anthropologists, however, who do consider methods worthy of an en-

tire monograph, even when their orientation leans toward art (Marcus 2001). Loizos
(1993) suggested that ethnographic film should be looked at from the cinematic point
of view, as a kind of documentary cinema, lest it become “narrowly concerned with
ghetto culture called ‘ethnographic films’ ” (p. 1). Instead of becoming a ghetto culture
of cinema, ethnographic film was and is thriving as a popular genre inside and outside
anthropology, inside and outside the classroom, made so particularly by John Marshall
through his films on the Kung San (Marshall 1962, 1966; 1969a, 1969b, 1971, 1974
[films]) and Timothy Asch through his films with Napoleon Chagnon on the Yano-
mami (Asch and Chagnon 1969, 1971, 1974a, 1974b [films]).
The genre of documentary film and photography comes out of journalism and cin-
ema, which makes it methodologically and epistemologically different from anthropol-
ogy. Ethnographic film and photography, particularly visual ethnography (El Guindi
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1986 [film], 1993, 2004, 185–249), are anthropology conceptually and ethnography
empirically. A documentary film documents an event or a story constructed in terms
of premises and principles coming out of journalism or cinema. Perhaps this is where
claims to objectivity become pertinent. A journalist wants to provide an accurate story.
An anthropologist discovers, explains, and produces knowledge. The two genres—
documentary film and ethnographic film—are different. The next section, Genealogy
of Visual Anthropology, discusses the role and significance of the anthropological
character of visual anthropology.


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The term “visual anthropology” was coined after World War II and became associated
with using cameras to make records about culture (Worth 1980, 7). After initial frus-
trations for those wanting to add visual tools to writing tools in anthropology, by the

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1990s, photography and filming had become standard tools for ethnographic research-

ers. In Europe, the focus was almost exclusively on what came to be called ethnographic

film; in the United States, various visual formats and media developed for teaching,

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recording, research, and analysis, which became part of visual anthropology.
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Instead of classifying the medium by physical format, still or moving photography,
video or digital format, and so on, I differentiate among visual developments according
to use and value for anthropology. This abstract classification becomes a framework
against which we can classify or group visual anthropological projects organized as
a genealogy of traditions. All forms share the quality of necessary culture knowledge,
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mastery of a people’s language, and systematic analysis. They are all suitable, even
recommended, for classroom teaching (Asch 1975; Heider et al. 2006) and public lec-
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turing. The grouping constitutes: (1) the visual medium as a recording tool of data for
analysis and/or archival purpose; (2) the visual medium for elicitation and discovery;
(3) the visual medium used for experimental culture reconstructions; and (4) the visual
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medium as ethnography (visual ethnography). Photography and film, and later digital
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formats, have all been used in these different ways.

In a series of publications (El Guindi 1988, 1990b, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2004, 193–246),
I introduced the term visual ethnography, referring to anthropological film grounded

in prior systematic ethnographic research and demonstrating anthropological analysis.


This notion of visual ethnography developed out of concern for the nature and extent
of the anthropological process in film. It was not proposed as an alternative to ethno-
graphic film but as a parallel to it. I highlight here the two phases of production and
construction and explore three films to demonstrate the points that seemed missing in
emphasis regarding film in anthropology.

Visual Ethnography
The first film is Jean Rouch’s Les Maîtres Fous (Rouch 1954 [film]). Karl Heider saw
an aspect of symbolic analysis in a segment of Jean Rouch’s editing of Les Maîtres Fous.
According to Heider (1983), Rouch used montage to show the referent of a symbol:

[W]hen the egg is smashed on the head of the possessed man playing the governor gen-
eral, Rouch cuts, interrupting the possession ceremony of the Hauka, to a shot of the
13: Visual Anthropology   443

real governor-general of the colony in full regalia to show us the white ostrich plume
streaming down his hat and tells us, visually as well as verbally, that the egg is meant to
symbolize the feather (this cross-cutting has a parallel in a written analysis of a myth).
(Heider 1983, 5)

Heider notes how Rouch used flashbacks in the final sequence to juxtapose the men as
they appear in their everyday contexts with their exalted forms in their possession states.
In other words, his film was an analyzed ethnographic presentation and had value for its
development of the visual medium as ethnography, not only as data or a record.
The second film is Timothy Asch’s film The Ax Fight (Asch and Chagnon 1971
[film]). The Ax Fight represents a turning point in Asch’s career as filmmaker (for a

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more extended discussion, see El Guindi 2004, 102–3). At that time, the integrated
teamwork between Asch and anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon was at its peak. Asch

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was previously influenced by the Marshall tradition of filmmaking known as sequence

film, recording ethnographic events in their “natural” state. The motivation for the

Marshall films was to provide anthropology teachers and students with visual tools to

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improve teaching and enhance learning. These films are still used in classrooms. Visual
anthropologists had concerns about whether films can stand on their own in teaching
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or public viewing (i.e., without companion print publications). There was also a reac-
tion against films being used in classrooms as “babysitting” devices without the pres-
ence of an anthropologist to discuss its context and ethnography.
After teaming up with Chagnon to film the Yanomami, Asch developed his film-
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making beyond Sequence Film, referring to short event segments, to complete ethno-
graphic events (for more on the difference, see El Guindi 1974, 97–103). Construction
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of The Ax Fight was innovative, becoming a landmark in visual anthropology. It has

two parts: The first showed the chronological events leading to an ax fight among two
groups in the Yanomamo village of study. The second part revealed elements hidden
from the filmmaker, anthropologist, and viewer. After finding out what the fight was
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about, the second part revealed the anthropologist’s explanation of the conflict, while
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revealing other ethnographic aspects. Although such a film would not be easily grabbed
by PBS television, it was of great value to anthropology.

The third film is El Sebou’, which is one of three, El Sebou’ (El Guindi 1986 [film]),
Ghurbal (El Guindi 1995 [film]), and El Moulid (El Guindi 1990a [film]) that can all

be classified as visual ethnography. I discuss the making of El Sebou’ at length as to

production, construction, and viewing (1988, 1990b, 1993, 1998, 2004, 193–246), in
developing visual ethnography as a genre. In terms of incorporating analysis in the
film itself, El Sebou’ is closer to Rouch’s Les Maitres Fous than to Asch’s The Ax Fight.
The Ax Fight dealt with a spontaneous event and showed both event and explanation of
the event. El Sebou’ was filmed after I first studied the Egyptian ritual of birth for two
years. Based on data I gathered using ethnographic techniques and analysis of these
data, production and construction of El Sebou’ proceeded and revealed results of these
in the film itself. The film represents the ethnography of the ritual of El Sebou’.
In the genealogy represented in Figure 13.1, visual ethnography is included as one
of three genres classified. The anthropologically relevant visual productions include
(1) ethnographic film; (2) research film; and (3) visual ethnography. Ethnographic
444    Fadwa El Guindi

film is divided into filming others and filming selves. I classify filming others as a
genre that includes sequence film (Asch 1975), Jean Rouch films (considered to be
in a league of their own) (Rouch 1979, 1995a, 1995b), and feminist films (like films
on the Maasai by Curlin and Llewellyn-Davies [Curling and Llewelyn-Davies 1974,
1975, 1984a, 1984b (films)] and on Greece by Susannah M. Hoffman [Hoffmann
1976 (film)]). The other major classification, filming selves, consists of culture re-
construction, as in Asen Balikci’s classic Netsilik films (Balikci and Mary-Rousseliere
1967) [films]), experimental, as among the Navajo (Adair and Worth 1967), and ap-
plied visual anthropology (Biella 1988, 1993).

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In anthropology, the two main visual media were employed early on in visual proj-
ects: film and photography. The most prominent systematic field research project

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producing a substantial, systematic record of visual data using both mediums was

that of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. The pioneering chapter by Emilie

de Brigard is mostly about film, although it also discusses what became known as

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“research film,” which centered photography and other modes of nonverbal com-
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munication in the field.
Other classical overviews of the field include works by Karl Heider (1976), Peter
Loizos (1993), and edited volumes by Crawford and Turton (1992) and Rollwagen
(1988a). Rollwagen’s chapter in his edited volume was “The Role of Anthropological
Theory in Ethnographic Film-Making.” The most common name for film in anthro-
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pology became ethnographic film, and turning film (i.e., moving pictures)—as Davey
(2008) showed, in a content analysis of the first twenty volumes of the journal Visual
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Anthropology—into the visual genre most talked about in anthropology.

Internally, in visual anthropology, John Marshall and Timothy Asch distinguished
what they called sequence film from ethnographic film. In the genealogy presented
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here, I classify visual projects on the basis of whether they are filming others or filming
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selves, filming for data or for illustration of ethnographic activity, filming for descrip-
tion or for analysis, in addition to the new digital multiple format media. More current
developments can be flexibly incorporated in this genealogy without much modifica-

tion to the overall structure.


Despite all the debate that ensued against ethnographic film, it remains the most
popular visual medium utilized in general teaching of anthropology, whether for illus-
trating examples of cultural traditions (Heider et al. 2006), analyzing primate behavior
(Zeller 1992), or making methodological points about the ethnographic interview
(El Guindi 1995 [film]). The introductory book by Heider et al. (2006) attests to the
continuing usefulness of film as a teaching tool in cultural anthropology. Most books,
much discussion, international conferences, and worldwide festivals focused on film
rather than photography, such that ethnographic film dominated the field and became
almost equivalent to visual anthropology, although this was more the case in Europe,
including England, than in the United States.
Technological developments have impacted the use of the two mediums of photog-
raphy and film in anthropology. The significance of these advances is discussed next.
13: Visual Anthropology   445


Synchronous sound for portable cameras was developed in the 1960s. Even after highly
portable synch-sound cameras were developed, few ethnographers jumped at the op-
portunity to use this technology. Exceptions were Jean Rouch in France and John Mar-
shall in the United States. Rouch quickly adopted technological advances to innovate
in cinema technique expanding exploration of the human condition. Loizos identified
four qualities of Rouch’s contributions: documentation, collaboration, interrogation,
and improvisation and fantasy. For Rouch, Loizos said (1993): The “camera is not
confined to the role of a passive recording instrument,” as in observational cinema, but
becomes “rather an active agent of investigation and the camera user can become an

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interrogator of the world” (p. 46). Loizos, documentary film journalist by training, was
bewildered by the reluctance of anthropologists to film when they had quickly adopted
still cameras and tape recorders for field research.

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The remoteness of the places where much fieldwork was done might have been a

factor in the reluctance to use the technology. In the earliest days of film, cameras

were bulky and difficult to handle. Equipment was difficult to handle, cameras were

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fixed on tripods, and film was of low exposure suitable only for shooting in broad
daylight or with use of artificial light, and synchronized sound technology had not yet
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been invented. Even in the early days of photography and film, some archaeologists,
primatologists, and ethnologists used still and moving pictures technologies for gath-
ering data, for cross-checking facts, and for building records (Blackman 1986, 1992;
Caldarola 1987; Edwards 1992; Faris 1992; Scherer 1992). Cinematic experiments in
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ethnology may have been isolated and fragmented, but the limits of the technology did
not stop some anthropologists from exploring the possibilities and going beyond the
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material limits to record and archive data.

Starting in 1894, Franz Boas spent over 40 years studying the Kwakiutl of the North-
west Coast and used still photography in the field (Jacknis 1984, 1992). In 1930, at the
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age of 70, Boas went on what would be his last field trip to the Kwakiutl accompanied by
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Russian anthropologist Yulia Averkieva. Boas took along a motion picture camera and
wax cylinder sound-recording machine. He shot 16-mm film of dances, games, manu-
facturing, songs, music, and other aspects of Kwakiutl life. The footage was meant to be

for research and archiving, but was posthumously edited into film divided into thematic

segments by Bill Holm and with the assistance of several Kwakiutl informants. The two-
reel production from Boas’s footage was completed in 1973 (Boas 1973). Ruby (1983)
suggests that Boas would not have had sufficient technical knowledge to realize that he
could not synchronously record sound and image in the 1930s and that he probably as-
sumed he could (1983, 27, 29).
The first use of visual tools with ethnographic intent is often credited to Baldwin
Spencer (Cohen 2001) when he took the Edison cylinder recorder and a Warwick cam-
era to central Australia in 1901 (MacDougall 1995, 117). Other early users were Mar-
garet Mead and Gregory Bateson (1930, 1952, 1954). But Luc de Heusch (de Heusch
2001) gives the ultimate pioneer’s award to Alfred Haddon, who,

in 1898 took his camera on the Cambridge University Expedition to Torres Strait, to
Franz Boas, who in 1930 used a small 16-mm camera on his final expedition to the
Kwakiutl, and to Marcel Griaule who, a few years later, directed 35-mm shootings by
446    Fadwa El Guindi

professional filmmakers of Au Pays des Dogon and Sous les Masques Noirs (1938a, 1957)
and later, to Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead used photography and film recording
during their field studies in Bali and New Guinea. (de Heusch 2001, 3)

On the Torres Strait expedition, El Guindi (1998, citing Banks 1996) writes that
Haddon’s team:

was equipped with a variety of recording tools, from W. H. R. Rivers’s genealogical

method, to photography, to wax-cylinder sound recording, to the Lumière motion cam-
era. Haddon collected over 7,000 feet of film (chiefly of ceremonies) and made a number
of wax cylinders. (El Guindi 1998, 462–63)

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For more ancestors, see Jacknis (1990 on Mooney).
Rouch (1979, 1995a) describes in dramatic language these early days with the

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One almost needed to be crazy to try using a tool as forbidding as the camera . . . the first

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clumsy attempts . . . in Marcel Griaule’s Au pays des Dogons (Griaule 1935) and Sous le
masque noir (Griaule 1938b) we can understand their discouragement with the result of
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their efforts. Their admirable documentation was put through the filmmaking machine.
(Rouch 1995a, 84; emphasis added)

But Rouch was reacting to more than bulky filming equipment. He was frustrated
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about the absence of academic funding for such filming, making such projects vulner-
able to accepting funds from business sources. Rouch says that it is “absurd to try to
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mix research and business” (1995a, 84), and blames lack of research funding for “wild,
insensitive editing, oriental music, commentary in the style of a sportscast” (1995a,
84)—a travesty that Mead and Bateson escaped as they had funding from academic
sources, such as American universities. Rouch considers this to be a factor in the suc-
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cess of the series produced by Mead and Bateson (1930 [films]).

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Synch sound added an important dimension to the quality of film and experience of
filmmaking in anthropology. Colette Piault (1994) vividly describes the viewing expe-

rience when first encountering the effect of synch-sound in a film:


[I]n 1972, we saw at a festival in Venice . . . To Live with Herds (MacDougall 1972) shot
by David and Judith MacDougall of the Jie in East Africa. For me, and probably for many
other film-makers, it was a shock and a revelation: the sync-sound had appeared and for
the first time the dialogues had been recorded and translated . . . we discovered . . . what
people . . . were talking about. It was one of the first films—so far as I know, the first one
shown in Europe—to use subtitles (in this case, English) to render indigenous speech.
. . . This film marked an important step and influenced many film-makers. Sync-sound
brought the possibility of listening to the voice of the other directly . . . gave the feeling
of closeness and intimacy which was so missing in the preceding films. (Piault 1994, 5–6)

In the 1960s, 16-mm color film also became widely accessible and faster film en-
abled filming in poor light (inside houses, huts, evening rituals, etc.). These changes
made possible more intimacy, more flexibility, more spontaneity, and more shoot-
ing-style innovations. Rouch demonstrated the profound impact of the changes in
13: Visual Anthropology   447

both his participatory camera and catalytic shooting style. Emily de Brigard (1975)
considers Jean Rouch one of a few who not only benefited from, but in the 1960s
led to change in technology combining the use of synchronous-sound filming with
shooting by hand-held camera.
The invention of video pushed ethnographic film further forward, opening new
visual opportunities and wider use for ethnographic film. Today, multimedia tech-
nology combines simultaneous and interactive media and formats, which can allow
for maximum flexibility in application and for methodological and analytic rigor.
There are more digitizing instruments and new software, such as HyperResearch
and ELAN (from the Max Planck Institute). ELAN is available on http://tla.mpi.nl/

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tools/tla-tools/elan/. These tools support the tagging and analyzing of visual data
in the same way that textual data is analyzed across the social sciences (see Wutich
et al., this volume).

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As Bishop and Bishop (2012) put it:

This is an exciting time in visual anthropology. The proliferation of inexpensive imaging

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devices, editing software, and distribution avenues has opened purely visual discourse to
an enormous number of people. Digital images and videos are electronically exchanged;
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people who once were the subjects of anthropological films make them; videos comment
on other videos. This review section is part of a conversation, an opportunity to sample
and reflect on the range of subjects, approaches, and concerns of the vast stream of an-
thropology in visual media. This includes not only films but also photography, museum
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displays, the Internet, and experimental work with visual imagery in the wider anthropo-
logical community. (p. 146)
fo igh

The visual medium expands the empirical base for anthropological analysis. It per-
mits a combination of multiple data forms combined in interactive ways within one
format. It allows the linking of elements and data forms for a more adequate descrip-
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tion, leading to new relations and connections via comparison and analogy, a process
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fundamental to analysis. New insights are revealed.

Visual tools have now become integral to the teaching of anthropology in academic
institutions around the world, in documentation, and in data gathering and analysis

by anthropologists and others in the social sciences (El Guindi 2004). It is also used in

applied work and to achieve advocacy goals (Chalfen and Michael 2007; Pink 2007).
Sarah Pink calls for an applied visual anthropology (Pink 2007, 2011) as an alternative
to ethnographic film. “Early advocates an applied visual anthropology,” she writes,
“have criticized the sub-discipline’s emphasis on ethnographic film-making” (Pink
2007, 4). Clearly, there is no subdiscipline of applied visual anthropology, nor does it
constitute an alternative to ethnographic film since the two are of different ontological
status, one representing a genre of film and the other the applicability of anthropology
to people’s lives. “Applied,” “practicing,” “engaged,” and “public” are among the terms
used to refer to the relevance of anthropology to people’s lives. Good anthropology,
visual or print, will inevitably be of applied use.
While visual tools gradually entered the ordinary anthropological project, this inte-
gration has not automatically led to the mainstreaming of the field. It was not until the
1980s that the process toward mainstreaming began—that is, taking first steps using
448    Fadwa El Guindi

formal channels within the larger discipline of anthropology to integrate visual meth-
ods, thus leading to visual anthropology achieving some recognition by the discipline.
The next section presents a brief summary of developments leading to the present.


In 1964, a conference was held on filmmaking in anthropology. Other than that, there
were virtually no programs, publications, or regular meetings on ethnographic film or
visual anthropology. In subsequent years, the Program in Ethnographic Film (PIEF)
was established, and by 1973, it had become the Society for the Anthropology of Visual
Communication (SAVICOM). This society functioned under the wing of the Ameri-

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can Anthropological Association. Jay Ruby, along with a number of anthropologists
and researchers set up the National Anthropological Film Center (directed by E. Rich-
ard Sorenson) at the Smithsonian Institution. The PIEF Newsletter, begun by Jay Ruby

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and Carroll Williams in 1969, continued as the Society for the Anthropology of Visual

Communication (SAVICOM) Newsletter. This was later incorporated into the Anthro-

pology Newsletter of the AAA. In 1974, SAVICOM began a more formal publication

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series, edited by Sol Worth.
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Ethnographic films have been reviewed in the American Anthropologist since 1965.
Since 1966, ethnographic film sessions have been a regular feature of the AAA annual
meetings. But this was insufficient to convince most anthropologists of the importance
of visual methods in their projects. From 1990 to 1994, as film review editor, I began the
process of broadening the review section, arguing that visual anthropology rather than
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ethnographic film more accurately described the intellectual, theoretical, and meth-
odological coverage of visual activities. The section was renamed with the succession
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of Harald Prins as editor for visual anthropology reviews in 1994. Today, editorship
of visual anthropology reviews is managed by a filmmaker–anthropologist team, John
Bishop and Naomi Bishop.
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In 1969, Jay Ruby began the annual Conference on Visual Anthropology at Temple
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University in Philadelphia. In 1984, the Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) was
formed as a constituent section of the American Anthropological Association. This was
crucial in mainstreaming visual anthropology as a field. The SVA was instrumental in

shifting activity from ethnographic film to a more balanced coverage of research areas.

SVA’s official published statement is inclusive of diverse media forms and different
spheres of culture, including the material covering a wider range of methods and ap-
proaches to the visual medium. The SVA produced a regular newsletter—now Visual
Anthropology Review—out of which a select group of articles were published (Taylor
1994). On the tenth anniversary of the annual SVA Film/Video Festival (El Guindi
and Williams 1995, xv–xvi), the SVA published a list of all the films and videos given
awards during the preceding years, along with a detailed scholarly commendation
(Blakely and Williams 1995, vii–viii; Williams et al. 1995). That year, the AAA pub-
lished another listing of films (Heider and Hermer 1995).
In the first-and-still-classic collection of articles on visual anthropology, Hockings
(1975) lamented that “of the various English handbooks now available on research
methodology, only one devotes as much space as two pages (out of a thousand) to some
applications of cinematography in anthropology.” Hockings was referring to his two-
13: Visual Anthropology   449

page overview in the first Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology (Naroll and
Cohen 1970). The second handbook (Bernard 1998) contained a full chapter on visual
methods (El Guindi 1998) and since then, more anthropologists have been adopting
visual methods in their regular methods classes.
There were developments outside the United States, too. In the Netherlands, film-
ing before World War II was incorporated as part of the expeditions to the colonies
and was sponsored by the Colonial Institute of Amsterdam. J. C. Lamster was the first
to use film in Java and Bali, recording work on agricultural plantations and on vari-
ous traditions and customs. According to Nijland (2002), the purpose was to educate
the Dutch population about the colonies. The Colonial Institute’s film collection was

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finally housed in the Nederlands Filmmuseum.
In Germany, the Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film was reorganized after
World War II. German anthropologists resumed filming in Melanesia, Africa, and

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Europe, emphasizing scientific purity (Husmann 1983; Koloss 1983). The institute’s

program produced “Rules for Film Documentation in Ethnology and Folklore” in

1959. According to the rules, filmmaking must be done by persons with sound anthro-

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pological training or supervision. Further, an exact log must be kept, recording authen-
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tic events. Finally, the filming must be done without using dramatic camera angles or
movement and must be edited for representativeness.
In 1952, the first systematic anthropological film archive, a scientific encyclopedia
in film form, was established at Gottingen, Germany (Wolf 1972b [film]) Konrad
Lorenz and others assembled and arranged several thousand films on anthropological
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and biological subjects. Each film consisted of a single thematic unit, such as dance,
work, or ritual, grouped according to different cultures (Taureg 1983; Wolf 1972a) and
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arranged to facilitate comparisons of behavior across cultures (Wolf 1972b). The ma-
jority of the films are silent. Most also have a printed document with background and
technical information. The document is in the language of its author (German, French,
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or English—the official languages of the encyclopedia).

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Work on an ethnohistorical atlas of the Soviet Union began in the 1960s. By the
mid-1970s, the classical methods of collecting ethnographic materials had been
complemented with ethnographic filming. A number of Soviet research institutions

have used ethnographic filming. Filming began to be used for scientific purposes

at the State Ethnographical Museum of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic in

1961(Peterson 1975).
In 1970, a Japanese archive was established at Tokyo. In 1972, Japanese anthropolo-
gists, TV journalists, and artists formed the Japanese Committee of Film on Man, in
collaboration with Jean Rouch. Its aim was to support the production of ethnographic
films in collaboration with the National Institute of Ethnological Studies (Hockings
1988; Hockings and Omori 1988; Ushijima 1988; Ushiyama 1975).
In 1974, the National Anthropological Film Center was started at the Smithsonian
(see Sorenson 1995). This led to the Human Studies Film Archives, which houses a
large collection of film and visual material (Wintle and Homiak 1995).
Egypt hosted its first academic conference on visual anthropology in 2010 in
Cairo, sponsored by the American University in Cairo. Many of the participants
were practicing artists. The focus was on the production of knowledge. Papers from
450    Fadwa El Guindi

that conference are in Sabae and Westmoreland (2012), including a paper in which I
stressed the analytic value of stills for knowledge production.


In non-Western countries, there was great interest in the visual, and many developed
strong cinematic traditions. Egypt (Abdullah 1984; al-Bindari 1981; al-Hadari 1989)
and India (Sahay 1983) had a powerful early cinematic tradition of realistic fiction
and social documentary, but no tradition of ethnographic films developed. Ethno-
graphic films were viewed as being products of colonial influences in which colonial
filmmakers were filming the colonized—the West orientalizing the East (Amin 1989;

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Said 1978)—and anthropology’s colonial roots were being revisited through visual an-
thropology. Skepticism about visual anthropology was similar to that expressed about
anthropology in general. There was distrust of Western projects grounded in what was

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perceived as colonialist agendas.

Adolfo Colombres situates the ethnographic film genre, like anthropology itself,

within colonial encounters and dominating relationships. To him, Malinowski and

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Flaherty were romantics who, in the 1920s, escaped civilization by going to remote
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lands and introduced methods of recording, thus sidestepping the political context of
a colonial situation. Colombres points out that Robert Flaherty admitted that he wasn’t
interested in the demise of the people he was filming—one brought about by white
domination. Rather, Flaherty’s goal was to demonstrate “their originality and majesty
before whites annihilated not only their identity, but the people themselves” (Colom-
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bres 1985a, 12, 1985b). In other words, Flaherty’s sentimental nostalgic view of culture
would freeze a reconstructed pre-Contact “noble savagery.”
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Marks’s view of the 1895 footage by Felix Regnault supports the claim of the colonial
orientation of anthropological film. First, the film depicted tribal peoples, so fixing its
subject matters. Second, the last of four sequences, in which the Madagascans carry the
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photographer on the palanquin, evokes the image of servile native bearers carrying the
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dominant European photographer (Marks 1995, 339).

In 1946, Jean Rouch, inspired by Robert Flaherty, Dziga Vertov, and Jean Vigo
and a secondhand camera, set out to film reality. Colombres observes that when

Rouch filmed that year in Niger, he was a member of the French colonial society,

launching a spiritual adventure inside colonially dominated French West Africa. In

general, Rouch avoided politics and the political context. In Moi, Un Noir (Rouch
1957 [film]), about immigrants from Niger to the Ivory Coast, Rouch gives voice,
for the first time, to the colonized so that they could express their view of the world.
But Colombres asks (1985b, 17): To whom does Rouch designate the responsibility
of the African consciousness? Was it to an immigrant Nigerian from British West
Africa who danced well, as was expected of an African black? The film, Colombres
stated, confirms the racist stereotypes of the colonizer and is a cinema of the exotic,
an important component of colonialism.
Others echo this same perspective. In India, Singh (1992) criticizes anthropological
studies of India, saying that they overstress divisions and tribalism, particularly dur-
ing the colonial period, when ethnography was concerned primarily with tribes. This
legacy continued. Colonial ethnography, Singh writes (p. 9), “created the categories of
13: Visual Anthropology   451

caste and tribe—simplifying a very complex structure (of) India as a feeling, as a vision,
as a dream shared by all of us.” Singh proposes research and filming that would show
an understanding of the nature of Indian pluralism as a:

melting pot, a mosaic, a fishing net into which have been drawn peoples and races . . .
(reflecting) the unity of the people, shaped by geography and environment, by history
and culture, that developed as communities and regions have interacted over time. This
process is called unity in diversity, some call it diversity in unity. (pp. 8–10)

Singh’s alternative approach to the study of India consists of a comprehensive study

in which community, as identified and defined by the people themselves, is the unit of

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study. The project would include visual documentation by films (Singh 1992, 11, 12). Roy
and Jhala (1992, 28) see a role for visual anthropology in India in that it “could initiate
discourse across the illiteracy barrier and provide a platform from which the cultures

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of India could gain both ‘voice’ and ‘representation.’ ” They regard “technological fea-
sibility, political desirability, international example, and the promise of international

cooperation as incentives for undertaking visual anthropology in India” (p. 21). Singh

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(1992, 14) supports development of a visual anthropology that respects premises of
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cultural integrity and finds great value in scientific visual documentation for influencing
consciousness and intervention strategies during crises in a way that fiction film can’t.
While a strong critical perspective about film in general developed in Latin America,
Egypt, India, and elsewhere, no methodological framework for ethnographic film has
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been formulated that deals with the premises underlying the critique. Filmmakers
in those areas concentrated on fiction and, in a somewhat limited way, adopted the
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documentary form in three genres: journalistic, propaganda, and folkloric (the latter
presented as ethnographic).
Reverse visual anthropology is, perhaps, one attempt to subvert domination. Three
decades after Jean Rouch began filming in Africa, Manthia Diawara, head of the Afri-
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can Studies Program at New York University and commentator on West African film,
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experimented with the idea of “visual anthropology in reverse.” Diawara filmed Rouch
in Paris to see if “shared anthropology,” a phrase coined by Rouch, could shed light
on cross-cultural relations between the powerful and the disempowered (see Diawara

1989). In a review of Diawara’s work (1995 [film]), Michael Fischer (1997) observes

that Rouch had proposed a journey through the sculptures of Paris as his way of pre-
senting the “public Rouch.” Diawara came to realize that “he was taking me on a tour
of my own French education and showing me how much of it I still carry.” Diawara
recalls that he was made to recite in front of one sculpture the childhood verse of Mon-
sieur Fox and Monsieur Crow, the fable by La Fontaine. Fischer asks (1997):

Is this an unsuccessful effort by the filmmaker, a political blockage in Rouch, or an ex-

ample of the wily Rouch’s upstaging, inverting the power relation between filmmaker and
film subject, the very thing that Diawara has been warned about and warns us about both
early and late in the film? (p. 142)

A twist on filming the colonized is illustrated by the case in which John Collier
worked with Bernard Siegel on an ethnography of Picuris Pueblo, a dwindling pueblo
452    Fadwa El Guindi

of the Tewa language group. Collier’s contribution was to make photographs for Siegel
to use in photo interviewing. This makes it a valuable project for both keeping a record
of a people and the use of a method: photo interviewing. Both presumed that ceremo-
nial dances constituted the heart of Pueblo religious life. San Lorenzo Day, a summer
fiesta, took place during the research, and Collier photographed the theatrically exqui-
site Deer Dance. During photo interviewing, however, Collier and Siegel learned that
the dance held a relatively low place in the day’s ceremony. As one collaborator said:
“We do this to please the white people” (Collier 1988, 90). This discovery shows the
value of photo interviewing for eliciting data, which can also tell us something about
the effect of hegemony on a people who perform their culture. The visual method as-

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sisted in revealing this observation.
A more recent example comes from Dianne Stadhams in Pink (2007, 119–42),
which describes her project on tourism in Gambia of West Africa. Below a picture of

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children, a caption states: “When I grow up, I want to be a tourist” (Stadhams 2007,

119). While some Gambians gain economic benefits from tourism, it seems that watch-

ing the growing tourism in their country causes children to dream of careers as tourists.

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A key issue identified by Stadhams (2007, 132) for her project of building a television
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program is “what tourism means to and for Gambians.” This reported comment by
Gambian children relates to the overall effect of consumer-based industries such as
tourism on the construction of dreams of Gambians for their country’s future.
In my review of the volume I ask: Has power from participation resulted in im-
proved lives of ordinary people? Do we have instruments to measure quality of life?
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Some Gambians are happy that tourism is bringing work and spreading wealth, but
what about young Gambians whose vision of the future is being distorted by dreaming
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of careers as lazy tourists? This is where doing good anthropology can benefit knowl-
edge and future lives (El Guindi 2011b).
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Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead worked as a team and used film and photogra-
phy in the field, integrating both media in their systematic, comparative ethnography.
Mead made their project’s priority explicit (Jacknis 1988), saying that they weren’t

filming “for the purpose of making documentary films and photographs for which one

decides a priori upon the norms and then gets the Balinese to go through these behaviors
in suitable lighting” (Bateson and Mead 1942, 49; emphasis added). The reference here
is to the relative staging of behaviors and events to accommodate the limitations of
technology (light conditions).
In a seminal conversation between Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, subse-
quently published (Brand 1976), important issues regarding the use of the visual as
a medium in anthropology were argued in the liveliest manner. Note that the visual
project of Mead and Bateson was accomplished by the two as a team—independently
credentialed, prominent, prolific, and accomplished anthropologists who used scien-
tific rigor in their methods and offered profound insights in their analyses (Bateson
1943, 1963, 1972, 1979; Bateson and Mead 1935, 1942; McQuown and Bateson 1971).
A segment of the conversation was excerpted and reprinted in the journal Studies in
the Anthropology of Visual Communication with the title “Margaret Mead and Gregory
13: Visual Anthropology   453

Bateson on the Use of the Camera in Anthropology” (Mead and Bateson 1977). This
reassigned title is techno-centric and reduces what I consider to be a rich multifaceted
conversation to a technical level—not at all what the profound conversation is about, a
conversation I recommend as required reading in any visual anthropology class. In one
segment of the conversation and elsewhere (Mead 1963), Mead observes how one can
forget that other things are happening when the camera is pointing in one direction, or
that other things are happening outside the frame (for an analysis of the conversation,
see El Guindi 2004, 61–73). The focus on some behavior of momentary interest might
sacrifice other, potentially important data. The issue concerned the disadvantages of
leaving the camera running from one position versus moving it around to capture

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related action (on this, see Heider 1983).
This has given rise to spurious arguments about objectivity, selectivity, and repre-
sentationality. Sorenson (1995; also see Sorenson and Jablonko 1975) notes that:

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A peculiar myth that has developed in recent years is that anthropological films cannot

be scientific because their content is always governed by selective interests. This absurd

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notion ignores the degree to which selectivity and special interest underlie all scientific
inquiry. Method is crucial. In order for visual records to be a valid scientific resource,
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they need to be shaped by the scientific methodological considerations that govern the
investigation of nonrecurring phenomena. (p. 496)

Rather, the point to be made from Margaret Mead’s remark is about the importance
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she gave to visual research data and their use for discovery. Heider (1983) discusses
research footage (not intended for inclusion in a finished film) used by an ethnogra-
pher to capture an image of behavior for careful frame-by-frame analysis. He notes
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how research with film and videotape allowed researchers like Bateson, Birdwhistell,
Lomax, and Kendon to demonstrate how important information is continually being
expressed and communicated in whole bodies and in both sides of the conversation
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and how this kind of research has had a direct impact on thinking about ethnographic
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film (see Heider 1983, 2–10).

Adam Kendon shot his footage of greeting behavior in wide angle to pick up unex-
pectedly early stages of a greeting sequence (Kendon and Ferber 1973). Significantly,

Kendon (1980, 1990, 1991, 2004) has taken his research on gestures beyond anthropol-

ogy, stimulating debate among linguists and cognitive scientists.


It became a challenge to reveal to anthropologists at large the anthropology in the vi-
sual. In fact, as evident in this overview and in others, there is a unified origin and a sus-
tained interest in establishing sound methods for creating visual data. Marcel Griaule
sustained Regnault’s concept of ethnographic filming as a scientific activity concerned
with traditional ethnographic subjects. He distinguished three film types: archive foot-
age for research, training films for anthropology courses, and public education films,
occasionally including works of art (Griaule 1957).
Andre Leroi-Gourhan (1948) applied the adjective ethnological to film and intro-
duced another tripartite classification: the research film, the “exotic” travel film (to be
abhorred as superficial and exploitative), and the “film of environment,” produced with
454    Fadwa El Guindi

no scientific aim but deriving an ethnological value from its exportation. Chanock and
Sorenson (1975, 432) refer to the research film method, which provides identified and an-
notated visual records, unedited, not designed to impose preconceived ideas, and focused
on films based on ethnographic understandings of a culture.
Loizos (1993) offered a grouping of films from specific periods as innovations and
modalities. The innovations he identified are: (1) production technology; (2) diverse
subject matter; (3) widened range of strategies of argument used by filmmakers—that
is, films that combine several modes of representation; and (4) enhanced ethnographic
contextualizing devices. Loizos proposes the following modalities: documentation, ex-
planatory, explanation rejected (film modality that rejects conceptual explanation root

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and branch), and context enrichment.
MacDougall (1978, 405) found one distinction useful: ethnographic footage (raw
material that comes out of a camera, like field notes, used for a variety of purposes

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including the making of films) and ethnographic films (structured works made for

presentation to an audience). He further divided ethnographic footage into two ma-

jor forms: research footage to serve specific scientific inquiries and record footage

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made to provide more general documents for archiving and future research footage
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for research purposes (see Omori 1988). To Heider (1983, 5), “ethnographic films
must themselves be ethnographically accountable” and “the better the ethnographic-
ness, the better the cinema.”
Yasuhiro Omori (1988) focused his discussion on footage film and ethnographic
film. He draws the analogy from print ethnography and sees a correspondence between
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footage film and field notes, on the one hand, and ethnographic film and monograph,
on the other. He states that within visual anthropology, films take two main forms.
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First, there are simple footage films taken as field notes. Second, there is the ethno-
graphic film (like a monograph) that is shot in a comprehensive way and organized
around a theme related to the entire culture being studied (Omori 1988, 192). Footage
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films are short films recording a technical process or scenes of human behavior within
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a group. The monograph film tends to be longer and has a story constructed on a spe-
cific theme. Omori characterized the difference as part/whole, analytic/interpretive,
scientific/ethnographic, or differential length (pp. 192, 194, 196).

Gotthard Wolf considered three kinds of scientific film: the research film, the

scientific documentation film, and the university instructional film (1961, 16–20).
Increasingly, there are visual studies that focus on popular media, home photogra-
phy, and public culture (Chalfen 1975, 1987, 1992; El Guindi 1996; Ginsburg 1995;
Pink 2007; Ruby 1981).
These progressive developments placed filming squarely within anthropology rather
than documentary cinema—a position expressed by many anthropologists to this day.
Worth (1966, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1980, 1981a, 1981b) referred to ethnographic film as a
set of signs to study the behavior of a people, used either as a recording of data about
culture or as data of culture. Ruby (1975) proposed four criteria for ethnographic
films. They should be: (1) about whole cultures, or definable portions of cultures; (2)
informed by explicit or implicit theories of culture; (3) explicit about the research and
filming methods they had used; and (4) use a distinctively anthropological lexicon. In
13: Visual Anthropology   455

a now-classic book, Balikci (1989) discussed degrees of ethnographicness on the basis

of six premises used “to define what is ethnographic in a film” (pp. 33–34).
Rollwagen (1988a, 1988b) stressed the disciplinary framework within which
ethnographic film is situated, ethnography being a scientific description conducted
within a theoretical framework. This puts film/photography within anthropology,
not cinema, and entails the premise that the visual medium is integral to research or,
in the case of ethnographic film, is based on a significant amount of research prior to
filming (Rollwagen 1988b, 983). Clearly, ethnographic film isn’t merely involvement
in other cultures.
When Heider (1976) wrote his now iconic statement about ethnographic film, that

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satisfactory ethnographic films are those revealing “whole bodies, and whole people,
in whole acts,” he sketched a system for discussing different attributes that contribute
to the ethnographicness of a film, making clear to anthropology that ethnographic

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film is integral to the scientific anthropological project (p. 75; emphasis added). In

contrast, Loizos (1993) situated film in cinema, which draws inspiration from literary

theory (and which challenges objectivity and facts) rather than in the social science

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tradition of anthropology.
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Margaret Mead was certain about the place of the visual. To Mead (1962), visual
tools were used for research data and discovery:

Film materials . . . have made it possible to explore ways to tap the theoretical insights
of other disciplines through the use of visual materials and of providing a continuing
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resource for the exploration of new hypotheses as the behavior, recorded on film, can be
viewed repeatedly in the light of other new materials. (p. 138)
fo igh

The questions of concern regarding the visual in anthropology are: Do different

visual forms generate primary data or do they illustrate ethnographic observations
gathered by regular ethnographic observation? The goal, as many visual anthropolo-
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gists agree, is to contextualize the visual in good anthropology and visual data in
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sound ethnography.
So, while the importance of the visual medium is gradually being recognized in
mainstream anthropology in terms of method and theory, the significant issue remains

the quality of knowledge production. It goes without saying that anthropologists are

(or should be) concerned with the anthropological quality of knowledge production
irrespective of the medium used, print or visual. The issue is ethnographic adequacy.

From Felix Regnault (1931), to Alfred Haddon (1895), to John Collier, Jr. (1967,
1988) and Margaret Mead (1975), among many others, the quest was for anthropolo-
gists to take visual tools seriously. All of these scholars called for using visual tools in
research, a kind of contribution they themselves demonstrated in projects of record
and discovery of knowledge. They demonstrated the importance of the visual as both
research data and a tool for research in anthropology. This appeal was famously made
by Mead (1995), who criticized ethnographic inquiry that came to “depend on words,
and words, and words” (p. 5), and who admonished anthropologists for their passivity
and resistance to using pictures in field research.
456    Fadwa El Guindi

This critique and appeal is as relevant today as ever in anthropology around the
world. The visual as a methodological scholarly tool is close to being absent in the very
societies, like Egypt, that have successfully produced fiction for over a century. (For a
discussion of the state of Arab documentary film, see Abdullah 1984.) To enhance the
future of visual anthropology, research must continue to build on its rich methodologi-
cal heritage. Today’s anthropology students must be able to imagine what Margaret
Mead would have done with today’s new possibilities of digitizing instruments and
new software. But imagining what Mead and Bateson would have done with such tools
requires us not only to learn how to use them but to master anthropology and do good
ethnography of the kind done by these pioneers even before modern visual tools were

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available. As Bateson (1979) said:

[W]e have been trained to think of patterns . . . as fixed affairs. It is easier and lazier that

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way but, of course, all nonsense. In truth, the right way to begin to think about the pat-

tern which connects is to think of it as primarily . . . a dance of interacting parts. (p. 13)

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Scholars and practitioners of art and literature may be suspicious of a scientific ap-
proach, to the systematics in the accumulation of knowledge, but the key to meaningful
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knowledge, as Bateson said, is “the dance of interacting parts.” Visual production of
knowledge might just be the methodological tool leading to this key.

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Asch, T., and N. A. Chagnon. 1969. The feast. DER. 16mm; color.
Asch, T., and N. A. Chagnon. 1971. The ax fight. DER. 13'; color.
Asch, T., and N. A. Chagnon. 1974a. A father washes his children. DER. 13'; color.
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Asch, T., and N. A. Chagnon. 1974b. A man called “Bee”: Studying the Yanomamo. DER. 16mm;
Balikci, A., and G. Mary-Rousseliere. 1967. The Netsilik Eskimo Series: National Film Board of
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Canada. Seven films.

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Boas, F. 1973. (filmed 1930). The Kwakiutl of British Columbia. (Edited by B. Holm.) University
of Washington Burke Museum. Silent, b&w.
Curling, C., and M. Llewelyn-Davies. 1974. Masai women. Granada Television (Disappearing

World Series). Distributed by Shanachie Entertainment Corp. Color.

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