Picton, Oliver. 2011. Anthropologists Working “at Home”: On the Range of Subjects and Forms of Representation in Film, and What Makes These Ethnographic. Visual Anthropology, 24(5): 421-436.
Picton argues that ethnographicness in film must now cope with issues of transnationalism, globalization and modernity, occurring both “at home” and “abroads”. The nature of “home” and “abroads” is also “increasingly challenged and made superfluous by deterritorialization and global cultural flow”. These two concepts have also become redundant for various growing minorities (421). Picton also suggests that the anthropologization of the West through film has led to the relative de-exoticization of non-Western cultrures, and to the making of an anthropology that is truly comparative (431). He begins his article by mentioning previous definitions of the “ethnographic” in anthropological filmmaking. The discourse on the distance between observer and observed or between filmmaker and subject, for Picton, is potentially altered by the “anthropology at home”. On the traditional definitions from the past (e.g. Ruby’s notion of the ethnographic as equivalent to anthropological authority), Picton argues that ethnographic film (and ethnography in general) is “itself a process and a cultural construct”, and its “changes should be celebrated for the ways in which it can, through ethical and sensitive filmmaking in all societies, show universal humanity, irrespective of different societies and cultures, in ways written text cannot” (434). Instead of being preoccupied with what can be labelled as “ethnographic”, the author calls on visual anthropologists to explore how visual images are socially constructed, and to concentrate on the making of sensitively produced and ethical films. The author, however, stresses that such films would necessarily be descriptive and explanatory, and discounts the”ethnographic” value of forms such as video diaries and home-video footage.
Visual works mentioned in the article that are worth looking up:
- Mass-Observations (Archiving everyday life in the UK)
- Interview with Molly Dineen, filmmaker of Home from the Hill from the Hill
- Tone Bringa’s We Are All Neighbors. Click here for a film Review.