Media Anthropology

Pavel Shlossberg

Until recent decades, anthropology regarded the presence of media technology in non-Western, so-called “native” societies with suspicion and it assumed that the presence of mass media undermined native cultures, that the “intrusion” of mass media into “native” contexts indexed the “vanishing” of these cultures. Anthropologists commonly presented idealized accounts; for example, they commonly excluded media and its local uses from the ethnographic accounts and films that they produced. These practices in fact marked and produced social and racial differences; the presence and lack of modern media precisely defined the constructed boundary, a clear (and over-determined) line of respective distinction between “modern” and “primitive” men. In colonial and post-colonial times, the dissemination and circulation of idealized images of primitive, non-Western societies has played an important role in defining Western ideas about non-Western societies, and in informing modern Western self-identities as well. In the past few decades, anthropology has questioned its own prior depictions of and assumptions about so-called small-scale, non-Western societies. This self-critique and the related reorganization of scholarship and knowledge has prodded and even required anthropologists to examine, to document, uses of media in non-Western communities. In recent anthropological scholarship, the old assumptions and claims about the impact of media have been questioned and overturned. Accordingly, we will look at some revisionist anthropological work on current and past media use in indigenous and other non-Western communities: We will consider how insights about reception and medium analysis borrowed from media studies have informed this anthropological work, and we will also consider how this anthropological work on media has— and might—inform current debates in media studies about cultural dependency and reception. Media studies scholars have usefully harnessed ethnographic methods and ideas about rituals and myths fashioned by anthropologists. Besides discussing these well-known points of contact, we will also examine important but hardly scrutinized points of intellectual contact between anthropology and media studies—specifically, how the circulation and uptake of troubled ideas about media and indigenous communities across both disciplines informed and buttressed problematic assumptions and scholarship in both fields. Doing this intellectual work enables us to recognize previously undocumented aspects of power and domination, and it allows us to gain productive new insights about creative acts of resistance and empowerment, about the struggles that indigenous, non-Western, marginal groups have waged for voice, recognition, and empowerment through media and against media. Media anthropology is an active, exciting research area in which much work remains to be done. This course examines both the possibilities and challenges of interdisciplinary research.


Week 1: Introduction: Imagining Media Anthropology

Faye D. Ginsburg, “Media Anthropology: An Introduction,” In Rothenbuhler and Coman, eds. Media Anthropology.

Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu Lughod, and Brian Larkin, “Introduction,” Media Worlds

Eric W. Rothenbuhler, “The Promise of Media Anthropology”

Deborah Spitulnik, “Anthropology and the Mass Media,” Annual Review of Anthropology

Video: Cannibal Tours

Eric W. Rothenbuhler, “Media Anthropology as a Field of Interdisciplinary Contact,” In Rothenbuhler and Coman, eds. Media Anthropology.

Kelly Askew and Richard R. Wilk, “Introduction,” The Anthropology of Media: A Reader

Week 2: Ethnographic Film, Spectacle, and the Production of Colonial Subjects

Fatimah Tobing Rony, selections, The Third Eye: Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacle

George Stocking, selections, Colonial Situations: Essays on the Contextualization of Ethnographic Knowledge

Larry Gross, John Stuart Katz, and Jay Ruby, selections, Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television

Marcus Banks and Howard Morphy, selections, Rethinking Visual Anthropology

Jay Ruby, “Speaking For, Speaking About, Speaking With, or Speaking Alongside: An Anthropological and Documentary Dilemma,” Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film and Anthropology

Rosalind C. Morris, selections, New World from Fragments: Film, Ethnography, and the Representation of Northwest Coast Cultures

Week 3: Photography, Periodicals, Journalism and the (Post) Colonial Imagination

Elizabeth Edwards, selections, Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums

Catherine A. Lutz and Jane Collins, selections, Reading National Geographic

Stuart Hall, ed., selections, Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices

David Spurr, selections, The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration

James R. Ryan, selections, Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire

Wolfram Hartmann and Jeremy Silvester, selections, The Colonizing Camera: Photographs in the Making of Namibian History

Deborah Poole, selections, Vision, Race, and Modernity: A Visual Economy of the Andean World

Renato Rosaldo, “Imperialist Nostalgia,” Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis

Week 4: Representations of the Native and the Making of European Identities

Mary Louise Pratt, selections, Imperial Eyes: Studies in Travel Writing and Transculturation

Anne Maxwell, Colonial Photography and Exhibitions: Representation of the Native and the Making of European Identities

Christopher Pinney, ed., selections, Photography’s Other Histories

Shawn Michelle Smith, selections, Photography on the Color Line: W.E.B. Dubois, Race, and Visual Culture

Michael Taussig, selections, Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Sense

Paul Gilroy, selections, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness

**Week 5: Imagining Traditional Societies and their Passing: Media Studies, Anthropology, and Modernization Theory

Wilbur Schramm, selections, Mass Media and National Development

George Foster, selections, Traditional Culture and the Impact of Technological Change

Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America

Daniel Lerner: selections, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East

Michael E. Latham, selections, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and "Nation Building" in the Kennedy Era

Week 6: “Traditional Societies,” Dependency, and Media Imperialism: Imagining the Passing of (Capitalist) Modernity

Herbert Schiller, “Decolonization of Information: Efforts Toward a New International Order” Latin American Perspectives 5:1 (Special Issue: Culture in the Age of Mass Media)

Nestor Garcia Canclini, selections, Transforming Modernity: Popular Culture in Latin America

Cynthia Hewitt de Alcantara, “Anthropology and the Dependency Paradigm in Mexico,” Anthropological Perspectives on Rural Mexico

Pavel Shlossberg, “A Tale of Two Tales: General Introduction,” in A Tale of Two Tales: Artisans, Transnational Folklore, Cultural Hierarchies, Social Exclusion, Rural Poverty, and Petty Capitalism in Michoacan, Mexico (Unpublished doctoral dissertation)

John Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction

Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, selections, Dependency and Development in Latin America

Week 7: Anthropology, Media, Cultural Studies, and the Cultural Politics of Postcolonial Nation-States

Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies,” In Grossberg, Nelson, Triechler, Cultural Studies

Susan Owen and Sarah R. Stein, Bad Girls: Cultural Politics and Media Representations of Transgressive Women

Purnima Mankekar, selections, Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood, and Nation in Postcolonial India

Lila Abu-Lughod, selections, Dramas of Nationhood: the Politics of Television in Egypt

Stuart Hall et al, selections, Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies

Frantz Fanon, selections, The Wretched of the Earth

Week 8: Subaltern/Creole Agency and the Power/Knowledge/Representation Debates in Anthropology and Media Studies

Benedict Anderson, “Creole Pioneers,” Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism

James Clifford and George E. Marcus, selections, The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography

Johannes Fabian, selections, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Constructs its Subject

Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization

Walter Ong, selections, Orality and Literacy: the Technologizing of the Word

Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson, selections, Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology

Week 9: Towards Media Anthropology: Alternative Modernities, Peripheral Visions, and Transnational Circuits

John Sinclair, Elizabeth Jacka, and Stuart Cunningham, selections, New Patterns in Global Television: Peripheral Vision

Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, selections, Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media

Brian Larkin, “Indian Films and Nigerian Lovers: Media and the Creation of Parallel Modernities,” Africa 67

Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, selections, Alternative Modernities

Natascha Gentz and Stefan Kramer, selections, Globalization, Cultural Identities, and Media Representations

Hamid Naficy, selections, The Making of Exile Cultures: Iranian Television in Los Angeles

Week 10: The Public Sphere and the Social Life of Technology: the Production and Reception of Indigenous Media

Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu Lughod, and Brian Larkin, selections, Media World: Anthropology on New Terrain

Pamela Wilson, selections, Global Indigenous Media: Culture, Poetics, and Politics

Michael Warner, selections, Publics and Counterpublics

Jeff D. Himpele, selections, Circuits of Culture: Media, Politics, and Indigenous Identity in the Andes

Craig Calhoun, selections, Habermas and the Public Sphere

Houston wood, selections, Native Features: Indigenous Films from around the World

Week 11: Ethnography, Audiences, and Media Studies

Clifford Geertz, selections, The Interpretation of Meaning

Sonia Livingstone, “Relationships between Media and Audiences: Prospects for
Audience Reception Studies,” In Liebes, Curran, Katz, Media, Ritual, and Identity

S. Elizabeth Bird, selections, The Audience in Everyday Life: Living in a Media World

Ien Ang, selections, Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination

Henry Jenkins, selections, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture

Week 12: Media, Myth, and Ritual

Class 1
Eric W. Rothenbuhler and Mihai Coman, selections, Media Anthropology

James W. Carey, selections, Media, Myths, and Narratives

Victor Turner, selections, Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society

Class 2
Nick Couldry, selections, Media Rituals: A Critical Approach

Eric Rothenbuhler, selections, Media Communication: From Everyday Conversation to
Mediated Ceremony

Emile Durkheim, selections, Elementary Forms of Religious Life

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