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School of Social Sciences

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BSocSc Social Anthropology
Explore human behaviour and relationships and the challenges across different cultures.

BSocSc Social Anthropology / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Screening Culture

Unit code SOAN30792
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Anthropology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Over the course of more than a century, understandings of documentary have continually changed as different filmmakers have sought to develop new techniques for the investigation of the world. The course will introduce such historical changes in order to observe the main steps and key concepts developed by visual anthropology. It will do that by paying attention, at each session, to specific issues such as colonial power relations, questions of representation, 'truth', veracity, realism and reality, images of the Other and reflexivity, ethnographic narrative, politics of identities and gender.


Visuality and vision are very broad ideas and have been the subject of various kinds of analysis. In anthropology we can speak of visual culture, culturally embedded images and visions produced by different groups of people. This course will focus on one specific form of such production: that of documentary film-making as it relates to anthropology. More systematically, it will examine the ways in which anthropologists have been attempting, throughout the last century, to use moving images in order to create, document, and convey the knowledge they gain in relationships with other people.

Learning outcomes

Students will become familiar with the main debates surrounding documentary film and its relation to anthropology. They will have read the key critical texts relating to the genre; they will have seen a range of classic films; and, through discussion and analysis, they will have addressed issues concerning truth, authenticity, creativity and the subjective as they relate to visual representation.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, film screenings, discussion sessions and student presentations

Assessment methods

5000 word Final Essay - 100%

Students will be required to produce and present film reviews for discussion during tutorials.  Each tutorial of four to five students (depending on how many in total) would present a review of the films we watched in class the week before, substantiated by the relevant literature, and we would open this up to discussion.  By week 5, all will have presented a review and received feedback from the course convenor that will help them write their final essay.

Feedback methods

Students receive electronic, personalised feedback on their assessed work and on the film review presentations..

Recommended reading

-Barnouw, Erik (1983). Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. Oxford University Press.
-Crawford, Peter and David Turton, eds., (1992). Film as Ethnography. Manchester University Press.
-Grimshaw, Anna (2001). The Ethnographer's Eye: ways of seeing in modern anthropology. Cambridge University Press.
-Loizos, Peter (1993). Innovation in Ethnographic Film Manchester. University Press.
-Nichols, Bill (2001) Introduction to Documentary. Indiana University Press.
-Ruby, Jay (2000) Picturing Culture: explorations in film and anthropology. University of Chicago Press.
-Taylor, Lucien, ed.(1994) Visualizing Theory: Selected Essays from V.A.R. 1990-1994 . Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Angela Torresan Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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