Circulating ethnographic films in the digital age

Authored by: Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan

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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Whereas Harjant Gill’s following chapter offers a solid blueprint for how to approach circulating a completed ethnographic film in established infrastructures of circulation—the documentary and ethnographic film festival circuit, for instance—this chapter troubles the very category of ethnographic film through an attention to filmic and audio-visual circulation more broadly. In what follows I focus on the kinds of genre destabilizations that result when unanticipated actors (as well as the usual suspects) produce audio-visual material that can and should be considered ethnographic and circulate this work in alternate circuits. Vannini (2015) recently argued that the sheer volume of televised popular content that could be considered ethnographic should push academic ethnographers to critically think through and learn from this content toward reimagining the genre. I extend Vannini's (2015) argument by pushing for greater attention to how digital networks and infrastructures of circulation and distribution not only make visible new ethnographically rich forms, correspondences, and actors, but provide us with an opportunity to interrogate the established political economy and aesthetics of ethnographic film.

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