Anthropology, Text and Film

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alice Tilche, Dr Jason Hickel POR 4.01 and Dr Nicholas Long OLD 6.14


This course is compulsory on the BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides training in the reading and interpretation of visual and textual anthropology. It introduces students to detailed, holistic study of social and cultural practices within particular geographic and historical contexts, and develops skills in bringing together the various elements of cultural and social life analysed by anthropologists. By the end of each term, successful students will have both a detailed knowledge of three important texts, and also have a rounded view of the three settings studied. They will also have developed the capacity to think critically about ethnographic writing and film-making. In addition, the course aims to enable students to examine in detail the process by which ethnographic texts are produced. The course brings students to a closer understanding of anthropological fieldwork and evidence, and the way in which it elates to the forms of knowledge and insight generated by other genres of social scientific enquiry, documentary, and art. Students will usually read three book-length ethnographic accounts (or the equivalent) per term, and will study a film (or pictorial, architectural or other visual material) associated with each text. 


MT: students will have five 60-minute lectures, two 180-minute film screenings (followed by discussion), seven 60-minute classes, and three 90-minute seminars.

LT: students will have four 60-minute lectures, three 180-minute film screenings (followed by discussion), seven 60-minute classes, and three 90-minute seminars.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to read the three set texts per term, approximately 1/3 text (two-four chapters) each week, and it will be essential to do this in order to pass this course. The emphasis in classes and seminars will be on developing students' abilities to read and analyse texts as a whole, and to relate them to the other material offered on the course. Supplementary readings may be provided during the term. Anthropology students taking this course will have an opportunity to submit a tutorial essay for this course to their personal tutors. For non-Anthropology students taking this course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher

Indicative reading

Detailed reading lists (including this year's set texts) will be provided at the beginning of the course.


For a general introduction to issues covered in the course, see the following:


Engelke, M., ed. 2009. The Objects of Evidence: Anthropological Approaches to the Production of Knowledge. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.


Grimshaw, A., and A. Ravetz. 2009. Observational Cinema: Anthropology, Film, and the Exploration of Social Life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


MacDonald, S. 2013. American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary: The Cambridge Turn. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Marcus, G. E., and M. M. J. Fischer. 1986. Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Wolf, M. 1992. A Thrice-Told Tale: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Ethnographic Responsibility. Stanford: Stanford University Press.



Essay (15%, 2500 words) in the MT.
Essay (15%, 2500 words) in the LT.
Take home exam (70%) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2015/16: 50

Average class size 2015/16: 15

Capped 2015/16: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information