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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Film and Anthropology (PGSP11461)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will provide a broad overview of the history of anthropology's engagement with film and will address how the formal methods available to anthropological film makers have been/are deployed in the context of producing ethnographic works are cinematic in their orientation. Thus, film and its formal (i.e. methodological) relationship to ethnography, cultural and social anthropology, and the social sciences and humanities more generally is the specific focus of the course. Specific anthropologists / film makers to be covered will include Robert Gardner, Jean Rouch, Karl G. Heider, Robert Flaherty, and Timothy Asch; salient non-fiction films or other visual representations (such as the early scientific photography of Charcot or Muybridge and the science films of Jean Painlevé) will also be considered.
Course description This course is oriented towards a critical and historical engagement with the production of anthropological films as a technique within social anthropology. Therefore, its primary aims are to provide a sustained engagement with visual works understood to be ethnographic in nature or as being a forerunner of ethnographic film as it is understood presently. Thus, in addition to providing an introduction to the history of visual anthropology, an analysis as to how the formal methods available to the filmmaker have been/are deployed in the context of producing particular cinematic engagements with the world will also be a focus. Ethnographic film and its formal (i.e. methodological) relationship to ethnography, cultural anthropology, and the social sciences and humanities is the specific focus of the course and most of the examples would be drawn from films generally recognized (although such definitions are always contested) to be ethnographic. This fact notwithstanding, many of the general issues as to how cinema can convey or produce an idea about the 'truth' of the world would be more generally applicable to all types of films.

The first half of the course will be devoted to the historical issues regarding the emergence of genres of non-fiction film. The emergence of something called 'non-fiction' or 'ethnographic' film is directly linked to the formal potentials of cinema itself, i.e. its method. The tension between cinema's aspiration to document the world and the formal necessity in cinema to create a cinematic real will be explored in careful detail. Themes in this half will include:

The emergence of general narrative strategies in early cinema through the formal manipulation of time (through editing strategies) and space (framing, movement, etc.).

The relationship between early cinema and scientific inquiry.

The understood necessity to conceptually distinguish between non-fiction and fiction film.

Readings in this section would include extended selections from some of the key general texts (Grimshaw, Macdougall, Rothman, Heider) that will provide the major threads of the course. Additional readings regarding the particular topic of each lecture will also be provided on the reading list; these readings are not considered mandatory, although students will be strongly encouraged to read these works when possible. Although oriented towards a specific historical period in the early 20th Century regarding film and its relationship to scientific inquiry, this section will be presented as a genealogy of emergent instruments, concepts, and debates; in particular, theories of the real, of fact in relation to film, and methodological debates regarding what constitutes the proper research instruments of anthropology will be highlighted. Therefore this half of the course, while providing a good historical overview, does not aspire to be a complete history of the 'birth of ethnographic film'; rather, it is an exploration into the concepts and methods that has made cinema an attractive, ambiguous instrument in conducting anthropological work.

The second half of the course will be devoted to the themes and subjects of ethnographic film as a genre and provide a close engagement with precisely how these formal qualities of cinema have been explicitly put to use in the course of anthropological research. In relation to themes and subjects, issues such as issues related to the depiction of 'the Other' in film, the ethics of ethnographic film making in the field, and debates over power and reflexivity will be addressed. Regarding the formal qualities of cinema, three aspects of ethnographic film making would be highlighted: frame and the articulation of information or ideas through visual means; time as constructed through techniques of montage; and the relation of sound to visual modes of presentation. This half of the course will focus on several key figures in ethnographic film working from the 1950s onward, including Jean Rouch, Robert Gardner, Karl G. Heider, and Timothy Asch. As with the first half of the course, the primary readings will continue to be oriented around the primary assigned texts, with a generous number of secondary readings available to students in order to deepen their knowledge of particular themes and lecture topics.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Other Study Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 146 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) 20 "Other Study Hours" to be set aside for film screenings.
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) One long essay of 4,000 words worth 90% of grade.

In addition to the formally assessed assignments there is a short writing assignment every week. This assignment consists of a 250-word (maximum) reaction piece regarding the films screened each week during the separate Tuesday screening period. This component is worth 10% of grade.
Feedback Formative feedback will be provided verbally on a weekly basis in both the two hour lecture / seminar session, and the one hour tutorial. Further verbal feedback will be available through the course organiser's Guidance and Feedback hours.

Further written feedback will also be provided on the final summative long essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Contribute to preparing students to participate in an effective and informed way in debates regarding the history of anthropology's engagement with film, the issues regarding visually presenting human cultural difference, and the relation between visual anthropology and the work of social anthropology more generally.
  2. Have a substantive knowledge and understanding of a selection of important historical and social issues with regard to the development and use of cinematic technologies in the representation and depiction of cultural diversity, and of the contending viewpoints and claims on these issues.
  3. Identify and characterise key approaches from social anthropology, from other social science disciplines, and from interdisciplinary fields like cultural studies, film studies, and science and technology studies to understanding and evaluating issues concerning the overlap between film and anthropology, and identify advantages, problems and implications of these approaches.
  4. Critically evaluate contributions to the academic and public debates on the use of film in scientific, philosophical, and humanities-related inquiries in order to engage wider audiences regarding issues of human social and cultural difference.
  5. Identify and evaluate a selection of techniques and procedures used in visual anthropology and their relation to the formal techniques and procedures of cinema generally.
Reading List
Marcus Banks and Jay Ruby, eds. (2011), Made to be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology (University of Chicago Press).

Anna Grimshaw (2001), The Ethnographer's Eye: Ways of Seeing in Modern Anthropology (Cambridge University Press).

Karl G. Heider (2006), Ethnographic Film: Revised Edition (University of Texas Press).

Peter Loizos (1993), Innovation in Ethnographic Film: From Innocence to Self-consciousness, 1955-85 (Manchester University Press).

David MacDougall (1998), Transcultural Cinema (Princeton University Press).

Sarah Pink (2006), The Future of Visual Anthropology : Engaging the Senses (Routledge).

William Rothman (1997), Documentary Film Classics (Cambridge University Press).

Catherine Russell (1999), Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video (Duke University Press).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:

Analysing evidence and using this to develop and support a line of argument.

Presenting information visually and orally.

Understanding the role of language in social life.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Richard Baxstrom
Course secretaryMiss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
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