Accepted paper:

Ethnographic film - from representing reality to anthropological fictions.


Mihai Andrei Leaha (University of Sao Paulo)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the ways in which ethnographic film as a border discipline between anthropology and cinema created it’s path for epistemological legitimation in relation to the concept of ,,reality” and it’s way of representing it.

Paper long abstract:

"When I am with anthropologists, they consider me as a filmmaker, when I am with filmmakers they consider me as an anthropologist." (Robert Gardner interviewing Jean Rouch in 1980) The paper discusses ethnographic film as a border genre positioned between anthropology and cinema, regarded here as two institutional and critical/aesthetical modes of representing reality. The debate over the hybrid composition of the term ethnographic film, created several methodological trends such as: observational; participatory; reflexive; collaborative; sensory modes of doing anthropological work with film. In each case the quest for legitimating a new field of anthropological inquiry, that uses the aesthetically dominated medium of cinema, produced specific kind of theory and waves of practitioners which tend to have an anthropologically aware way of using film and media. The field of visual anthropology, imbedded in epistemological assumptions about the issue of anthropological representation came a long way from the Margaret Mead's salvage anthropology to MacDougall's view of independence from the principle of scientific validity of ethnographic film. In my opinion the core concept that stood at the base of paradigm shifts in our field was the way in which authors relate to the concept of "reality" and the means and meanings of representing/interpret it. The fictional turn in postmodern theory, opened up new possibilities of interpreting "reality" as a possible world or in our case as anthropological fictions. The paper explores this path of ethnographic film and it's relation with constructing anthropological knowledge.

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Visual encounters: audiovisual approaches to anthropological knowledge