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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Stephen C. Brown
ANTH 356
Seattle Campus

Visual Anthropology

The place of photography and films in ethnography; their use in the documentation and interpretation of cultural and social systems.

Class description

This course will consider the problems of representation, problems particular to visual media as well as problems of representation per se. We will look at the implications of who represents who to whom, and how. We will investigate questions such as: in what ways do images differ from texts? How are moving pictures different from still photographs? And what is anthropological about it all, anyway?

We will draw from a very diverse mix of materials, ranging from Barthes to Bataille, from Freud to Foucault, from Jameson, Kracauer, and Lacan to Stoller, Sontag and Silverman. Most of all, though, we will use films and photographs. We will view not only documentary and explicitly ethnographic films but also a variety of mainstream fiction and experimental films to study different ways they produce effects in viewers, and to better understand the sense in which it can be said that all representations are fictions--which does not preclude some of them from being true fictions.

It is customary in courses of this nature to sternly admonish prospective students against thinking that this is a class where we ‘just’ watch films. Instead, I will say that indeed we will watch films, but you can expect that to involve a good deal of work. Students will need to spend time outside of class to view, or re-view, some films (either at specially arranged showings in Kane hall or in Odegaard’s media center). Actively watching (in the sense of ‘constructing a reading of’) a film is not at all simple. But it can be highly rewarding.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Stephen C. Brown
Date: 04/28/2003