Lives: Explorations in Personal Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
Philadelphia, PA 19122 USA
Fall Semester, 2002
Several introductory questions include: Why should cultural
anthropologists be interested in the study snapshots, family
albums, home movies and home videos? How is "culture"
connected to visual communication? Why are personal pictures
important to the study of human cultures and their symbolic
environments? How do ordinary people use their cameras to
communicate information about themselves to themselves? How
do ordinary people construct versions of their lives, create
evidence of human existence as well as maintain identities
and cultural presence in their family albums? How can we understand
these pictorial forms as "stories" that are told
across generations? How are human lives transformed to be
preserved and remembered in snapshots, home movies and home
videotapes? How do these picture collections contribute to
(or even construct) our memories? How do these examples of
Home Media compare with other versions created
with spoken and/or written words such as oral histories, diaries,
journals, memoirs, autobiographies, biographies?
During this Spring semester, we will critically review the
anthropological relevance of written forms such as biography
and autobiography and then compare these spoken/written models
to modern pictorial traditions--still photography, film and
videotape. The course will introduce the notions of Home Media
and Home Culture and seek to integrate such topics as personal
narrative, storytelling, family folklore, construction of
personal knowledge, creation of social and collective memories.
Equally important, students will do their own original research
projects and short studies of personal and family photography
from the perspective of visual anthropology. Results will
be recorded in written journals, on videotape and/or on your
own internet home page.
This semester we will be giving more attention to several
parts of the syllabus that provide opportunities for you to
gain and practice skills that will help you in post-Temple
days. The syllabus for Anthro. 237 has been re-designed to
provide more of an experiential focus. We will be emphasizing
an engagement with life outside the University, in the halls
and byways of everyday life, and always related in some
way to American visual culture.
Exercises in the form of Journal Entries have
been designed with specific questions in mind. You will explore
problems in the everyday, taken-for-granted life of ordinary
people, people who become consumers and collectors of personally
realized views of family life. In turn, we will be asking
questions about the common practice of organizing pictures
for private display -- when ordinary people become image archivists
and story-tellers through their constructions of family albums,
just to mention one example.
Through a series of fieldwork assignments, you will be able
to practice and enhance interpersonal skills including establishing
rapport with strangers, interviewing, small group communication
and presenting project results to a class audience. Second,
you will gain familiarity and experience with the internet
and mobile technology including digital cameras, palm pilots,
portable scanners, among others, all in connection with improving
your abilities to collect data, document results in
short to gain a greater sense of computer expertise.
You will find places in the syllabus where you will master
the essentials of Blackboard programs, manipulation of the
Internet, web page construction and use, smart-cart use, data
collection and analysis, among others. You will be encouraged
to design and implement your own internet home page as a location
to house your images and work.
Most of the required reading and fieldwork is easily related
to potential employment in the work worlds of advertising,
marketing research, museum studies, design and even more directly
to image-related industries of camera and film/video manufacture
and use. Thus an additional objective is to develop a portfolio
of image-related skills and products that demonstrate how
you can relate your interpersonal skills with a familiarity
of the modern, electronically based, computer-driven world.
Many details will be given during the first week of classes.
Packet: Readings for Anthropology 237: Pictorial Lives
Workbook for Anthro. 237: Pictorial
Lives Assignments for Journal Entries
These packets are available from Docucare, located at 900
North Broad Street
(call 215-235-8740 before going to ensure availability and
Bohannan, Paul and Dirk van der Elst
1998 Asking and Listening
Ethnography as Personal Adaptation.
Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.
Langness, L.L. and Gelya Frank
1981 Lives--An Anthropological
Approach to Biography and Autobiography, New York:
Chandler and Sharp.
1987 Snapshot Versions of Life,
Bowling Green, OH.: Popular Press.
1991 Turning Leaves--The Photograph
Collections of Two Japanese American Families, Albuquerque,
NM: University of New Mexico
Moran, James M.
2002 There's No Place Like Home
Video. University of Minnesota Press
1999 Home Movies and Other Necessary
Fictions. Univ. of Minnesota
1995 Reel Families A Social
History of Amateur Film. Indiana Un. Press