Visual Anthropology and the cinema of Robert Gardner: Review of Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor (eds) The Cinema of Robert Gardner

Deger, Jennifer (2009) Visual Anthropology and the cinema of Robert Gardner: Review of Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor (eds) The Cinema of Robert Gardner. Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 10 (1). pp. 46-49.

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Abstract

[Extract] Although Robert Gardner has himself claimed an ambivalent relationship to anthropology and its endeavours, he remains among the most celebrated of ethnographic filmmakers. Director of the Film Study Center at Harvard University from 1957 to 1997, Gardner has long been regarded as visual anthropology's enfant terrible, his poetic sensibility and grandiose themes famously dividing anthropological audiences—even as they attract wider audiences than most ethnographic films.

Early debates about the nature of the split reaction to his work was figured in terms of a dichotomy between art and science (with Gardner cast on the side of 'art'), a dubious and unhelpful proposition that failed to engage with the epistemological complexities of film and the encounters it mediates. Later critics, although appreciative of a move towards ethnopoetics, took Gardner to task for the 'othering' of his subjects, arguing that his cultural and methodological distance from his filmic subjects produced 'texts of capture' (Russell 1999, p. 189). Such critiques prefigured my own early, brittle-eyed lectures on the films Dead Birds (1964) and Forest of Bliss (1985), in which I blithely condemned Gardner as irredeemably romantic and ethnographically irresponsible.

Item ID: 31973
Item Type: Article (Book Review)
ISSN: 1740-9314
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2014 06:23
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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