Anthropology, Photography, Visuality

Term: Fall 2011

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6255

We increasingly live in a globalized world where the image is privileged. What people see, but more importantly, how they see and what they wish others to see in a particular manner is one of the principle concerns of visual anthropology. A fast growing subfield of anthropology, visual anthropology is indispensable for understanding ethnographic research, media analysis, and material culture, as well as engaging critically with the arts and other forms of cultural display and representation. This course engages with the principles and practices of visual anthropology by exploring the production and reception of different images (photography specifically) among and between members of diverse cultures in the contemporary world, and by anthropologists themselves. Topics to be covered include the parallel histories of anthropology and photography; photography as a tool of ethnographic research; critical engagements with photography by anthropologists, past and present; the 'reading' of photographs from an anthropological perspective; and finally, recent innovative photographic productions by contemporary working anthropologists. In the last section of the course, we will move beyond the visual to incorporate other senses into our writing of innovative ethnographies. Readings will include Margaret Mead on visual anthropology, Ira Jacknis on Mead and Bateson and photography, Joanna Scherer on photography as research method and anthropological data, Elizabeth Edwards on the history of photography in anthropology, Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins on reading National Geographic, Paul Hockings on principles of visual anthropology, Pierre Bourdieu on photography and class, Susan Sontag's famous essay "on photography,"  Allan Sekula on photographic meaning, Jay Ruby on death photography, Christopher Pinney on Indian photography, Lucien Taylor on visualizing theory, and Marcus Banks and Howard Morphy on rethinking visual anthropology. Lastly, we will look at Paul Stoler on the taste of ethnographic things, Nadia Seremetakis on nostalgia and the senses, Dorinne Kondo on drinking tea and sensuality, and Gale Largey and Rod Watson on smell and culture.


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