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The Third Subject: Perspectives on Visual Anthropology Author(s): Chris Wright Reviewed work(s): Source: Anthropology Today, Vol.

14, No. 4 (Aug., 1998), pp. 16-22 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2783352 . Accessed: 15/05/2012 22:14
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Examiningthe Social of Medicine. Construction U. of Edinburgh Edinburgh:


Yoxen, Edward.1982. ConstructingGenetic Diseases. In P. Wrightand A. Treacher(eds) The Problem of Medical Knowledge:Examiningthe of Social Construction U. of Medicine. Edinburgh: P., pp.144-161. Edinburgh

It is also not surprisingthat demand for genetic testing is on the increase. However, reading the omens and transmitting this complex, inconclusive knowledge, wild-cards and all, so that people do not panic, is an art that it is likely very few have mastered. We have at least five issues to sort out post-haste which have relevance to all multifactorial diseases in which genetics are sometimes implicated, including prostate cancer and heart disease, among others. First, how to put in place enforceable regulatorymeasures in connection with facilities that provide genetic testing

and screening. Second, how to prevent discrimination against individualsboth in the work place and by insurance companies on the basis of genetics. Third, we should reconsider our currentdevotion to the ideas of individual choice, and to self-responsibility for maintaining health as being more importantthan other factors. Fourth,we (the media, the public and many health care professionals) must become better acquaintedwith probabilitymathematicsif we are to interpretrisk analyses. And fifth, it is urgent that we disabuse ourselves of genetic determinism.O-




Perspectives on visual anthropology

The author is the RAI's PhotographicLibrarian. He is currently undertaking a research programmeon some collections in the RAI photo archive, funded by the LeverhulmeTrust.

'Visual Anthropology' is having something of a renaissance within certain sections of the contemporary anthropological community.1 Increasing numbers of UK undergraduate and MA anthropologycourses have titles like 'Anthropology and Representation',and frequently combine an interest in the visual products of anthropologists with media studies and the anthropology of art. The recent workshop 'Mediating Modemities' hosted by the Department of Anthropology at University College London2saw anthropologistsdebating what strategies the discipline should adopt to cope with an increasingly mediated world. But, although the term is used regularly,what is currentlymeant by combining the two words 'visual' and 'anthropology' remains far from clear. Anthropology and the visual can be articulated in a variety of ways, and through a diverse range of processes, and what follows is a considerationof some of these articulations- inspired, and provoked, by recent attemptsto redefine visual anthropology as a sub-discipline. Polarities The recently published book RethinkingVisual Anthropology, edited by Marcus Banks and Howard Morphy, sets out to rewrite the role of the visual within contemporary anthropology.In their introductionto the book, Banks and Morphy make a number of initial distinctions that outline how they see visual anthropologyas a sub-discipline.First, they distinguish between the study of visual systems and visual culture, and the use of visual materialin researchpractice; and second, they also separate the role of visual material in the presentation and consumption of anthropologicalknowledge, from its role in the productionof such knowledge. Although the terms of this model are not necessarily directly opposed to each other, it is the study of visual culturethat they want to emphasize for currentfocus, and as a future directionfor the sub-discipline. One of the stated aims of the book is to '...reintegrate a sub-discipline within a wider whole', though Banks and Morphy also argue, somewhat contradictorily,that '...anthropology should free itself from rigid disciplinary boundaries'.The question that arises from their introductionis, why is there a need for such a reintegration? Possibly because visual anthropologyis currently on a threateningtrajectoryof escape from the orbit of mainstream anthropology. If this is the case, then the move to consolidate is possibly either symptomatic of some underlying structuralweakness within anthropo-

This article owes much to conversationswith the artists Craigie Horsfield and Lothar Baumgarten,and I am gratefulto them for their time and generosity. I am also indebtedto Chris Pinney, Michael Richardson, Roslyn Poignant,Arnd Schneiderand Laurentvan Lanckerfor their discussion of some of the issues covered above, and to JonathanBenthall and Sean Kingston for their advice and patience. I would like to thank LotharBaumgartenfor his permissionto let me reproducehis work here. I hope to give his work fuller considerationat a later date. I am also very grateful to Patsy Asch for permission to reproducethe late Tim Asch's photo in this article.

logy, or maybe the result of increasing encroachment from other disciplines. In a positive light, the move towards reintegrationcould be seen as an attempt to use visual anthropologyas a theoretical tool to alter some of anthropology'sassumptionsabout its object of study and its strategies of working. Yet the visual, in several different modes, has been central to anthropologyfrom its inception, although often unacknowledged as such: which would make recognition a better term. In a negative light, the move to reintegratecan be seen as a policing of the boundaries between disciplines. If this is the case, then I would argue that such a move is potentially detrimental to the development of new knowledges, and new forms of representation. Although Banks and Morphy set out to re-thinkboth the place of visual anthropologywithin anthropologyas a whole, as well as the structureof the sub-discipline, they claim that the book '...includes precisely the range of topics that were covered in the issues of Larry Gross's and Jay Ruby's pioneering journal Studies in Visual Communication(originally founded in 1974 by Sol Worth) which set the frameworkfor the sub-discipline.' Despite this claim, the book as a whole does not represent a return to some founding framework or agenda, and contributions by Elizabeth Edwards, Nicholas Thomas and Anna Grimshaw amongst others, suggest new and challenging directions for visual anthropology. Yet it seems that visual anthropology is to be rethought mostly on, and within, its own terms. Some of the pieces in the book put forward argumentsthat remain largely internal to anthropology as a discipline, and the overall feel of the book is that it is both by, and for, anthropologists - making its general 'movement perhapsmore centripetalthan centrifugal.This tends to reinforce the notion that visual anthropology is something done solely by established professional anthropologists, rather than being a broader field which might encompass a much wider range of disciplines and potentialpractices. This centripetal movement is perhaps some kind of institutional'regrouping',and Banks and Morphy argue that the task of visual anthropologyshould now be '...to transcend the political nature of representationand to rethink its strategies for engaging with the world.' (p.31). I would certainlyagree that strategiesof engagement need to be rethought,but visual anthropology is not some transcendent realm of theory that has the world as its object of study, a realm outside the in-


TODAY Vol 14 No 4, August 1998 ANTHROPOLOGY

fluence of a myriad of other contexts. It is as firmly comprehensible the film reveals that what was of anembedded within the specificities of historical and cul- thropological relevance was not known, and maybe in turalcontexts and relations,as anthropologyitself is. some sense was not even present, when the filming A caption from the introductionsheds some light on took place. This relevance comes later, and the kinship, how the relation between 'visual' and 'anthropology'is the anthropology,appearsas an overlay, a kind of supcurrentlyfigured within some areas of visual practice in plement that comes from a dissection and rearrangeanthropology.A relation that is often still perceived in ment of the visual. The alchemical production of kinterms of some vague disjunction between science and ship from chaos. The film separates seeing and knowinformation on the one hand, and art or aesthetics on ing; the visual is a potential source of knowledge, but the other. The caption (p.12) accompanies three stills never on its own terms.6 from Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon's seminal The status of the visual in much contemporary visual film TheAx Fight (1975): anthropological practice is often achieved largely TimAsch alwaysstressed the importance of the anthropo- through a denial of any aesthetics, constructedthrough logicalrelevance of a still or movingimageoverotheras- a distancing from any potentially polluting 'artistic' pects, such as image qualityor aestheticcomposition. Whilethelatter aredesirable notbe overriding concerns. Of course, the aesthetic is of some interest, theyshould there is some recognition that it can make a film more in determining factors theselection of animage. Here then, is an originatingseparation,a founding divi- exciting, more watchable, more emotional, more availsion on which a whole edifice is constructed. On the able to a TV audience (all terms which tend to arouse one hand anthropological relevance, on the other aes- some suspicion within anthropology)but only, if at all, thetic composition. The terms are figured here as separ- as a secondaryconcern. This disenfranchisementof vision is perhaps the reable, separateand antagonistic;as though they are competing polarities. Visual anthropologyinvolves a deci- sult of the vestiges of a certain Cartesianismwithin anare sion making process, one in which the 'anthropologi- thropology. Knowledge, information,understanding cal' must necessarily be privileged over the 'aesthetic', somehow divorced from the body and its senses.7 The or over the visual in general. For many anthropologists general distrust of the embodied observer has led to a this is perhapsthe primaryanthropologicaltechnique of focus on the technology employed to gatherdata. 'Thus the observer4.I would argue the case for a productive one majoradvantageof visual recordingmethods is that complementarity between the two terms, rather than they enable the ethnographerto scan and record for later inspection and re-analysis. Visual recording any necessary privileging of one term over the other. Whether this anthropological relevance is something methods have propertiessuch that they are able to recwhich is actually visible, and if so, in what ways, is not ord more informationthan memory alone, or notebook fully addressed by Banks and Morphy. If it is the and pencil, and that certain of them are indexically reability of the visual to illustrate an already formulated lated to the reality they encode.' (Banks and Morphy anthropologicaltheory, then the visual becomes of in- p.14) terest only in its ability to correspondwith previously existing models. The questions of how, for whom, and Technologies throughwhat relations this anthropologicalrelevance is One of the accepted models for the origins and rise of constructedare the importantones here. I would argue visual anthropologyas a recognised sub-disciplineconthat decisions about anthropological relevance involve cerns precisely the developmentof new technologies. It aesthetic choices, and an insistence on the difference is a history that has been reiteratedso often as to take between this relevance and aesthetic composition has on the status of doctrine. In fact it glosses over many complexities, as Grimshaw's account (in Marcus and led to the latter's becoming to some extent taboo.5 In terms of this anthropological relevance, Banks Banks) of early uses of film in anthropologyso clearly and Morphy seem to retain a particularbelief in data, in shows, and elides many concurrentaesthetic developinformationwhich can be recordedthroughvisual tech- ments. The advent of lightweight portable 16mm film niques and analysed later. Here the integrity of the pro- equipmentand new low-light film stocks in the 60's is filmic event is maintained - as if the camera simply frequently identified as signalling the advent of visual records what happens in front of its omniscient lens, anthropology,or at least of heralding a 'golden era' of events which would have taken place whether the ca- anthropological filmmaking, one which has now mera was there or not - and the neutrality of the ob- passed. This new technology was seen as less "intruserver is effectively preserved. Banks and Morphy are, sive", and allowed an 'intimacy' with the subjects that of course, arguing that this is only one possible use of was previously not thoughtpossible. A large-scale techvisual material, albeit currently the major one. But if nological presence, large cameras, tripods, lights sigthis is the case, then 'illustratedanthropology'might be nalled an excessive intervention,an overt sense of construction.8 The new technology also allowed,the anthroa betterterm to describe such practices. In this light it is the paradoxical,often contradictory pologist to work on her or his own, or with a minimal natureof the relationshipbetween anthropologyand the number of others. The period has become modelled as visual that is perhapsthe subject of TheAx Fight, and it one of individual 'pioneers' of filmmaking within anis only secondarily a film about Yanomami kinship. thropology, visual anthropology's equivalent of an arThe film shows the process of visual anthropology in tistic avant-garde. It has never been seriously suggested that a handaction, how filmmaking can be part of a process of inintimacy terpretation,and this is why it is such an exemplary held camera or lack of lights can guarantee teaching film, and such a well-used, even over-used. with those being filmed. However, there is a hint of example. An initial event, the fight, is first shown in technological determinismin these kinds of arguments. several long unedited shots, with the confused voices of If we concede that the development of 16mm equipthe filmmakers as they try to work out what is going ment and other technologies did contributeto the birth on. This is followed by a series of clips and stills ac- of visual anthropology in its current incarnation,then companied by kinship charts, maps, and a voice-over we might speculate on what changes technology like commentary,before a final edited version of the event. the new Sony PC7 digital video camera might engenIn showing the unedited 'raw' footage as largely in- der. The size of a small paperbackbook, this device ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 4, August 1998 17

18 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAYVol 14 NoF 4 August 1998

Photographs family, Top: 'Yanomamo Venezuela',TimAsch 1968 or 1971fromfront cover of Visual Review Anthropology 11.1, 1995, 'Outof synch:the cinema of Tim Asch' Notes: Thedetached position of the observer, we seem not to intrude? Theconstruction of space, a certain distance is createdAn intimate information? is revealed moment ('kinship'?)- trust - our intimacywith Asch. Whatare the differences in intendedaudience and responsecomparedto Baumgarten? Below: 'Yaonibrarema - I decorate myself Natomafrom eri paints KashoraweU-t her body andface with Nana red. "If they do not paint themselves regularly,then they age quickly."Yanomami, Alto Orinoco, Venezuela 1978.' Lothar Baumgarten from installationat DocumentaX, Kassel, Germany,1997. Notes: How are we involvedas obververs here? Natoma's self-awarenessand her relationshipwith observer(s).Display? The exhibitionas a physical demonstration of coevalness. Difference in the assumed agency of the practitioner comparedto Asch? Differingframes of reference.Reverse the contexts of exhibition? The mirroras a metaphorof change? 'the imbricationof the primitive and the modern,not their opposition' (Hal Foster).

initiates a short-circuitingof some of the processes of representation.Rather than a viewing screen encased within an eyepiece, as with the majority of video cameras, the PC7 has its own fold-out mini-TV screen. Vision is no longer as directly connected to the eye of the camera-operator,who becomes instead a kind of relay, one point in a circuit. The previous model that connected the scene of action, the camera, and the eye of the camera-operator in a single line, is disruptedand a feedback loop is established between two positions. The camera and what it is pointed at, and the operator and the camera's screen. Previously denied the choice - the camera-operator saw what the camera saw - she or he is now torn between looking at the screen, and looking at the scene; a constant play between the two. The camera no longer needs to come directly between you and what you are filming. This can be visualized as a technique of the body; one of the ways in which the development of cameras and video camcorders have forced the body into a series of different postures. Most involve a physical connection between the camera, the eyepiece and the eye, but with the PC7 there is no longer any necessary correlationor coordinationbetween eye movement and camera movement. It makes apparentwhat was already established once the physical optics of mirrorswas replaced by the digital delay of video; you no longer look at what you are filming throughthe camera,you look at the screen. You look with the camera, not through it. Everything is already displayed as a spectacle on the screen, signalling a partialcollapse of the difference between filming and viewing. What this example of the effective distancing of the camera-operatorillustrates, is that visual anthropologists should be concerned with what is anthropological about film, TV, the Internetand a whole range of other media as media. A focus on the relations they mediate and engender is an importantand necessary component of any use of them as techniques.9 What is important are the relationsof communication. In terms of visual anthropology, a fieldworker possessing the right portable computer, with a large enough memory and appropriatesoftware, could now potentially conduct some editing of digital video on the spot, and sections of the finished film could even be sent back on-line. But this could be seen as another short-circuitingprocess, a disappearanceof differences between there and here, and an example of the geography of space being replaced by that of time. Certainly, most contemporaryanthropologistsdoing fieldwork take photographs,and an ever increasing number also use video cameras, and in this sense new technology like digital video does offer the potential for a huge growth in the numbersof practisingvisual anthropologists, although the use of a camera does not necessarily make a visual anthropologist. However, whether or not this will have any correspondingeffect on what actually constitutes visual anthropologicalpractice is currently unclear. Although the camera is often used as a way of relating to other people, as well as a way of recording data, much of the visual material which is currently generated simply does not find the light of day within anthropology.To acknowledge this largely unseen archive of images raises questions about the continued centralityof text within contemporary anthropology. To some extent anthropologygrew out of, and alongside, a whole range of visual practices,l and Grimshaw's article in Rethinking Visual Anthropology argues convincingly for a reintegrationof contemporary

anthropologywith some of the aims of early filmmaking and the work of the early British anthropologistand psychologist W.H.R.Rivers, who sought to relate interior states to external observations.Along with talking, listening and a range of other senses and relations, sight, techniquesof observing, and ways of looking, are all central to the practice of ethnographyand 'participant observation'. In a different way, they are also implicit in anthropology's project as a whole; looking at other, and our own, cultures. Visual metaphors and tropes for anthropologyare everywhereyou look. There are obviously many inherent and frequently discussed contradictionsin the ambivalentterm 'participant observation'. Observation,at least as conceptually loaded in scientific discourse, implies some kind of necessary distance, a sense of detachment, and with them a false notion of neutrality.Timothy Asch is often quoted as having compared the use of the movie camera in anthropology,to the use of the microscope in biology, and the telescope in astronomy.This scientific aura of a detached and neutral vision still continues to guaranteemuch of the veracity and indexical quality of contemporaryvisual anthropology.But I would argue that it is actually the relations that are involved in anthropological practice that can support some sense of veracity, ratherthan adherenceto documentaryor realist models of representation.Of course, the other side - implies a very definite kind of the term - 'participant' of relation between people, an involvement that is backgroundedin the term observation.The relationship between these two terms, like that between 'anthropological relevance' and 'aesthetic composition', remains one of constanttension. Banks and Morphy recognize anthropologyas essentially a representational practice: 'An understandingof the nature of representational processes across cultures is [...] integral to the overall objectives of anthropology.'(p.2) Yet in its representing,anthropologyusually privileges one convention or genre, one way of visually others - documentaryrealism - and there apprehending is a sense in which the documentarymode is part of our own aesthetic. Of course, much of this argument depends on the intended audiences for any visual anthropology product. Granada Television's now sadly defunct anthropology series, Disappearing World, consciously targeted a popular viewing audience. But it is precisely these notions of audience that anthropological approachesto media have now begun to question. The 'creative' nature of documentaryfilmmaking has been acknowledged for some time, and other ways of translating experience cross-culturally,other ways of communicating and representing, need to be considered. One reason other modes of representationare often regarded as illegitimate forms for representingencounters with difference within anthropology, is that they are thought not to contain information,or perhaps not the right kind of information. But the aim of anthropologyis, of course, not just to provide informationor data, at least not in the sense of some direct, unmediated, or value-free way, and what passes as information in anthropologyis itself subject to continual mutation and revision. Anthropology is also about communicationin the broad sense of an exchange, and representation should not be seen solely in terms of the informationit can provide. Yet the visual is often still treated within anthropology solely as a technique, an indexical technology for providing reliable data, rather than as presenting a whole range of potentialrelations,methods and theories.

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1. See also Paul Henley Seeing is Understanding,a review of Banks and Morphy 1997 in Times LiterarySupplement 4692, May 1998. 2. 'MediatingModernities' was a workshopheld on 17 March 1998 to coincide with Faye Ginsburg's presentationof the Daryll Forde lecturefor the AnthropologyDepartmentof UniversityCollege London. 3. RethinkingVisual Anthropologyed. Marcus Banks and HowardMorphy publishedby Yale U.P. 1997 (?27.50). 4. See JonathanCrary Techniquesof the Observer, MIT Press 1993. 5. See for example the debatesaroundRobert Gardner'sfilm Forests of Bliss, and Elliot Weinberger The CameraPeople in VisualizingTheory:selected essaysfrom V.A.R.ed. by Lucien Taylor, publishedby Routledge 1994. 6. There is of course a parallelhistory of sound. See also Wilton Martinez, 'The Challenges of a Pioneer:Tim Asch, Othernessand Film Reception', in Visual AnthropologyReview, 11:1, 1995 for a discussion of audience responses to The Ax Fight. 7. See MartinJay Downcast Eyes: the Denigration of Vision in 20th CenturyFrench Thought,U. of CaliforniaP. 1993, and BarbaraMaria Stafford,Good Looking: essays on the virtues of images, MIT Press 1997 for discussions of the relative merits of vision. 8. Phil Agland's film The Baka: People of the Rainforestused relatively

In the introductionto another recent visual anthropology publication, The Traffic in Culture, George Marcusand Fred Myers argue that art and anthropology are rooted in a common tradition, both situated in a critical stance towards the 'modernity' of which both are a part. "The primitive other (and its representedreality) as evidence of the existence of forms of humanity which are integral, cohesive, ... permits the characterization of the modern as fragmented.It also enables contemporary mass culture to be experienced as spuriousand somehow inauthentic.15 They go on to suggest even more shared concerns between the two disciplines. In their view, anthropologists have been influenced by the critiquesof modernism formulated in art to consider various current problematics. How we feel about or judge 'change' or assimilation to Western patterns has been determined by terms establishedwithin modernistdiscourses about art. For them, it is within the space of art that difference, identity and culturalvalue are being producedand contested. Art, they argue, has taken on the challenge of confronting the issue of modernity itself, by means of both moral comment and alternativeperspectives. The art community has for the most part now come to the conclusion that it is not some separate ideal realm of aesthetics, but is firmly embedded within the world and culturalspecifics. In reconnectingitself with culture,this realizationhas led to certainstrandsof contemporary art becoming increasingly fascinated with anthropologyas the study of culture. Replacing earlier primitivisttropes, art is now envious of anthropology's perceived position as the arbiterof cultural difference. Perhapsthe productsof visual anthropologyshare some analogies with the status of the 'readymade'in art, the perceived movement of an object from a familiar context, to one where its definable qualities are less certain, but where it can clearly be seen as art. In anthropology's case however there is a focus on content, rather than form. In an importantshort article in Marcus and Myers, the critic Hal Foster discusses how anthropologyis also envious of art: In thisenvythe artist becomesa paragon of formal reflexand open to chance,a selfivity, sensitiveto difference aware reader of culture understood as text.Butis the artist the exemplar of a here,or is this figurenot a projection as collagist, ideal ego - of the anthropologist particular In other wordsmightthisartistsemiologist, avant-gardist? envybe a self-idealization? (p.304). As Foster points out, there is a great deal of mis-recognition on both sides of the boundarybetween the two disciplines. Although some contemporaryEuropean and North American art has appropriatedthe aura, and even on occasions the methodologies of anthropology, the reverse has not occurred with any frequency.,However much anthropologyhas admittedthe role of tropes, the role of the anthropologist as a writer, the fictional qualities of anthropologicalwriting and so forth, there still remains a residue of science, an often unvoiced claim, or assumption of a certain privileged position. The main differences between anthropology and art may be those of contexts of exhibition, strategies of legitimation,and discursive spaces, ratherthan something more fundamental.These are what are at stake in any destabilizationof the boundariesbetween the two disciplines. Admitting alternative visual methods may Boundaries Perhaps there is a need for boundariesbetween anthro- threatenthe way much work within visual anthropology pology and disciplines like art precisely because there is legitimated. However, Banks and Morphy argue that the future of is actually such an affinity between them, a large area visual anthropology, involves an anthropology of the of overlap as similar strategies for representingculture. ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 4, August 1998

Anthropologyhas traditionallytended to translatethe visual into words. This is arguablywhy what visual anthropologists do appears to a large extent - at least in the UK - to be currently synonymous with film, and now video. Practical visual anthropology courses mainly teach students to make mostly documentary films. Seemingly more so than other visual forms, films can be treated by anthropologists as texts and narratives, and film form frequentlymirrorsthat of the ethnographic monograph, belying an overwhelming need for a certain kind of narrative.Typical anthropological uses of narrative are as genre-bound in their way as those of classical Hollywood cinema. Films can be treated as texts, but this is surely only one, often narrow, way of treating and making them? Like the material culture of others, visual objects produced by anthropologistsoften only seem to take on meaning when inscribed within written histories and embedded in texts. It is as if objects, performances,and other forms only accumulate cultural value by being written about. Textual 'labels' can also work in a way which negates our awareness of objects as sensual entities, or freeze that awareness within an instrumentaland predictable frame of response. Despite the production of significant numbers of films, videos and other visual forms, visual anthropology, like anthropology itself, currently remains to a large extent a discipline weighted towards words and texts. It is possible to see the relation between words and images within visual anthropologyin terms of the polarity between anthropological relevance and aesthetic composition. An example of this can be seen in another of Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon's films Magical Death. What we see in one section of this film is a Yanomami shaman taking hallucinogenic snuff and going into trance, a series of visceral and disturbing images of possession. Yet what we hear, over and above the moaning and shouting of the shaman, is the anthropologicalcommentaryexplaining calmly how the event is linked to kinship and inter-community politics. As a spectator you are confronted with a disjunction between vision and text (as commentary) in terms of the informationeach is providing:the two appear unrelated. The heavier emphasis placed on one value of this polar system in preferenceto the other, is also revealed in the relative lack of images in recent publications on visual anthropology.13 Although there are in fact some sixty small black and white photographsinserted within the text of Rethinking Visual Anthropology, none are full page, and none stand on their own without disciplining words. They remain mostly illustrations of the text, and, inset within it, they are restrictedto backing up the words. Although there are obviously constraints within the current publishing climate, with authors often having to pay for illustrations themselves, more visual works do not necessarily need to be hugely expensive ventures. The relations between image and text in such works could also be approached more creatively.14 The tendency to adopt an oppositional model between anthropologicalrelevance and aesthetic composition, between word and image, perhaps belies, or actually works to perpetuate,some perceived threatthat the visual poses to anthropology.


large amountsof equipment and high production values such as 24-tracksound mixing, to give an 'intimate portrait'of Bakalife. However,this involved some 'creative'uses of As with documentary. RobertFlaherty'sfilm Nanook of the North, this includedthe fabricationof a hut to permit half-finished the unhindered filming of its occupantsas they pretended to sleep. 9. Grimshaw successfully arguesagainstany simplistic use of visual media as without 'techniques', to theirtheoretical attention for implications as a whole anthropology (BanksandMorphy, pp.36-52). 10. MarcusBanks 'Visual Anthropology: Image, in Objectand Interpretation' Image-basedResearch:A Sourcebook for Qualitative Researchers,ed. Jon Prosser,FalmerP. 1998 p.11. 11. See for example Chris Pinney 'The Parallel Historiesof Anthropology andPhotography'in and Anthropology Photography1860-1920 edited by Elizabeth Edwards,publishedby Yale U.P. Anthropologyalso has roots in 17th and 18th centuryillustrationsand engravings,the oral and writtenstories of travellers and sailors, stage plays, and a whole range of other technologies and discourses. 12. There is a corresponding tendencyin art to focus on contemporary reviews and catalogue essays, ratherthan discuss any directresponses to the objectsthemselves. 13. The original edition of the agenda-settingPrinciples of VisualAnthropology edited by Hockings, had no illustrationsat all. 14. Inventory,an occasionaljournalpublished in London, is a good example combiningimages and texts in a variety of ways. See InventoryArchive at http://www.backspace.org/inve ntory 15. George Marcusand Fred Myers The Trafficin Culture:RefiguringArt and Anthropology,U. of CaliforniaP. 1995, p.15. 16. Arnd Schneider 'The Art Diviners', A.T. 9:2, April 1993, and 'Uneasy Relationships:Contemporary Artists and Anthropology'in Journal of Material Culture 1:2, 1996. 17. See Lothar Baumgarten AMERICA Inventionpublishedby Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York 1993 (contains bibliographyand furtherreferences). 18. See DocumentaX Short Guide and Politics-Poetics: Documenta x - the Book, published.by Cantz Verlag 1997. 19. See for example Michael Taussig Mimesis and Alterity:a Particular History of the Senses,

visual, the study of 'visual culture', or 'art', or some correspondingrealm of 'aesthetics' or representation, as much as an anthropologyconducted visually. The study of visual culturehas also now been expandedto include the anthropology of contemporary art practices from North America to Australia,and Nicholas Thomas's article in RethinkingVisual Anthropology suggests some creative new directionsfor such work. Although anthropologists have only recently begun to pay much attention to the contemporaryart of their own cultures, the reverse has a longer history. Since the 1970s, a variety of artists have taken a critical look at anthropology and its methodologies.16 Practitionerssuch as Lothar Baumgartenhave worked in ways which resemble fieldwork, spending extended periods of time living with communities, in Baumgarten's case the Yanomami, as well as producing direct commentaries on anthropologicalpractices. His work, including that for the 1997 Documenta X art exhibition in Kassel, Germanywhich accompaniesthis article, raises many questions for visual anthropology.18 Baumgarten'sinstallationat Documenta X, in which he arrangedphotographs of the Yanomami as a personal 'archive' on the walls of the exhibition space, reveals some of the relations involved in a 'fieldwork' situation, and questions the role of the observer.No, it does not provide a 'context' for the images in the form of an accompanyingexplanatorytext, but it does situate them within a visual relationshipbetween the Yanomamiand Europeanaudiences, and seeks to understandand question the terms of this relationship. Baumgarten often seeks to 'de-centre' European and North American spaces and institutions.At the Venice Biennale international art exhibition in 1994, he inscribed in marble a set of animal pictographs and the names of Amazon and Orinoco river systems on the floor of the West German pavilion. In superimposing New World over Old, he de-centres the latter, and questions their separation and opposition wiel also casting dobut on practices of renamingsuch as 'Venezuela' (little Venice). In an expanded sense, visual anthropological practice could be, for example, a way of looking at how information or understandingis embedded in experience. It could be used to conduct an ethnographyof vision, not just as a technique for providing data, or a means of documentingother cultures. Carryingout anthropologicalanalyses of institutions and movements in contemporaryart, although certainly very worthwhile, does not necessarily encourage the kind of creative practice that I want to argue for here. Perhaps studying contemporaryart practices is a way for anthropology to maintain them at a safe distance, figured more as new objects of study, ratherthan potentially alternativemethodologies. We are happy to study - the term itself implies a certain distance - the contemporaryart of others, and now that of ourselves, but not necessarily to admit any of its strategies as part of our own practice. An anthropology of art, but not the reverse. To echo Foster's discussion of currentattitudes towards 'Third World art', a politics of peripheryprohibits one of immanence. Vision and the visual are central to anthropology, not just part of a recognizable sub-discipline, and to position them as such is to partially deny them any potential they have for changing contemporaryanthropology. The study of visual culture, whetherours or theirs, is then perhaps a combination of the two terms 'visual' and 'anthropology'that causes less immediate threatof destabilizing boundaries.It signals a change in subject matter, and althoughthis is in some cases accompanied

by a correspondingshift in method, it does not always impinge upon practice. There remains some institutional reluctance or inertia in allowing certain boundaries between anthropology and other disciplines to become more porous. Potentials Actively exploring and re-negotiating some of the boundariesbetween anthropologyand other disciplines such as media studies and art, are increasing numbers of currentUK undergraduate and MA students,who see more connectionsbetween disciplines than are currently available for them to pursue formally. Institutionsare, however, beginning to respond to this demand. The Slade School of Art and the anthropologydepartmentat University College London now have a PhD programme which can involve work in both departments. The anthropologydepartmentat the School of Oriental and African Studies is going to startrunningan MA in the Anthropology of Media this year, and Goldsmiths College will be initiating an MA in Visual Anthropology this coming autumn, which, like the MA offered by the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at ManchesterUniversity, will include a significant practical component.The forthcomingethnographicfilm festival organized by the RAI and Goldsmiths College, London, (17-19 September)takes the connections between anthropologyand other visual practices, such as art, as one of the themes for the Vision, Witness,Profession conference which accompaniesit. All this activity may signal the startof closer interdisciplinary collaborationsin the future. Yet despite this increasing demand, one issue that all too readily reveals the currently ambiguous nature of the visual within anthropologyas a discipline, is how students and practising visual anthropologists are thought to acquire or develop their own visual sense. This is not always directly addressed, and is generally treated as something which is either somehow innate, just down to luck, or largely irrelevantbecause it is the anthropologicalcontent that is of overriding concern. Students often end up being simply steered towards adopting certain existing styles and models, ratherthan directly encouraged to develop their own visual sensibility and working strategies. Limits, often unvoiced, but perhapsall the more persuasive because of this, are set as to what is permissible visual practice. Mimicry can, of course, be an extremely productive and a valuable learning tool, but I would argue that the range of available and legitimate models for visual anthropology studentsneeds to be expanded.19 The relationbetween visual anthropologyand anthropology in a broadersense does need to be rethoughtas Banks and Morphy suggest, and the links between anthropology and art equally need to be refigured as Marcus and Myers argue, but visual anthropologyalso needs to be remade. It is a matterof changes in professional and institutionalpractices, as much as re-theorizing. Theoretical destabilization, or blurring of boundaries, is not an end in itself, and visual anthropology needs to be remade as a zone of practicalpotentials, of new methodologies, artefacts and knowledges. A practice that develops other ways of interacting with, and relating to people, as well as other ways of representing, and works towards the development of new cross-culturalways of seeing. My aim is not to deny anthropological relevance, or to turn anthropologists into artists or vice versa, but to help to broadenanthropology's use of the visual both practicallyand theoretically. Experimentation and creativity in these terms 21

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publishedby Routledge 1993, and Fumio Nanjo The Situationin Japan, in Third TextNo.6, 1989. 20. David MacDougall The Visual in Anthropology in Banks and Morphy1997 pp 276-295. 21. Banks and Morphy 1997, Note 6 p. 32.

should be a key part of both visual anthropologypractice and training.The focus should be on the potentials of representational practice, ratherthan on strict definitions of either anthropology or art. In his contribution to the Banks and Morphy volume, David MacDougall argues that ratherthan strive for some overarchingtheoretical unity, visual anthropology should allow principles to emerge from practice (pp.276-295).

One of the more pertinent points Rethinking Visual Anthropologyraises for me is relegated to a small footnote: 'Sadly few anthropologistshave yet tried to effect other-cultural representations primarilythrough artistic representation.' (p.32, n.6) Although I disagree with the radical separation,opposition and reificationof 'art' and 'anthropology',I hope that anthropologistsdo now begin to explore some of the potentials that this 'thirdsubject' holds. D

In Poland,where I do fieldwork, the idea of civil society is both popularand powerful. Once used as the 'thin end of the wedge' thattoppled socialism, the ideal of a pluralistic,democraticpolity that it embodiesis endlessly discussed by academics,picked up by politicians and in the hundredsof institutionalized which subsist on the largesse organizations of Westernfunders. Yet, while civil society is a potent normativeconcept - a seductive vision of the way things ought to be - it is not a very good analytic concept. In fact, most attempts to gauge 'civil society' can only show how far a given socio-political situationdeviates from this ideal-type. As an analytic term, 'civil society' actually doesn't tell us very much aboutreal modes of non-state organization,how they come to be and their effects on the polity. This is due to the concept's roots in liberal individualismand the limits that philosophy faces not only in describingthe societies it came from but also in describingnon-Westernones. My reflections on this problem were most recently spurredby an organizationI began to run across more and more frequently when I was in Poland:the Business Centre Club, or BCC. The BCC is an independent organizationof high-poweredentrepreneurs and business people in Warsaw,founded in the early 1990s. Partprestigious social club, partChamberof Commerce and partpolicy think-tank,the BCC actively lobbies membersof parliament,while also shaping public opinion by being vociferous in the media. In almost any article on economic change or legal reforms affecting the new class of Polish business people, you'll find a quote by the BCC. For example, commentingon the role of workers' associations in the privatizationof state-ownedenterprises,BCC president HenrykaBohniarz said 'tradeunions should act like tradeunions and not like bankers, owners or political parties' (Rzeszpospolita, 7 October 1992). I find this comment extremely ironic given the BCC's own quasi-partystatus. 22 What made me do a double take were two advertisementsI saw later in another magazine. One ad was for Business Centre Club shirts - blue or white, naturally,with button-downcollars. Perfect for the up-and-comingbusinessman.A few pages later, there was an ad for Business Centre Club beer. Precisely what the linkage is and an between business, beer, haberdashery independentNGO remainsunclearto me. But the juxtapositionof the terms led me to wonder about the connection between the largerissues of 'civil society' representedby this NGO and the new practices of I marketingand consumption.In particular, wonderedif there weren't common assumptionsabout persons and their capacities for social actions containedin both concepts of 'civil society' and 'niche marketing'. Classical liberalismdefines civil society as a domain between the domestic sphere and the state where people can associate to pursuecommon interests.This, of course, assumes that there are differentsorts of people that exist priorto their association, and that they are autonomousindividuals who can freely choose to associate with others. These individualsmust feel that their differences from others give them particular interests,and that they can join others with a similar difference in orderto advancetheir collective interest. In Poland, however, it is clear that differences and interestsdo not necessarily antedatethe developmentof the organizationswhich purportto represent them. This is ironic, given that Poland's Solidaritymovement refined and re-energizedthe idea of civil society. But Solidarity's vision of 'civil society' was of a different sort, one which united many differentgroups and persons into a huge monolith called 'society' and placed it in opposition to 'the state'. In post-1989 Poland, then, the problemof 'civil society building' is less one of uniting anomic individualsthan of breakingapartthe giant political blocs createdwhen society was polarizedinto 'us' and 'them', socialism and its opposition. This has been a surprisingly slow process. Merely lifting the lid of state repressionand creatingthe right of free association was not enough to constitute special interestgroups. For the most part, political power in Poland still comes from claiming to represent'society' as a whole ratherthan particular interestswithin it. This is the strategypursuedby most political parties,but it is slowly changing. In the last eight years, the giant political blocs of 'we' and 'they' have been slowly crumblingas smaller social subdivisionscome to sense - hence the development their particularity of organizationssuch as the BCC. But how is it that people come to feel that or that they are somehow they are particular essentially differentthan others?Creating this sense of difference is no mean feat in a society which consciously emphasized homogeneity for forty-five years. In of post-socialist Poland, this reconstruction the person is strongly bound up with the new discipline of advertising,which not only reflects differences among persons but constructsthem. In particular,the idea of niche marketing,accordingto which special productsare made to meet the ostensible 'demands'or 'needs' of a narrowlydefined social group, continuallysegments and resegmentsthe consumerpopulation.The obvious goal of niche marketingis to increase consumption,but the way in which it constitutesperson has importantpolitical and social consequences. I first saw this duringmy fieldwork at the Alima-Gerberbaby food factory in Rzeszow, where I attendedthe product launch for Frugo, a new juice drinkfor teenagers.The marketingstrategybehind Frugo was clearly aimed at increasingjuice consumptionby segmenting the market. Alima-Gerber basically owned the market for children'sjuices, but could not compete against the giants like Coca-Cola who had enteredthe adults'juice market.Teenagers, however, had the lowest per-capita consumptionrate of fruitjuice drinks,and so this new marketniche had a dramatic potentialfor increasedconsumptionif a productwas aimed at them. There had never been a juice particularlyforteens before. In fact, the entire social group 'teens' was just coming into being as a marketin Poland.

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 4, August 1998