Accepted Paper:

Ways of seeing, ways of filming: theory and practice in visual anthropology  

Author:

Roger Canals (University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

By this paper I aim to demonstrate the existing tight relationship between theory and practice in ethnographic cinema; furthermore, I wish to demonstrate that the filming techniques and the cinematic language used are subjected to the cultural characteristics of the community being studied.

Paper long abstract:

In order to use the camera as a research tool on cultural diversity, the visual anthropologist always needs to take into account the investigated community' s conception on concepts such as "image", "view", "gaze", "reflection". The meaning of those cinematic terms in the context of this study will determine, partly, the ethnographic methodology to be followed throughout the field work. Nevertheless, how can one find out the significance of those concepts in a different cultural ground? By introducing the camera during the ethnographic investigation. In short, the theoretical knowledge about the image conditions the cinematic methodology whereas the latter offers ethnographic data on notions such as vision and representation that can be of great value for the conceptual debate.

I realized this interdependence between theory and practice in visual anthropology during my field work conducted in Venezuela concerning the worship of Maria Lionza. The believers of Maria Lionza, for example, explained to me that while filming the rituals, and in order to avoid "hurting" -or even "killing"- the possessed medium or spirit that "was incarnated" there, I had to be aware of certain factors. These prohibitions derived from a very certain notion of the followers regarding the image, the gaze or the reflection.

In conclusion, by this paper I aim to demonstrate the existing tight relationship between theory and practice in ethnographic cinema; furthermore, I wish to demonstrate that the filming techniques and the cinematic language used are subjected to the cultural characteristics of the community being studied.

Panel W049
Audio-visual representation and cultural diversity