Anthropology at the movies
Stephen Hughes (SOAS)
Paper short abstract:
This paper questions what an anthropological approach can bring to the study of cinema. I argue that the notion of practice, though largely unexamined, has been central to how anthropologists have constructed cinema as an object of study.
Paper long abstract:
Working within the shadow of film studies, there is now a small, but growing body anthropological scholarship on popular commercial cinema. Compared to the field of film studies, anthropologists interested in the study of cinema outside have generally started from very different disciplinary assumptions and ethnographic commitments. As a result, anthropologists of cinema have been regularly confronted with the difficulties of imposing, importing or re-evaluating abstract, universalizing film theories, which are largely based upon Euro-American films, experiences and histories. In this paper I will evaluate the emerging anthropological literature on cinema in relation to film studies in order to question what specifically an anthropological approach can bring to the study of cinema. How do anthropologists study cinema? How does it differ from other approaches? I argue that the notion of practice, though largely unexamined, has been central to how anthropologists have sought to construct cinema as an object of study. Using this example of anthropologists at the movies, I will make the larger case for why anthropology matters to the study of media.