The Corporeal Image

The Corporeal Image: Film, Ethnography, and the Senses

David MacDougall
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgb17
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  • Book Info
    The Corporeal Image
    Book Description:

    In this book, David MacDougall, one of the leading ethnographic filmmakers and film scholars of his generation, builds upon the ideas from his widely praised Transcultural Cinema and argues for a new conception of how visual images create human knowledge in a world in which the value of seeing has often been eclipsed by words.

    In ten chapters, MacDougall explores the relations between photographic images and the human body-the body of the viewer and the body behind the camera as well as the body as seen in ethnography, cinema, and photography. In a landmark piece, he discusses the need for a new field of social aesthetics, further elaborated in his reflections on filming at an elite boys' school in northern India. The theme of the school is taken up as well in his discussion of fiction and nonfiction films of childhood. The book's final section presents a radical view of the history of visual anthropology as a maverick anthropological practice that was always at odds with the anthropology of words. In place of the conventional wisdom, he proposes a new set of principles for visual anthropology.

    These are essays in the classical sense--speculative, judicious, lucidly written, and mercifully jargon-free. The Corporeal Image presents the latest ideas from one of our foremost thinkers on the role of vision and visual representation in contemporary social thought.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3156-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION MEANING AND BEING
    (pp. 1-10)

    THE ESSAYS in this book address the corporeal aspects of images and image-making. This is not to say that they are indifferent to the meanings and associations that images awaken in us—far from it—but they are concerned with the moment at which those meanings emerge from experience, before they become separated from physical encounters. At that point thought is still undifferentiated and bound up with matter and feeling in a complex relation that it often later loses in abstraction. I am concerned with this microsecond of discovery, of knowledge at the birth of knowledge.

    Our consciousness of our...

  6. PART I: MATTER AND IMAGE
    • 1 THE BODY IN CINEMA
      (pp. 13-31)

      IN A BRITISH “anthology” film of the 1950s made up of three separate ghost stories, a museum guide becomes obsessed with a painting that hangs in one of the museum galleries.¹ It shows a house on a hill and the lonely road leading up to it. One day the guide finds himself crossing the line between life and art as he is drawn into the painting, which proves to be another self-sufficient, three-dimensional world. There he discovers the artist, trapped in his own painting. Do they escape back to the real world? The answer to that forms the rest of...

    • 2 VOICE AND VISION
      (pp. 32-64)

      SOCIAL SCIENTISTS speak in many voices and sometimes, but not always, try to make us see. In most of the classic British ethnographies you will find an introductory section giving an account of the material conditions of the people being described, often in a chapter called “The Setting,” or something like it. These descriptions tend to be more factual than visually evocative, and if they evoke images it is due more to a vocabulary shared with the reader than any specific intention of the writer. Godfrey Lienhardt, for example, writes: “Dinkaland lies in a vast arc around the swamps of...

  7. PART II: IMAGES OF CHILDHOOD
    • 3 FILMS OF CHILDHOOD
      (pp. 67-93)

      CHILDREN APPEAR in many films, sometimes incidentally, given little more attention than the family dog, sometimes at the center, carrying on their shoulders all the hopes of the adult world. Yet films have a way of reducing children’s lives to formulas, replacing their strangeness and individuality with more comfortable notions of what children should be. The emptiness of many fictional children is often a direct index of the filmmaker’s own lost childhood. Documentary films, too, often purvey impoverished images of children by looking only for what they expect to find.

      If representation is how art and science clarify human experience,...

    • 4 SOCIAL AESTHETICS AND THE DOON SCHOOL
      (pp. 94-119)

      THERE ARE moments when the social world seems more evident in an object or a gesture than in the whole concatenation of our beliefs and institutions. Through our senses we measure the qualities of our surroundings—the tempo of life, the dominant patterns of color, texture, movement, and behavior—and these coalesce to make the world familiar or strange. In the 1920s Ruth Benedict suggested that the aesthetic sensibility was an important component in the cultural “configuration” of societies, although her schema of cultural types soon seemed overly reductive to most scholars.¹ Recently, social scientists have increasingly drawn attention to...

    • 5 DOON SCHOOL RECONSIDERED
      (pp. 120-144)

      IN THE PREVIOUS chapter I described the sequence of films that I began to make at The Doon School in northern India in 1997. When I wrote it the project was far from complete. I had done most of the filming, but I had edited only one film. I was launched on a second, and eventually there would be five. In this chapter I shall try to give an account of how the project developed in its later stages and how it appears in retrospect with the completion of the fifth film, The Age of Reason.

      There are several aspects...

  8. PART III: THE PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGINATION
    • 6 PHOTO HIERARCHICUS: SIGNS AND MIRRORS IN INDIAN PHOTOGRAPHY
      (pp. 147-175)

      MIRRORS AND photographs are the most mechanical means by which we see ourselves, and they are usually considered the least mediated forms of representation. But when one looks in a mirror, is it an image of the transient self one sees or the eternal Self that looks back? What if one dresses the worldly image in the apparel of the gods? In photographs of ourselves, do we see our private being or the mere surface of a public, predestined role? What photographic practices support and deny these possibilities?

      On the top of Gun Hill in Mussoorie, an Indian hill station...

    • 7 STAGING THE BODY: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF JEAN AUDEMA
      (pp. 176-210)

      SEVERAL YEARS ago I bought two picture postcards dating from around 1905. Most postcards fit into one or another generic category and give little away about the photographer who took the picture. These two, however, hinted at a witty and unconventional personality. They show an encampment in the heart of French colonial Africa, at a place called “La Vallée de la Moundji Mayumbe.” There is a tent, a camp table, and a chair set in scrubland, with some seventeen African soldiers, porters, and servants scattered around in various attitudes of vigilance and relaxation. The photographs (figures 7.1a and 7.1b) appear...

  9. PART IV: THE ETHNOGRAPHIC IMAGINATION
    • 8 THE VISUAL IN ANTHROPOLOGY
      (pp. 213-226)

      ANTHROPOLOGY HAS had no lack of interest in the visual; its problem has always been what to do with it. This problem is historically related to another anthropological problem: what to do with the person—the sentient, thinking being who belongs to a culture but, from the anthropologist’s point of view, can often reconstitute very little of it. As anthropology developed from an armchair discipline to a study of actual communities, it seemed somehow strange that the person, the object of the anthropologist’s attention, should remain largely invisible to the anthropological audience. An early remedy was to bring exotic people...

    • 9 ANTHROPOLOGY’S LOST VISION
      (pp. 227-263)

      JOHN GRIERSON is often credited with inventing the term “documentary film” when he wrote of the documentary value of Flaherty’s Moana (1926).¹ According to Jean Rouch, “ethnographic film” originated at a conference organized by André Leroi-Gourhan in 1948.² At the time, however, the term designated not so much a genre of filmmaking as films of general interest to anthropologists. The notion of “visual anthropology” had existed in some sense since the 1850s, but the words only began to be used when they appeared in the title of a book in 1975.³ In that same book, Colin Young coined the term...

    • 10 NEW PRINCIPLES OF VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY
      (pp. 264-274)

      IN 1975 A BOOK appeared that was to prove highly influential. It brought together a number of papers from the Ninth Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences held in Chicago in 1973, and it bore the ambitious title Principles of Visual Anthropology. The book subsequently became a cornerstone of the subdiscipline of visual anthropology. It sold widely, and in 1995 its editor, Paul Hockings, brought out a heavily revised and expanded second edition. The title had been a brilliant choice—or a masterful piece of wishful thinking—for it referred to a field that for all practical purposes did not...

  10. FILMOGRAPHY
    (pp. 275-282)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 283-298)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 299-312)