Topic outline

  • May 21: Word/Sign/Image

    Taylor, Lucien. 1996. “Iconophobia.” Transition 69: 64–88.


    • What does Lucien Taylor think are the reasons for the iconophobia of anthropologists?
    • What is the central paradox of their criticism?
    • What is meant by “ethnographic present”?
    • How are we to deal with different media in anthropology?
    • Note some of the similarities between ritual and film mentioned by the author.

    Mitchell, W.J.T. 2005. “There Are No Visual Media.” Journal of Visual Culture 4.2: 257–266.


    • What is the argument that there are no visual media based on?
    • What does the author mean by “semiotic ratios”?
    • What does it mean for the topics discussed in class?


    Rouch, Jean. Les maîtres fous. France, 1955, 29 min.

    Trinh, T. Min-ha. Reassemblage. United States, 1983, 40 min.

  • May 22: Ritualization (Beyond Meaning)

    Hollywood, Amy. 2002. “Performativity, citationality, ritualization.” History of Religions, 42.2: 93–115.


    • How does ritualization relate to Judith Butler's philosophical concerns?
    • How are body and speech related in her philosophy?
    • What does the phrase “social realities are constituted by ritual action” mean?
    • How can we think the relationship between ritual and daily life?
    • If “ritual is productive of the subject”, can you imagine any other apparatus that would also be creative in this way?
    • Do any of the conceptual tools presented in this text apply to cinema?

    Kapferer, Bruce. 2004. “Ritual Dynamics and Virtual Practice: Beyond Representation and Meaning.” Social Analysis 48: 35–54.


    • Summarize the discussion of ritual and specifically Kapferer's criticism of dominant discourse.
    • How does Kapferer understand the “virtual” and how does it figure in ritual?
    • Which aspects of ritual is the author interested in?
    • Do you see any similarities between film viewing and ritual as conceived in this article?


    Carasco, Raymonde. Tarahumaras '78. France, 1979, 30 min.

  • May 23: Time and Openness

    Pandian, Anand. 2011. “Reel Time: Ethnography and the Historical Ontology of the Cinematic Image.” Screen 52.2: 193–214.


    • How does the author relate cinema, time and creativity?
    • What is meant by “to think the relation between historical and ontological”?
    • What account of creativity does the author offer instead of the romantic myth of the genius?
    • Do you see any relation with yesterday's readings?


    Towira, Pimpaka. แม่, Thailand, 2012, 15 min.

    Tsai, Ming-Liang. 无无眠. Taiwan – Hong Kong, 2015, 34 min.

    Wang, Shao-Gang. 惡水淨土. Taiwan, 2017, 7 min.

    Weerasethakul, Apichatpong. Luminous People. Thailand – Portugal, 2007, 15 min.

    Doan na Champassak, Tiane & Jean Dubrel, Natpwe, le festin des esprits. France, 2012, 31 min.

    Itō, Takashi. GRIM. Japan, 1985, 7 min.

  • May 24: Speculative Cosmologies and Rituals

    Heilman, Jeremy. 2015. “Mock-Doc Pedagogy and the Ethnographic Unconscious – Ben Rivers' Slow Action.” Spectator 35.1: 16–24.

    Dumitru, Luciana. “River Rites: Interview with Ben Russell,”

    Débordements. “Ben Russell, 2012: Experiencing the World and (Mis)understanding Culture”


    - How does the film-making practice of these two artist-ethnographers relate to anthropological film as presented in the books you read in the first part of the course?


    Rivers, Ben. Slow Action. United Kingdom, 2010, 40 min.

    Rivers, Ben. Ah Liberty!. United Kingdom, 2008, 20 min.

    Rivers, Ben. Origin of the Species. United Kingdom, 2008, 16 min.

    Rivers, Ben. The Creation As We Saw It. United Kingdom, 2012, 14 min.

    Russell, Ben. Let Us Persevere in What We Have Resolved Before We Forget. France – United States, 2013, 20 min.

    Russell, Ben. Black and White Trypps Number 3. United States, 2007, 12 min.

    Russell, Ben. Trypps #6 (Malobi). United States, 2009, 12 min.

    Russell, Ben. River Rites. United States – Suriname, 2011, 10 min.

    Russell, Ben. Greetings to the Ancestors. United States – South Africa, 2015, 29 min.

  • May 25: Pop Culture (XL)

    Marks, Laura. 2011. “Can Cinema Slow the Flow of Blood?Senses & Society 6.3: 350–357.

    • What do you understand affect to mean (based on this article)?
    • Marks considers the strategy of enjoying bodily engagement with ritualists demystifying, would you agree (based on class screenings, not the film discussed here)? 
    • Wherein are the possible problems of the “embodied turn”?

    Wilkinson, Maryn. 2018. “On the Depths of Surface: Strategies of Surface Aesthetics in The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers and Drive.” Film-Philosophy 22.2: 222–239.


    • What do surface aesthetics mean? How can we relate them to what we discussed and watched?


    Arnold, Andrea. American Honey. United States – United Kingdom, 2016, 163 min.

    Korine, Harmony. Spring Breakers. United States, 2012, 90 min.