Television Narrative and Ethnographic Film

Terence Wright

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The extension of anthropology through public broadcast systems has defined new areas of enquiry. At one extreme, television has made available visual recordings of the world’s disappearing cultures; at the other, it has both generated awareness and motivated responses to global ethnic and ecological issues. But having granted these points, it has also had the effect of limiting the discipline. The broadcasters’’ understanding of ‘good television’ usually requires the moulding of ethnographic footage into familiar story-lines. The inevitable product of this demand is a very particular narrative style. An authoritative Western voice establishes the location of the film, introduces the cultural Group and guides the viewer through some of their typical day-to-day routines. While this general organisational pattern is not dissimilar to the standard written ethnography, the televised ethnography differs in that there is little room for analysis, but a high dependence on ‘self-evident’ visual description. Indeed the ‘classic realist’ ethnographic narrative often appears to be used as an excuse for screening a succession of ‘interesting’ or ‘spectacular’ images.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationFilm as Ethnography
    EditorsPeter Ian Crawford, David Turton
    PublisherManchester University Press
    ISBN (Print)0-719-03683-6
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1992


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