84268 - Visual Anthropology (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Mariagiulia Grassilli

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-DEA/01

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology (cod. 0964)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the students will be expected to have acquired the basic knowledge on the history of visual anthropology and on the use of video and photography techniques in ethnographic research. In addition, they are expected to develop a critical view of the ethnographic representation related to the use of such techniques.

Course contents

Through the approach of a Cinema of Anthropology, the course offers the instrumento for an analysis, on one side of the content of the visual representation, and on the other, of the context in which such visual representations are produced and received: who has filmed whom and why, and how? with what means of production? What is the role of the 'director' or of the 'spectator' in the filmed/screened reality? and who looks at these representations? How? The course, after having introduced some specific cinema genres, will analyse questions of production, direction and visual communication, within the framework of an 'aesthetic of resistance' focusing on the visual representation of culture and society, through documentary films and fiction.

The course aims to reflect on the theme of representation of diversity - construction of the immaginary of the Other, stereotypes, visual resistances, etc. - and on the different cinematic representations associated to anthropology (ethnographic films, documentaries, indigenous cinema).

From the first ethnographic films, from the beginning of XX° century, to the pioneers of visual anthropology (Flaherty, Vertov), to a ‘direct cinema', ethnographic films of 'pure' observation (Mead, Bateson, Marshall, Gardner), up to a participatory cinéma vérité partecipativo (Jean Rouch, Lionel Rogosin), the filmic production reflects questions of representations and ethics in the relation between the filmmaker / anthropologist and the 'represented subjects' - from a vertical position to a collaboration always more equale, where the anthropologist from 'filmmaker' become more and more a 'producer'. The focus will then be on Third Cinema (the cinema of Asia, Africa and Latin America post-colonial countries); Fourth Cinema (indigenous Cinema); accented cinema (the cinema of mgrants and refugees); Visual representations of Human Rights, Development and Diversity.


Essential Readings:

  • Chiozzi P. (1993) Manuale di Antropologia Visuale, Milano: Edizioni Unicopli
  • Cecilia Pennaccini (2015) Filmare le Culture: Un'introduzione all'Antropologia Visiva. Carocci Editore
  • Francesco Marano (2007) Camera Etnografica. Storie e Teorie di Antropologia Visuale. Editore Imagenes FrancoAngeli

Further Readings:

  • Ruby J. (2000) Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film and Anthropology. University of Chicago Press
  • Marcus B. Morphy H (1997) Rethinking Visual Anthropology, Yale University Press
  • Pink, S. (ed.) (2007) Visual Interventions. Applied Visual Anthropology. NY, Oxford: Berghahn Books
  • Griffiths A. (2002) Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture, Columbia University Press
  • Rony F. T. (1996) The Third Eye: Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacle, Duke University Press
  • Canevacci M. (2017 ) Antropologia della Comunicazione Visuale, Roma: Postmedia Books- pp. 63-85
  • Loizos, P. (1993) Innovation in Ethnographic Film: From Innocence to Self-Consciousness 1955-1985. Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • MacDougall D. (1998) Transcultural Cinema. Princeton University Press
  • Grassilli M. (2007) ‘Anthropology and Cinema: Visual Representations of Human Rights, Displacement and Resistance in Come Back Africa, by Lionel Rogosin’ in Visual Anthropology: vol. 20 (2 & 3) Special issue: The Frontiers of Visual Anthropology
  • Trinh T. Minh-Ha (1989) Woman Native Others: Writing Post-coloniality and Femminism, Indiana University Press (cap. 4
  • Minh-Ha T. T. () When the Moon Waxes
  • Shohat E. & Stam R. (1994) “From Eurocentrism to Polycentrism” (pp. 13-54); “The Third Worldist Film” (pp. 248-291) in Unthinking Eurocentrism
  • Pines J. Willemen P. (1991) Questions of Third Cinema. BFI, London
  • Guneratne A.R. Dissanayake W. (2003) Rethinking Third Cinema Psychology Press
  • Worth, S. and J. Adair (1972) Through Navajo Eyes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Turner T. (1992) ‘Defiant Images: the Kayapo Appropriation of Video’ Anthropology Today 8 (6)
  • Carelli V. (1987) Videos nas Aldeias project http://www.videonasaldeias.org.br/2009/realizadores.php?c=53&
  • Michaels, E. (1986) Aboriginal Invention of Television: Central Australia 1982-1986, Canberra: Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies
  • Naficy H. (2000) “Interstitial and Artisanal Mode of Production”; “Collective Production Mode” in An Accented Cinema, pp. 40-100
  • Grassilli M. (2008) ‘Migrant Cinema: Transnational and Guerrilla Practices of Film Production and Representation’ in a Special Issue of Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 34, nr. 8.
    • De Franceschi L. (2017) Lo Schermo e lo Spettro. Sguardi Postcoloniali su Africa e Afrodiscendenti, Mimesis Edizioni
    • Minh-ha, T. (2010) Elsewhere, Within Here: Immigration, Refugeeism and the Boundary Event. NY, London: Routledge
    • Grossman A. O'Brien A. (2007) Projecting Migration: Transcultural Documentary Practice. Wallflower Press
    • Pink S. (2009) Doing Sensory Ethnography, Sage Publications
    • Marks L. (1999) The Skin of the Film Duke University Press
    • Sontag. S. (2003) Davanti al dolore degli altri, Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori Editori
    • Boltanski L. (1999) Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics, Cambridge University Press
    • Mueller S. D. (1999) Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death, Taylor & Francis Publisher
    • Grassilli G. (2004) “Cultura e Conflitto: rappresentazioni visuali e antropologia del cinema
    • Tj Demos (2013) The Migrant Image: the Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis - Duke University Press
    • Cedrini R. (1990) Figure dell'Uomo. Antropologia e Cinema.Sellerio Editore
    • Marazzi A. (2008) Antropologia della Visione, Carrocci Editore
    • Marazzi A. (2010) Antropologia dei Sensi, Carrocci Editore
    • Mead M. & Métraux R. (1966) The Study of Culture at a Distance, New York, Oxford: Brrghahn Books
    • Flores C. Y. (2007) “Sharing Anthropology: Collaborative Video Experiences among Maya Film-makers in Post-war Guatemala” in Pink S. (ed.) (2007) Visual Interventions. Applied Visual Anthropology. NY, Oxford: Berghahn Books.
    • Lockowandt, M. (2013) Inclusion through Art: An Organisational Guideline to Using the Participatory Arts with Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers, http://www.refugeesupportnetwork.org/sites/default/files/InclusionThroughArt2013.pdf
    • Loshitzky, Y. (2010) Screening Strangers: Migration and Diaspora in Contemporary European Cinema. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press

    Teaching methods

    each lessons the theme and concepts will be introduced, followed by the viewing of films, videos and clips which will then be analysed together. The students will be encouraged to be active participant to the lessons, with role play, interventions and presentations.

    Assessment methods

    each student will need to write an essay (5000 words) with the analysis of a film of their own choice (agreed with the lecturer), which can then be presented in the class also as a team work (during the last day of lessons for the attending students - or in exam session for the non attending students. The thesis will need to include the concepts of the essential texts, which knowledge will also then evaluated during the exam sessions to the individual students.

    Alternatively the students can choose to present a short ethnographic film - max 30 min - accompanied by a 3000 words essay which explain the filmmaking approach and relates this ethnographic film practice to the content of the course. 

    Finally another option is to present a 'film essay' - that is a critical analysis of one or two films that is developed through a visual presentation - with analysis of film clips in a cinematic approach. 

    Further information on the assessment will be given throughout the lectures and candidates to the exam can contact the lecturer to confirm the approach and the details of the exam. 

    Teaching tools

    Throughout the course film, videos and clips will be presented. As an extra support to the course, the students will be encouraged to be actively participant to the Festival Human Rights Nights in Bologna, scheduled for May 2018, to view films, take parts to the debates and discuss the themes presented.

    Office hours

    See the website of Mariagiulia Grassilli