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Chapter 3: Visual Anthropology & Material Culture


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Visual Anthropology
A sub-field of Cultural Anthropology, it is the study and production of ethnographic photography, ethnographic film and, since the mid-1990s, new media.
Salvage Ethnography
Attempts to record the ways-of-life of societies assumed doomed to extinction
Nanook of the North
A 1922 silent documentary film by Robert Flaherty - a docudrama. Flaherty captured the struggles of an Inuk man named Nanook and his family in the Canadian Arctic. The film is considered the first featurelength documentary.
Trance and Dance in Bali
(1952) An early film of historical significance by pioneers of visual anthropology, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, circa 1939. It explores the themes of trance and dance in the rituals and religion of Bali. The famous Kris Dance is performed. Narrated by Margaret Mead. Filmed by Gregory Bateson. Converted from 16mm film reel.
Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis
Book written in 1942 by Margaret Mead & Gregory Bateson which contains a selection of 759 still photographs, arranged thematically to illustrate theoretical points about Balinese culture and character. For instance, they used photographs to show how children learned physical skills passively by having their bodies moved into the necessary positions by their teachers.
Material Culture
The physical evidence of a culture in the objects and architecture they make, or have made. The term refers to all material evidence which can attributed to culture, past or present.
Structuralism
Theorised that elements of human culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure. It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel. It is a theoretical paradigm in linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, literary theory, sociology and psychoanalysis.
Phenomenology
Focus on how people (perceive and) experience the world; Studies how life is lived and acted in concrete situations
Phenomenologists
Gaston Bachelard (1884 – 1962), Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
Pierre Boudieu
French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist; During the Algerian War 1958-1962, he undertook ethnographic research into the clash through a study of the Kabyle peoples (Berbers tribe) laying the groundwork for his anthropological reputation. It is written early in his career from a "structuralist" point of view. His work on the Kabyle house demonstrates the complexity of the spaces in which we live in their symbolic associations, everyday fluidity of their various functions, cultural meanings.