Anthropology, Text and Film

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

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 relates 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. 


5 hours of lectures, 6 hours of lectures, 4 hours and 30 minutes of seminars and 7 hours of classes in the MT. 4 hours of lectures, 9 hours of lectures, 4 hours and 30 minutes of seminars and 7 hours of classes in the LT.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of both MT and LT.


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.



Coursework (100%, 6000 words) in the MT and LT.

All students will produce a portfolio of position pieces (worth 100% of the total mark), to which they are expected to make a contribution after each cycle. Portfolios will be assessed periodically throughout the year, with the final grade determined at the end of Lent Term.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2016/17: 59

Average class size 2016/17: 15

Capped 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information