Visual Anthropology Review Essay

Visual anthropology is a subfield of social anthropology that is concerned, in part, with the study and production of ethnographic photography, film and, since the mid-1990s, new media. More recently it has been used by historians of science and visual culture.[1] Although sometimes wrongly conflated with ethnographic film, Visual Anthropology encompasses much more, including the anthropological study of all visual representations such as dance and other kinds of performance, museums and archiving, all visual arts, and the production and reception of mass media. Histories and analyses of representations from many cultures are part of Visual Anthropology: research topics include sandpaintings, tattoos, sculptures and reliefs, cave paintings, scrimshaw, jewelry, hieroglyphics, paintings and photographs. Also within the province of the subfield are studies of human vision, properties of media, the relationship of visual form and function, and applied, collaborative uses of visual representations.


Even before the emergence of anthropology as an academic discipline in the 1880s, ethnologists used photography as a tool of research.[2] Anthropologists and non-anthropologists conducted much of this work in the spirit of salvage ethnography or attempts to record for posterity the ways-of-life of societies assumed doomed to extinction (see, for instance, the Native American photography of Edward Curtis)[3]

The history of anthropological filmmaking is intertwined with that of non-fiction and documentary filmmaking, although ethnofiction may be considered as a genuine subgenre of ethnographic film. Some of the first motion pictures of the ethnographic other were made with Lumière equipment (Promenades des Éléphants à Phnom Penh, 1901).[4]Robert Flaherty, probably best known for his films chronicling the lives of Arctic peoples (Nanook of the North, 1922), became a filmmaker in 1913 when his supervisor suggested that he take a camera and equipment with him on an expedition north. Flaherty focused on "traditional" Inuit ways of life, omitting with few exceptions signs of modernity among his film subjects (even to the point of refusing to use a rifle to help kill a walrus his informants had harpooned as he filmed them, according to Barnouw; this scene made it into Nanook where it served as evidence of their "pristine" culture). This pattern would persist in many ethnographic films to follow (see as an example Robert Gardner's Dead Birds).

By the 1940s and early 1950s, anthropologists such as Hortense Powdermaker,[5]Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead (Trance and Dance in Bali, 1952) and Mead and Rhoda Metraux, eds., (The Study of Culture at a Distance, 1953) were bringing anthropological perspectives to bear on mass media and visual representation. Karl G. Heider notes in his revised edition of Ethnographic Film (2006) that after Bateson and Mead, the history of visual anthropology is defined by "the seminal works of four men who were active for most of the second half of the twentieth century: Jean Rouch, John Marshall, Robert Gardner, and Tim Asch. By focusing on these four, we can see the shape of ethnographic film" (p. 15). Many, including Peter Loizos,[6] would add the name of filmmaker/author David MacDougall to this select group.

In 1966, filmmaker Sol Worth and anthropologist John Adair taught a group of Navajo Indians in Arizona how to capture 16mm film. The hypothesis was that artistic choices made by the Navajo would reflect the 'perceptual structure' of the Navajo world.[7] The goals of this experiment were primarily ethnographic and theoretical. Decades later, however, the work has inspired a variety of participatory and applied anthropological initiatives - ranging from photovoice to virtual museum collections - in which cameras are given to local collaborators as a strategy for empowerment.[8][9][10][11]

In the United States, Visual Anthropology first found purchase in an academic setting in 1958 with the creation of the Film Study Center at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.[12] In the United Kingdom, The Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester was established in 1987 to offer training in anthropology and film-making to MA, MPhil and PhD students and whose graduates have produced over 300 films to date. John Collier, Jr. wrote the first standard textbook in the field in 1967, and many visual anthropologists of the 1970s relied on semiologists like Roland Barthes for essential critical perspectives. Contributions to the history of Visual Anthropology include those of Emilie de Brigard (1967),[13] Fadwa el Guindi (2004),[14] and Beate Engelbrecht, ed. (2007).[15] A more recent history that understands visual anthropology in a broader sense, edited by Marcus Banks and Jay Ruby, is Made To Be Seen: Historical Perspectives on Visual Anthropology.[16] Turning the anthropological lens on India provides a counterhistory of visual anthropology (Khanduri 2014).[17]

At present, the Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) represents the subfield in the United States as a section of the American Anthropological Association, the AAA.

In the United States, ethnographic films are shown each year at the Margaret Mead Film Festival as well as at the AAA's annual Film and Media Festival.[18] In Europe, ethnographic films are shown at the Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival in the UK, The Jean Rouch Film Festival in France and Ethnocineca in Austria. Dozens of other international festivals are listed regularly in the Newsletter of the Nordic Anthropological Film Association [NAFA].[19]

Timeline and breadth of prehistoric visual representation[edit]

While art historians are clearly interested in some of the same objects and processes, visual anthropology places these artifacts within a holistic cultural context. Archaeologists, in particular, use phases of visual development to try to understand the spread of humans and their cultures across contiguous landscapes as well as over larger areas. By 10,000 BP, a system of well-developed pictographs was in use by boating peoples[20] and was likely instrumental in the development of navigation and writing, as well as a medium of story telling and artistic representation. Early visual representations often show the female form, with clothing appearing on the female body around 28,000 BP, which archaeologists know now corresponds with the invention of weaving in Old Europe. This is an example of the holistic nature of visual anthropology: a figurine depicting a woman wearing diaphanous clothing is not merely an object of art, but a window into the customs of dress at the time, household organization (where they are found), transfer of materials (where the clay came from) and processes (when did firing clay become common), when did weaving begin, what kind of weaving is depicted and what other evidence is there for weaving, and what kinds of cultural changes were occurring in other parts of human life at the time.

Visual anthropology, by focusing on its own efforts to make and understand film, is able to establish many principles and build theories about human visual representation in general.

List of visual anthropology academic programs[edit]

  • Aarhus University: Master in Visual Anthropology
  • Australian National University: The Research School of Humanities and the Arts Centre for Visual Anthropology
  • California State University, Chico: Home to the Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology (ALVA) which offers students use of RED Digital Cinema cameras in its Masters of Anthropology program. Students receive a four-fields degree but complete an ethnographic film as partial fulfillment of their thesis requirement. A Certificate in Applied Anthropology is also available for students who would like to pursue Visual Anthropology, and make ethnographic films as Undergraduates.
  • Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Ecuador: offers a master program in visual anthropology .
  • Free University of Berlin: - M.A. in Visual and Media Anthropology.
  • Harvard University: Harvard offers a PhD in Social Anthropology with Media in conjunction with its Sensory Ethnography Lab
  • Heidelberg University: The chair of Visual and Media Anthropology offers BA and MA courses in the field of visual and media anthropology.
  • New York University:The Program in Culture and Media
  • Pontifical Catholic University of Peru: The Social Sciences Department at PUCP offers a two-year MA program in Visual Anthropology.
  • San Francisco State University: Visual Anthropology program and Peter Biella
  • Tallinn University: MA in audiovisual ethnography.
  • Temple University: Undergraduate track in Visual Communication. Graduate specialization in Visual Communication.
  • Towson University: Undergraduate track in Anthropology-Sociology, Matthew Durington, Samuel Collins and Harjant Gill
  • Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana: Laboratorio de Antropología Visual
  • Universitat de Barcelona: postgraduate and Master's programs in Visual Anthropology
  • University of British Columbia: The Ethnographic Film Unit at UBC
  • University College London: offers postgraduate courses that can be taken as part of a master's degree for credit or they can be audited with a certificate of completion provided.
  • University of Kent: The Department of Anthropology offers a Masters in Visual Anthropology that explores traditional and experimental means of using visual images to produce/represent anthropological knowledge.
  • University of Leiden: offers the Bachelor course Visual Methods and Visual Ethnography as a Method as part the Master's programme. It teaches students how to use photography, digital video and sound recording both as research and reporting tools as part of ethnographic research.
  • University of London, Goldsmith's College: The anthropology department offers an MA and PhD in Visual Anthropology.
  • University of Manchester: The Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology offers MA, MPhil and PhD courses that combine practical film training, editing and production, photography, sound recording, art and social activism. Established in 1987, the Granada Centre's postgraduate programme has produced over 300 documentary films. Its students have made films for numerous international broadcasters, including the BBC and Channel 4. Manchester includes an Oscar nominee, two BAFTA winners, and a BAFTA nominee among its alumni.
  • University of Münster: Visual Anthropology, Media & Documentary Practices Programme which accompanies employment. Master of Arts (M.A.) degree within 6 semesters.Provides skills in the area of visual anthropology, documentary films, photography, documentary art, culture media and media anthropology.
  • University of New South Wales: offers a PhD in Visual Anthropology
  • University of Oxford: The Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology collaborates with the Pitt Rivers Museum to offer the highly ranked one-year MSc and two-year MPhil in Visual, Material, and Museum Anthropology and also awards DPhil degrees with numerous competitive funding opportunities.
  • University of South Carolina offers a Graduate Certificate in Visual Anthropology for graduate students enrolled in M.A. or Ph.D. programs in Media Arts and Anthropology but which also serves graduate students in such areas as Education, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, as well as Sociology and Geography.
  • University of Southern California - USC Center for Visual Anthropology: The MAVA (Master of Arts in Visual Anthropology) was a 2–3 year terminal Masters program from 1984 to 2001, which produced over sixty ethnographic documentaries. In 2001, it was merged into a Certificate in Visual Anthropology given alongside the Ph.D. in Anthropology. A new digitally based program was created in the Fall of 2009 as a [new one year MA program in Visual Anthropology ]. [2]. Since 2009, the program has produced twenty five new ethnographic documentaries. Many have screened at film festivals and several are in distribution.
  • University of Tromsø: The University of Tromsø offers a program in Visual Culture Studies
  • Western Kentucky University: Western Kentucky University offers a BA in Cultural Anthropology with a focus on Visual Anthropology
  • Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (University of Münster): Visual Anthropology, Media & Documentary Practices Programme which accompanies employment. Master of Arts (M.A.) degree within 6 semesters.Provides skills in the area of visual anthropology, documentary films, photography, documentary art, culture media and media anthropology.

List of films[edit]

Main article: List of visual anthropology films

See also[edit]



  • Alloa, Emmanuel (ed.) Penser l'image II. Anthropologies du visuel. Dijon: Presses du réel 2015. ISBN 978-2-84066-557-1 (in French).
  • Banks, Marcus; Morphy, Howard (Hrsg.): Rethinking Visual Anthropology. New Haven: Yale University Press 1999. ISBN 978-0-300-07854-1
  • Marcus Banks and David Zeitlyn, 2015. "Visual methods in social research" (Second Edition), Sage: London
  • Barbash, Ilisa and Lucien Taylor. Cross-cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Films and Videos. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
  • Collier, Malcolm et al.: Visual Anthropology. Photography As a Research Method. University of Mexico 1986. ISBN 978-0-8263-0899-3
  • Daniels, Inge. 2010. The Japanese House: Material Culture in the Modern Home. Oxford: Berg Publishers.
  • Coote, Jeremy and Anthony Shelton. 1994. Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics. Clarendon Press.
  • Edwards, Elisabeth (Hrsg.): Anthropology and Photography 1860–1920. New Haven, London 1994, Nachdruck. ISBN 978-0-300-05944-1
  • Engelbrecht, Beate (ed.). Memories of the Origins of Ethnographic Film. Frankfurt am Main et al.: Peter Lang Verlag, 2007.
  • Grimshaw, Anna. The Ethnographer's Eye: Ways of Seeing in Modern Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Harris, Claire. 2012. The Museum on the Roof of the World: Art, Politics and the Representation of Tibet. University of Chicago Press.
  • Harris, Claire and Michael O'Hanlon. 2013. 'The Future of the Ethnographic Museum,' Anthropology Today, 29(1). pp. 8–12.
  • Heider, Karl G. Ethnographic Film (Revised Edition). Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.
  • Hockings, Paul (ed.). "Principles of Visual Anthropology." 3rd edn. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003.
  • MacDougall, David. Transcultural Cinema. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
  • Martinez, Wilton. 1992. “Who Constructs Anthropological Knowledge? Toward a Theory of Ethnographic Film Spectatorship.” In Film as Ethnography, D. Turton and P. Crawford, (Eds.), pp. 130-161. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Mead, Margaret: Anthropology and the camera. In: Morgan, Willard D. (Hg.): Encyclopedia of photography. New York 1963.
  • Morton, Chris and Elizabeth Edwards (eds.) 2009. Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing
  • Peers, Laura. 2003. Museums and Source Communities: A Routledge Reader, Routledge
  • Pink, Sarah: Doing Visual Ethnography: Images, Media and Representation in Research. London: Sage Publications Ltd. 2006. ISBN 978-1-4129-2348-4
  • Pinney, Christopher: Photography and Anthropology. London: Reaktion Books 2011. ISBN 978-1-86189-804-3
  • Prins, Harald E.L.. "Visual Anthropology." pp. 506–525. In A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians. Ed. T. Biolsi. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
  • Prins, Harald E.L., and Ruby, Jay eds. "The Origins of Visual Anthropology." Visual Anthropology Review. Vol. 17 (2), 2001–2002.
  • Ruby, Jay. Picturing Culture: Essays on Film and Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-226-73099-8.
  • Worth, Sol, Adair John. "Through Navajo Eyes". Indiana University Press; 1972.

Further reading[edit]

  • Visual Anthropology - Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology, article by Jay Ruby
  • Visual anthropology in the digital mirror: Computer-assisted visual anthropology, article by Michael D. Fischer and David Zeitlyn, then both University of Kent at Canterbury
  • Legends Asch and Myerhoff Inspire A New Generation of Visual Anthropologists - article by Susan Andrews [3]
  • Pink, Sarah. "Doing Visual Ethnography:Images, Media, and Representation". Sage, London, 2012
  • Banks, Marcus and Ruby, Jay. "Made to be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology. University of Chicago Press, 2011

External links[edit]

  1. ^Eddy, Matthew Daniel (2013). "The Shape of Knowledge: Children and the Visual Culture of Literacy and Numeracy". Science in Context. 26: 215–245. doi:10.1017/s0269889713000045. 
  2. ^Jay Ruby. "Visual Anthropology." In Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology, David Levinson and Melvin Ember, editors. New York: Henry Holt and Company, vol. 4:1345–1351, 1996 [1].
  3. ^Harald E.L. Prins, "Visual Anthropology." Pp. 506–525, In T.Biolsi. ed. A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing].
  4. ^Erik Barnouw. Documentary: A history of the Non-Fiction Film. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  5. ^Hortense Powdermaker. Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Studies the Movie Makers. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950.
  6. ^Loizos, Peter 1993. Innovation in Ethnographic Film: From Innocence to Self-Consciousness, 1955-1985. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  7. ^Darnell R. Through Navajo eyes: An exploration in film communication and anthropology. American Anthropologist, Vol 76, pp 890, Oct. 1974
  8. ^Turner, Terence 1992. Defiant images: the Kayapo appropriation of video. Anthropology Today 8:5-15.
  9. ^Wang, C., & Burris, M. A. (1994). Empowerment through Photo Novella: Portraits of Participation. Health Education & Behavior, 21(2), 171-186.
  10. ^Chalfen, Richard and Michael Rich 1999. Showing and Telling Asthma: Children Teaching Physicians with Visual Narratives. Visual Sociology 14: 51-71.
  11. ^Riddington, Amber and Kate Hennessy, Co-curators, Project Co-coordinators, 2007. Dane Wajich: Dane-zaa Stories and Songs: Dreamers and the Land. Electronic document, (accessed May 29, 2014).
  12. ^Jay Ruby. The Professionalization of Visual Anthropology in the United States - The 1960s and 1970s." 2005 The Last Twenty Years of Visual anthropology – A Critical Review. Visual Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, pgs. 159–170.
  13. ^de Brigard, Emilie 2003 [1967]. The History of Ethnographic Film. In: Principles of Visual Anthropology (3rd ed.). Paul Hockings, editor. Pp. 13-44. The Hague: De Gruyter.
  14. ^el Guindi, Fadwa 2004. Visual Anthropology: Essential Method and Theory. Walnut Creek, California: Altamira Press.
  15. ^Engelbrecht, Beate, ed. 2007. The Origins of Visual Anthropology. Bern and Berlin: Peter Lang Verlag.
  16. ^Banks, Marcus and Jay Ruby 2011. Made To Be Seen: Historical Perspectives on Visual Anthropology Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  17. ^Ritu G. Khanduri. 2014. Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History in the Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  18. ^Information about this festival is available at
  19. ^Newsletter of the Nordic Anthropological Film Association -
  20. ^Jim Bailey, Sailing to Paradise

Mission Statement

Writing with Light is an initiative to bolster the place of the photo-essay—and, by extension, formal experimentation—within international anthropological scholarship. As a collaboration between two journals published by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Cultural Anthropology and Visual Anthropology Review, Writing with Light is led by a curatorial collective that aims to address urgent and important concerns about the sustained prominence of multimodal scholarship. Anthropological projects based in video, installation, performance, etc. take as a given that multimodality changes what anthropologists can and should see as productive knowledge. Such projects compel anthropologists to begin rethinking our intellectual endeavors through an engagement with various media, addressing the particular affordances and insights that each new form of scholarship offers. How, for example, does photography produce different types of knowledge than text and/or film? What criteria might we need to interrogate and evaluate each of these forms of multimodal scholarship? As part of a broader set of questions about the relationship between forms of scholarly work and knowledge production, we explore the ongoing relevance of the photo-essay.

The Writing with Light collective focuses on the photo-essay in the belief that multimodal (or visual) forms are not a singular paradigm and that a consideration of a singular research form might help us to rethink a broader array of anthropological questions. How does the photo-essay configure our engagement through its unique form of mediation and composition? We believe that the photo-essay provides a critical opportunity for reevaluating the word–image relationship. Conventionally known for its narrative qualities, the photo-essay is especially useful in reconsidering the relationship between words and images in photographic storytelling, as well as efforts to generate innovative anthropological knowledge with the capacity to go beyond storytelling. For example, we are especially interested in the photo-essay’s potential to generate insights focused on issues of mediation and representation, as well as methodological questions with the potential to shift how anthropologists conceive of the discipline itself.

This initiative is unique in that it draws on Cultural Anthropology’s wider view of emerging trends in anthropology, while foregrounding the particular concerns of Visual Anthropology Review as far as theorizing and critiquing practice-based modes of ethnographic scholarship. By relaunching the existing Cultural Anthropology Photo Essays section as a collaboration with Visual Anthropology Review, the initiative aims to open new spaces for interaction between sections of the AAA and corners of the discipline. By merging the literary and epistemological critiques of an earlier generation with the formal and aesthetic critiques driving visual anthropology today, we draw on the etymology of the word photograph for inspiration: thus, writing with light.

Submission Guidelines

  1. All submissions must be submitted through the Cultural AnthropologyOJS submission system. Submissions sent directly to the curatorial collective will not be considered for review.
  2. Please submit all of your images, with captions, in a single PDF file. Images and captions should be arranged in the intended order for publication.
  3. There is no minimum or maximum number of images for submissions. Each photo-essay needs to be evaluated on its own terms, whether it is comprised of a single photograph or many. However, we find that photo-essays with more than fifteen photos are less compelling. Submissions that exceed this number should have strong justification.
  4. Captions are limited to 200 words each, and the introductory text should not exceed 1500 words, including notes and references.

Reviewer Rubric

Conceptual Guidelines

  1. What is the contribution to scholarly knowledge?
  2. Is there a strong argument and narrative?
  3. Is there a theory of the image deployed?
  4. Do text and image work as accomplices?
  5. Does the photo-essay show a keen understanding of image ethics?

Categories of Evaluation

Contribution to Anthropological Knowledge: What is the contribution to anthropological theory and/or ethnographic knowledge? Does the author make reference to and build upon broader discourses in text, photography, and/or film? Does the author show an explicitly anthropological understanding of images, text, representation, and the cultural context under consideration? Does the use of the photo-essay format allow for theoretical discussions that would otherwise be neglected?

Argument and Narrative: Does the photo-essay build a clear, compelling, and original argument? Is their argument appropriately conveyed through the image–text configuration provided?

Production Quality and Theory of the Image: This criterion is intended to challenge notions of the photograph as mere description, i.e., an unmediated look into a given social world. Photographs require technical skills and artistic ability and, as such, the author should show a strong understanding of the photograph as an aesthetico-political form. Are the photographs compelling as independent productions? Do they show a cognizance of framing, lighting, and color? Does the photographer articulate his or her technical approach in a way that might compellingly challenge a viewer’s way of seeing?

Image–Text Relationship: What is the relationship between text and image? Is this relationship generative? Primarily, we are concerned as to whether the author recognizes that images and text convey different kinds of information and that they have sought to maximize the affordances of each media in their photo-essay. Submissions should not rely on either media, but especially text, in order to make their arguments. Instead, the juxtaposition of text and photographs—and therefore the photo-essay itself—should be greater than the sum of its parts.

Ethics and Politics of Representation: Ethics and the politics of representation are guiding principles for any anthropological work. We intend to consider if and how the media-maker understands power relationships and inequities in the production and dissemination of images. An ethically and representationally sophisticated approach needs to show knowledge of how images are likely to be read. Photo-essayists should show that they have considered reflexivity, positionality, rapport, the building of trust, and consent as part of their methodology.

Overall Review

Each category is reviewed on a four-point scale (1-4), with 1 representing a weak score and 4 as very strong or excellent. The collective acknowledges that these categories, unavoidably, have limitations. Therefore, aside from a numerical evaluation, we ask for reviewer comments as an essential part of our qualitative understanding of each submission.

Review Process

Each submission will go through an internal review, in which the collective will assess its potential contribution to the photo-essay genre. After this review, the collective will decide whether to reject the submission outright, request that an author revise and resubmit before further consideration, or recommend that the submission be sent out for external peer review. If the external reviewer indicates that the submission is strong enough to publish, the collective will work with the author on any necessary revisions.

Curatorial Collective (2016–2019)

Craig Campbell ( is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his PhD in Sociology (Theory and Culture) from the University of Alberta in 2009. Campbell is actively involved in producing works that span the range of expository writing, art exhibition, and curation. These function as companion works to a thematic interest in archives, photography, documents, and the anxious territory of actuality. Campbell’s ethnographic, historical, and regional interests include: Siberia, Indigenous Siberians, Evenki, Evenkiia, reindeer hunting and herding, travel and mobility, socialist colonialism, early forms of Sovietization, and the circumpolar North. He publishes widely in journals including Space and Culture, Geographical Review, Sibirica, and Visual Anthropology Review.  His book Agitating Images: Photography against History in Indigenous Siberia was published by University of Minnesota Press in 2014.

Vivian Choi is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at St. Olaf College. She received her PhD in Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. With Michelle Stewart, she was a cofounder of the Cultural Anthropology Photo Essays section. Her current book project, Disaster Nationalism: Tsunami and Civil War in Sri Lanka, examines the social, political, and technological intersections of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka, paying particular attention to disaster and risk management, conflict, and national security. As a part of this project, she examines a range of experiences and representations of disaster, including digital maps, videos, and photographs. Her next project examines sea-surface warming in the Indian Ocean basin. As a slow-moving disaster situated within broader concerns about anthropogenic climate change, sea-surface warming poses questions about the modes and infrastructures of institutional, scientific, and international collaboration required to approach a phenomenon taking place on so grand a scale.

Arjun Shankar is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. His work brings together theories of globalization and development, literary and visual ethnography, affect theory, and curiosity studies. His current book project, How Development Feels, retheorizes the concept of development given the emergence of transnational diasporic networks, the increased use of digital technologies, and human rights discourses that, together, influence how social change can and should occur. In representing the experiences of those in his study, his monograph is broken down into sixty “frames,” each of which includes an image that drives the discussion. The writing of this ethnography is thus also an attempt to textualize the digital. Shankar is also working on a documentary film about the history of scientific racism, based on a critical re-excavation of the Morton Skull Collection. One of the largest collections in the United States, it became the basis for racial categorization and racist ideologies. Shankar is a board member of the Society for Visual Anthropology. As a media maker as well as a dedicated pedagogue, he encourages teachers and researchers to think with multimodality, making the audiovisual part of research design as well as classroom instruction.

Mark Westmoreland is Director of the Leiden School of Visual Ethnography at Leiden University, and previously served as coeditor of Visual Anthropology Review. With particular research interests in the interface between sensory embodiment and media aesthetics in ongoing legacies of contentious politics, his work explores the epistemological possibilities and productive frictions at the intersection between art, activism, and ethnography. His current book project, Catastrophic Images, shows how experimental documentary practices play a crucial role in addressing recurrent political violence in Lebanon. As a corecipient of a research grant from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences, another new project focuses on the cultivation of radical political aesthetics and the generative potential of video activism in the wake of the Arab uprisings. His work explores the production of alternative visualities in the contemporary Middle East as crucial and generative sites for addressing recurrent political violence and enacting new conceptual frameworks for understanding the region.


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