Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: Steve Smith (SteveSmith@XC.Org)
About: FW: Documentary in Africa

Fri, 30 Oct 1998 19:07:48 -0500

  • Next message: g.bryce: "Researching Basil Davidson"
    From: Prof Keyan Tomaselli []
    Sent: Friday, October 30, 1998 4:02 AM

    By Keyan G Tomaselli
    Aarhus: Intervention Press, November 1996, 332pp.
    Photographs, Index.
    ISBN 87-89825-05-5
    Prof David Turton, Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology says of the book:
    APPROPRIATING IMAGES is a notable achievement for two main reasons.
    Firstly, by using a single interpretive paradigm - derived from semiotics -
    to discuss a wide variety of documentary films - Keyan Tomaselli has been
    able to give an integrated and coherent account of some of the issues which
    have most bedeviled the discussion of film by visual anthropologists, such
    as the relationship between the written and filmed ethnography, objectivity
    and reflectivity and the unequal power relation between film makers and
    Secondly, APPROPRIATING IMAGES is informed throughout by an explicit
    concern with the political context within which anthropologists and
    ethnographic film-makers do their work. This is where Tomaselli's long
    personal engagement against apartheid has been a huge advantage to him: it
    enables him to ask the kind of questions - awkward and deeply disconcerting
    - which can be all too easily brushed aside by film-makers and academics who
    have not had to face up to the same choices and dilemmas in their
    professional and everyday lives. The result is a book which will not only
    serve as a lively and provocative introduction for students but which also
    goes far beyond the dispensing of anecdotal wisdom, the excessive
    preoccupation with production strategies and the self-absorbed recounting of
    personal histories ...
    David Turton
    Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology
    University of Manchester

    Foreword - Dick Chalfen, Centre for Visual Anthropology, Temple
    University, Japan
    "Tomasell's primary reference point for visual anthropology remains
    with the ethnographic film world ... This model includes what happens
    outside the camera so to speak, and refocuses attention to the for-whom in
    addition to the by-whom. Tomaselli asks us to consider seriously the
    cultural predispositions of life before-film and after-film, especially in
    his repeated acknowledgement of the need to attend to reception studies and
    theory ..."
    Preface: An autobiographical note
    The Visual Story - a world apart?
    A Brief History of Ethnographic Film Making: the pioneers
    Looking at Africa: the dark 'Other'
    Looking at the Rest of the World
    Visual Anthropology: explaining ethnographic film in print
    Film Theory: an anthropological orphan
    Visual Sociology: the homeless orphan
    Semiotics: a new synthesising lens

    Chapter 1
    What is Semiotics?
    Defusing the minefield of terms
    Making sense: back to basics
    Elements of Semiotics
    Reality: the struggle for the sign
    Documentary as a Code

    Chapter 2
    Realism, Myth and Reception
    Form, Coding and Style
    How Real is Realism?
    Phaneroscopy: 'the wide angle lens'
    Slots, Phaneroscopy and Thick Description
    The Concept of Myth
    Myth and Media
    Social Propaganda, Political Propaganda
    Reception: propaganda vs information
    Political Intertexts
    Ritual: rearticulating ontologies
    Phanerons, Monsters and Sudden Death

    Chapter 3 The 'Other in Film:
    Tribes and Tribalism
    Academic Myths and Racism
    Visual Imperialism
    Social Science as Myth
    The Myths of 'Tribe' and 'Tribalism': misunderstanding
    African societies
    Adventures into the past
    Tribal Connotations: violence, savagery
    'Tribe' as Tourist-speak
    Chapter 4
    Power, Exploitation and Anthropological Responsibility
    The Ethical Conundrum
    Showcasing Anthropology
    Exploiting 'Primitives' and 'Ex-Primitives': copyright,
    ownership, audiences
    Political Responsibility
    Reassessment of Visual Anthropology

    Chapter 5
    Signposting Semiotics in Studying the Other
    The Significant Agenda: the grounding of the sciences of
    The Wood and the Trees: semiology
    The Wood, the Trees and the Timber: semiotics
    Outline and Division of Interpretants: 'the cultural
    Interpretants: how we make sense of signs
    Producing Africa: the context of semiotics
    Recovering Contexts
    Combining Lexicons

    Chapter 6
    Trends in Visual Anthropology
    Documentary, Ethnography and 'the Impression of Reality' DOCUMENTARY AND THE
    IMPRESSION OF REALITY How Real is Realism?
    Distinguishing Between Ethnographic Film and Documentary
    Technology: encoding and reception
    Encoding Reality
    Institutional Considerations
    Anthropological Knowledge and Documentary Film
    The Pluralist View
    Cinema Verite
    Participatory/Shared Anthropology
    Character narration
    Seasonal Cycles
    Film Maker as Griot
    Subject-generated or Indigenous Media
    Documentation Modality
    Explanatory Mode
    Explanation Rejected
    Context Enrichment
    Experience/Theoretical Understandings

    The Exclusivist View
    What Constitutes a Community?
    Ethnographic Film and Surreality
    The Scientific Unthinkable
    Chapter 7
    Filmic Ethnography Versus the Pluralist View
    Integration off Form, Process and Content in Ethnographic Film
    Ethnographic Film and Production Principles
    Cine Trance
    The Ethnographic Presence
    The Ethnographic Present

    Film Technique and Interpretations of Truth
    Participant Observation, Pertinent Distance, Space and
    Reflexivity: admitting assumptions
    Return to Basics I: re-examining reflexivity
    Return to Basics II: re-examining ethnographic events
    Editing as Imposition
    Films of Cultures
    The 'Us' 'Them' Dichotomy: Where to We draw the line around Them?
    Definitions of Semiotics of Visual Anthropology and
    Ethnographic Film
    Chapter 8
    Case Studies
    Conventional Documentary
    Maids and Madams - Servants of Apartheid (With Ruth Teer-Tomaselli)
    Appropriating Ethnographic Film Techniques Classified People - Legislating
    Race (With Maureen Eke)
    Comparative Description
    Girls Apart - Encoding Difference

    Chapter 9
    Towards Ethical Film Making and Crew-Subject Interactions
    Engagement With Subject-Communities: Relocating the Scholar How to ensure
    Accountability of Crews/Facilitators of Subject-Communities?
    EUROPEAN SALES: Intervention Press, Castenschioldsvej 7, DK-8280 Hojbjerg,
    Denmark. Price: DKK: 180.00 / stlg: 19.00 / US$: 29.00 Fax: +
    45-86-275-133. Phone: +44-86-272-333. E-mail: <>
    NORTH AMERICA: Smyrna Press, Box 021803-GPO, Brooklyn, NY 11202, USA. FAX:
    201-864-6434. About $US32.
    E-mail: <>
    SOUTH AFRICA: Centre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal,
    Durban 4041. About R170.
    E-mail: <> . Fax: +

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