In/Through Feature Films
Department of Anthropology
Philadelphia, PA 19122 USA
Fall Semester, 2002
During this semester, we will critically review a series of
feature films that include topics, themes, subject matter
often treated within anthropology and related human sciences.
Clearly, American feature films -- usually thought of as "Hollywood
films" -- can be very influential in establishing or
reinforcing social and cultural stereotypes or 'states of
knowledge' about peoples living in various parts of the world.
Viewership of these materials, either as films shown in movie
theaters or as their videotape counterparts seen on home television
screens, certainly exceeds the size of audiences in introductory
anthropology courses in the U.S. The potential for influence
and false senses of familiarity is enormous.
A preliminary selection of films for this course includes
The Truman Show, Witness,
Quest for Fire, The
Gods Must be Crazy, The
Mission, Emerald Forest,
Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan,
White Dawn, Salaam
Bombay!, Indiana Jones
and the Last Crusade, Dances
with Wolves, Thunderheart,
The Milagro Beanfield War,
Mr. Baseball, and Blade
Runner in addition to Being
There and The Purple Rose
We will examine such topics as the relationship between ethnographic
film and feature film, media socialization, stereotype formation,
themes of representation in conjunction with viewer-response
theory, genre demand characteristics, the social construction
of credibility, the construction of "others" and
the maintenance of "otherness", and the international
politics of film distribution and exhibition. Subsequent versions
of this seminar will focus on (1) science fiction films, (2)
feature films that treat cultures located within the boundaries
of the United States, and (3) prime time television programs
(situation comedies and dramas).
All students must complete two (2) five-to-ten page reviews
of specific feature films, and five (5) short comment papers.
Other seminar requirements will be discussed during the first
week of classes. This course is relevant to students in Anthropology,
Sociology, Film and Media Arts, Mass Media Communication Studies,
Popular Culture, Leisure Studies, Education and others.
Askew, Kelly and Richard R.
2002 The Anthropology of Media:
A Reader (Malden, MA: Blackwell)
1992 Make-Believe Media: The
Politics of Entertainment (New York: St. Martin's Press)
1972 Being There. New
York: Harcourt Brace Jonanovich, Bantam.
Chalfen, Richard (ed.)
2002 Readings for Anthropology
234 Anthropology & Feature Film
This packet is available from Docucare, located at 900 North
(call 215-235-8740 before going to make sure of availability
and stated cost).