Beyond observation

A history of authorship in ethnographic film

By Paul Henley

Beyond observation
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  • Price: £30.00
  • ISBN: 9781526131348
  • Publish Date: Feb 2020
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • Price: £30.00
  • ISBN: 9781526131362
  • Publish Date: Jan 2020
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information


    Beyond Observation is structured by the argument that the 'ethnographicness' of a film should not be determined by the fact that it is about an exotic culture - the popular view - nor because it has apparently not been authored - a long-standing academic view - but rather because it adheres to the norms of ethnographic practice more generally. On these grounds, the book covers a large number of films made in a broad range of styles across a 120-year period, from the Arctic to Africa, from the cities of China to rural Vermont.

    Paul Henley discusses films made within reportage, exotic melodrama and travelogue genres in the period before the Second World War, as well as more conventionally ethnographic films made for academic or state-funded educational purposes. The book explores the work of film-makers such as John Marshall, Asen Balikci, Ian Dunlop and Timothy Asch in the post-war period, considering ideas about authorship developed by Jean Rouch, Robert Gardner and Colin Young. It also discusses films authored by indigenous subjects themselves using the new video technology of the 1970s and the ethnographic films that flourished on British television until the 1990s. In the final part of the book, Henley examines the recent work of David and Judith MacDougall and the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, before concluding with an assessmentof a range of films authored in a participatory manner as possible future models.


    Introduction: Authorship, Praxis, Observation, Ethnography

    Part I: Histories: Ethnographic film in the twentieth century
    1 The long prehistory of ethnographic film
    2 Expeditions, melodrama and the birth of ethnofiction
    3 The invisible Author: films of re-enactment in the postwar period
    4 Records, not movies: the early films of John Marshall and Timothy Asch
    5 Reflexivity and participation: the films of David and Judith MacDougall in Africa and Australia
    6 Entangled voices: the complexities of collaborative authorship
    7 The subject as Author: indigenous media and the Video nas Aldeias project

    Part II: Authors: Three key figures
    8 Jean Rouch: sharing anthropology
    9 Robert Gardner: beyond the burden of the real
    10 Colin Young: the principles of Observational Cinema

    Part III: Television as meta-author: Ethnographic film in Britain
    11 Ways of doing ethnographic film on British television
    12 Beyond the 'disappearing world' - and back again
    13 The decline of ethnographic film on British television

    Part IV: Beyond observation: Ethnographic film in the twenty-first century
    14 The evolution of Observational Cinema: recent films of David and Judith MacDougall
    15 Negative capability and the flux of life: films of the Sensory Ethnography Lab
    16 Participatory perspectives

    An epilogue: Return to Kiriwina: the ethnographic film-maker as Author
    Appendix: British Television Documentaries produced in collaboration with Ethnographic Researchers

    Textual references
    Film references


    Paul Henley is Professorial Research Fellow at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester and an ethnographic film-maker. He was previously the founding director of the Granada Centre, 1987-2014

    Beyond observation

    By Paul Henley

    Paperback £30.00 / $45.95

    Hardcover £90.00 / $140.00

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