From ethnographic media to multimodality

Authored by: Samuel Gerald Collins , Matthew Durington

The Routledge International Handbook of Ethnographic Film and Video

Print publication date:  April  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367185824
eBook ISBN: 9780429196997
Adobe ISBN:


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Ethnographic film and video in the twenty-first century is no longer a self-contained linear product available on one medium such as VHS tape, 16mm film, or DVD disc. In fact, even if an ethnographic film or video follows a traditional form of production and dissemination through festivals and distributors, it is viewed, advertised, promoted, and disseminated through a variety of multimodal forms that make up our mediascape possibilities today. The journal American Anthropologist is considered the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association. In 2017, editor Deborah Thomas rebranded the visual anthropology section of the journal as multimodal anthropology. The reaction was swift from established visual anthropologists (including the authors of this essay) that this was possibly diminishing the standing of visual anthropology in the discipline as many had pushed hard in previous years to get the visual anthropology section in the journal. However, we, along with many others in the field, saw this as a real opportunity to be more inclusive of the various media that anthropologists both engage with in their research and disseminate as anthropological work. As we stepped into the editorial role for this section alongside our colleague Harjant Gill, we made a concerted effort to both recruit and encourage anthropological work that went beyond ethnographic film to include many different forms of multimodal work as detailed in the various forms we describe in this essay. Even though many forms are considered here, there are numerous other multimodal forms that can be recognized such as the large canon of work in the anthropology of art and analysis of all kinds of visual, aural, and sensory anthropologies that demonstrate transmedia that can be utilized both within and outside of the discipline (Pink, 2001).

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