16 May 2010

Anthropological and Ethnographic Films

Anthropology has a long checkered past. On the dark side, its associations with empire, colonialism and the missionary enterprise are well documented. As this legacy took shape, early anthropologists insisted that their scientific enterprise increased knowledge of other peoples and that their work played a role in 'salvaging' the remains of supposedly dying cultures, which were deemed valuable as vestiges of the past of the modern societies within which anthropology arose. The evidence of these salvage operations fills many museums today. It took some time for anthropologists to turn their attention away from collecting artifacts (which sometimes included human remains) to asking questions about cultural survival. Despite the persistence of its dark side through much of modern history, at its best anthropology remains one of the few academic disciplines that takes seriously the ways of living and ways of knowing of other peoples. Contemporary Anthropologists immerse themselves in cultures other than their own, learning languages and lifestyles in far more depth than tourists and adventurers, and many continue to grapple with issues of representing peoples and cultures, which has made anthropology more self reflective than most other academic disciplines, building into itself the possibility of reform.