SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Issues in Anthropology and Film

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

The main aims of this course may be summarised as follows: first, through discussion of the films and verbal statements of a number of the best-known ethnographic film-makers, to encourage students to 'view' or 'read' films critically, rather than simply to 'watch' them; secondly, by examining the different styles and conventions in the construction of ethnographic films, to help students question the conventions employed in written modes to communicate an understanding of other people's beliefs and behaviours.

Discussion topics include:

  • early documentary;
  • film as art;
  • film in teaching and research;
  • film as event;
  • participatory and observational film;
  • indigenous film-making;
  • film in political advocacy, and the ethics of documentary;
  • reflexive filming and editing;
  • anthropology of/on television.


  • Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The main aims of this course are threefold:

  • to introduce the history of ethnographic film by covering the some of the important films and major filmmakers who have defined the field;
  • to examine the main documentary styles and conventions that have been used in the construction of ethnographic films;
  • to consider the main issues and themes that have used to critically evaluate and theorize film as a mode of anthropological inquiry.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules