2011. február 6., vasárnap

Week #3

On this week we mainly focused on photography in ethnography, and how different approaches to this medium can deliver different messages about the same subject. Edwards' article about photography in anthropological research was very interesting. She basically argues for an expressive approach to this whole problematic. According to her using photography simply to record data and trying to be absolutely objective is impossible and flat out counter-productive. She argues for a symbolic and expressive approach to the use of photos in ethnographic research because, she states, this way the reader can get a fuller view of the people in the research.
I'm not sure about this approach to be honest, a good and expressive collection of photos can enhance any anthropological study but if an ethnographer concentrates too much on expressiveness, it can distort the picture and ruin the authenticity of the research. However, I find authenticity a tricky notion that is very hard to define and therefore to be reached. If a tribe perform a dance during the day so the anthropologist can film it even though otherwise they would always dance it during the night, does that question its authenticity? Or if natives perform to tourists for money, is that authentic? These are very interesting questions that are hard to answer. In my opinion authenticity is very fluid and in some ways over-rated, it is much more important to understand and preserve the gist of a culture than to sacrifice everything on the altar of authenticity.
In the second part of the lecture we took a look at Leni Riefenstahl's photos of the Nuba and a BBC documentary about the same tribe.

Riefenstahl: The Last of the Nuba

BBC: Worlds Apart: The South East Nuba
This documentary was made because Riefenstahl's book stirred a huge debate in the anthropology world. People like Susan Sonntag felt that Leni gave a very one sided and distorted picture about the Nuba that was influenced by her Nazi roots. Riefenstahl is a very contradictory character in the 20th century, she was the

main propagandist for the Nazis and made several films, like The Triumph of the Will, to help Hitler to build the Third Reich. However, her documentaries and her photos are stunning and gripping so nowadays her work is creeping back into the mainstream. For me, however, her role in Nazi Germany is not necessarily the biggest problem, albeit it is definitely a fact that cannot be ignored. Her work with the Nuba and her pictures are absolutely stunning, BUT as Sonntag argues she fetishises and idolises the body and the beauty of the body just like the Nazis did. In her book nobody is old, nobody is sick and everything is subsumed to male strength and wrestling in the Nuba society. On the other hand if we take a look at the BBC documentary we can see that the case is a bit more layered and complex. The environment that the Nuba live in is not as beautiful as Leni's book suggests, it is a dry, brutal and harsh place to live and to try to survive. Also, the people are not as magnificently built and god-like as she tried to depict them. These are well-built but normal looking people struggling for survival in a desolate place. So, in my opinion, Sonntag is right in her article 'Fascinating Fascism' for the most part. Riefenstahl's work about the Nuba is tainted with a Nazi point of view to a certain extent, even though the beuty of the pictures is undeniable.

Nincsenek megjegyzések:

Megjegyzés küldése