Visual Anthropology: Essential Method and Theory

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El Guindi provides a comprehensive guide to the methods of visual anthropology and the use of film in cross-cultural research and ethnography. She shows how visual media ― photographic, filmic, interactive ― is now an accepted part of the anthropological process, a vital tool that reflects and produces knowledge about the range of cultures and about culture itself. It preserves the integrity of people, objects, and events in their cultural context, and expands our horizons beyond the reach of memory culture. El Guindi places visual anthropology within an empirically-based, analytic framework, built on systematic observation, identifying the research cycle that begins with data gathering and leads to visual ethnographic construction that is anthropological in method, process, and product. She explains how indigenous, professional, and amateur forms of pictorial/auditory materials are grounded in personal, social, cultural, and ideological contexts, and describes the non-Western critique of the Western traditions of visual anthropology. Her book is an excellent guide for ethnographic research, and for film and other media instruction concerned with cross-cultural representation.

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About the Author:

Fadwa El Guindi teaches in the Visual Anthropology Program at the University of Southern California. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas, Austin, and her field research includes work with Arab, Nubian, and Zapotec cultures, and Arab-Americans. She is past president of the Society for Visual Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association, and author of The Myth of Ritual: A Native's Ethnography of Life-Crisis Rituals (University of Arizona Press, 1986). Her visual ethnographies include El Sebou': Egyptian Birth Ritual, El Moulid: Egyptian Religious Festival, and Ghurbal. Her most recent book, Veil: Modesty, Privacy and Resistance, is a visual, cultural, and textual analysis of the phenomenon of veiling in the Arab East.

Review:

Visual Anthropology is a much needed comprehensive text that makes a convincing case for the intellectual as well as pedagogical value of ethnographic film and other visual anthropology media. It incorporates a thorough international history of the genre with substantive analysis of themes and perspectives. Not only is it a theoretical tour-de-force, but it also has great practical utility and will be particularly welcomed by anyone teaching courses in ethnographic film. Those using film and other visual materials in their teaching will also find this book useful since it provides many contexts for creatively integrating visual aids into introductory and upper level courses. A must for all anthropologists. (Peter Allen, Professor of Anthropology, Rhode Island College)

Fadwa El Guindi offers in this new study a sweeping analysis of the achievements of visual anthropology's century-old history. Grounded in a solid understanding of her subject, she explores numerous older approaches to visual anthropology as well as those that have come in the past decade with the worldwide web, DVD and CD-ROM data storage, light-weight digital cameras, the changed political environment since 2001, and the newly realized public need for public presentations about world Islam, women in traditional society, and modern power relations. This is a book which, because of its broad coverage and the many cogent questions raised, will certainly find wide use in film and anthropology classes as well as on the shelves of professional scholars. (Paul Hockings, Editor-in-Chief Visual Anthropology)

With this truly innovative book, El Guindi presents us with the first unified view of Visual Anthropology, not merely as a subfield of anthropology, but as a theoretically and methodologically engaged ethnographic practice. In this new perspective, Visual Anthropology breaks the traditional boundaries of the anthropological discipline and its habitual reliance on words by embracing the use of modern technology such as photography, film, video, or any multimedia employed for the discovery and communication of insights on culture and humankind. (Marcelo Fiorini Marcelo Fiorini, Hofstra University)

It will be an important teaching text and its value to students should not be underestimated. The strengths of this book are that it makes doing visual anthropology comprehensible through real projects; offers first-hand accounts of the technologies the author has used; uses the issues and concerns that are embedded in her own work to demonstrate the role visual anthropology can play in public contexts. (Ethnos)

An internationally recognized Egyptian anthropologist and filmmaker with a distinguished academic career in the US, Fadwa El Guindi offers a fresh and critical retelling of the history of visual anthropology. She is not afraid to ruffle feathers and challenges some dear and dominant ideas in a rapidly-changing field until recently dominated by a handful of privileged Euramerican males. Certainly refreshing is her book's personal voice, in particular because of El Guindi's unique background and extensive professional experience as a successful teacher, fieldworker, and accomplished ethnographic filmmaker. Her sometimes polemical take on troubling issues are of relevance in a globalized media environment in which little space is left for non-Western or otherwise alternative points of view. The book's detailed analysis of theoretical and methodological issues inethnographic film coupled with an effort to include discussion of professional contributions beyond the Anglophone world make it timely and useful. (Dr. Harald E.L Prins, Professor of Anthropology, Kansas State University)

This analytical survey represents exactly what is needed in our discipline at the present time. Suddenly the whole field of visual anthropology acquires intellectual transparency and a deeper theoretical relevance. I am already using El Guindi's methodology and her visual methods chapter of the Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology in the workshop training I am giving in Sikkim, among the Lepcha of the eastern Himalayas, and in lectures I give worldwide. This book, with its innovative methodology, its microanalysis of Mead & Bateson's conversation, and the new paradigm of the discipline's genealogy, is a must for all anthropology courses and particularly those concerned with the visualization of culture. (Asen Balikci, anthropologist and filmmaker)

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