Visual Anthropology

Marcus Banks

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:
Visual Anthropology

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Visual anthropology can be broadly understood as the anthropological study of the visual and the visual study of the anthropological. However, for much of its history, the term has been associated almost exclusively with ethnographic film (see Ethnographic Film) and it is only recently that a broader consideration of other visual forms and visuality itself have come under the subdiscipline’s purview. In the last decade, the boundaries have expanded further, partly through changes in technology (expensive celluloid film technology giving way to cheap high-quality video and digital processes, the rise of the Internet) but more through changes in theory and the opening up of new lines of intellectual inquiry. As with many other subdisciplines within the field of anthropology, many visual anthropologists would claim that they are simply anthropologists—with the same interests in kinship, politics, the economy, aesthetics, materiality, religion, and so forth as their colleagues—but with special attention paid to the visual and visible manifestations of those areas of human activity and creativity. The subdiscipline overlaps strongly with the anthropology of art and with the anthropology of material culture as well as with other disciplines such as media studies, film studies, and photographic history; in recent years, the field has also overlapped with action anthropology and other applied work coming out of development studies, and the rise of the Internet has given a new forum for the storage, study, and dissemination of images. There is no equivalent subdiscipline in the fields of archaeology and biological anthropology and primatology, though scholars in these fields do of course use photography and film or video for purposes of documentation (archaeology, forensic anthropology) and recording observations (primatology); interpretative approaches in archaeology, for example in the study of rock art, may draw upon approaches from visual anthropology as well as from the anthropology of art and the anthropology of material culture.

Article.  8023 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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